Saturday night was another enjoyable night for the Grizzlies and their fans on Beale Street, as the Memphis Grizzlies earned a 119-115 victory over the Sacramento Kings. For one, it was the first time all year that Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke played in the second night of a back-to-back, an encouraging sign in their development. Furthermore, fans got to witness one of the more anticipated one on one matchup’s for Morant this season, as he went against a player he is often compared to in De’Aaron Fox.
The game started uncharacteristically for the Grizzlies, as the starters only produced seven points through the first half of the quarter. In addition to their scoring struggles, super-sub Brandon Clarke unexpectedly picked up two fouls within two minutes, and would have a short first half as a result. Thankfully, the Grizzlies reserve guards were ready to roll in support. After trailing 14-7 at one point, De’Anthony Melton, Grayson Allen, and Tyus Jones combined to score all 16 points as the Grizzlies went on a 16-7 run to end the quarter.
Both teams would keep it close during the first six minutes of the second quarter, which included Jaren Jackson Jr. delivering another night with multiple threes. However, with the score 37-32 in favor of Memphis, the Grizzles made their move. A couple of Solomon Hill threes and Clarke two pointers helped Memphis go on a 12-4 run over a two minute stretch. While Nemanja Bjelica would attempt to keep the Kings within range, Allen again found his shooting stroke and helped the Grizzlies maintain a 60-50 lead going into halftime.
The Kings would attempt to keep the score close to begin the third quarter, but Jae Crowder and Dillon Brooks combined for three three pointers in the first five minutes of the quarter to maintain a 12 point lead. The Kings would not be denied for long, as Harrison Barnes scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the quarter, and pulled the Kings to within three points of Memphis. However, as was the theme of the night, the Grizzlies reserves again were there for the rescue. This time, Melton scored seven points over a three minute stretch. Along with 10 points from Jae Crowder in the quarter, the Grizzlies closed with a 16-6 run to end the third quarter with a 91-78 lead.
The Grizzlies looked to pull away as the fourth quarter began. Two quick buckets from Brandon Clarke helped the Grizzlies pull ahead by as much as 17. However, just as Barnes did in the third quarter, Richaun Holmes did his best to bring the Kings back. Holmes scored six of the Kings first 13 points of the quarter, and helped Sacramento get the score back to within 11. At that point, the Kings starters began to find success. While Fox had made a few buckets throughout the game, he began to find his stroke in the last few minutes of the fourth. He scored 14 points over a five minute stretch, which included a 15-10 run by the Kings to bring Sacramento all the way back to within five points. However, Morant and Jones would help secure the victory for Memphis. Despite a Trevor Ariza three, the Grizzlies point guards scored the final five points for Memphis from the free throw line to secure a 119-115 victory.
While the Grizzlies starters have been surprisingly successful for most of the year, they were outplayed by the Kings starters. Thankfully, Melton, Jones, and Allen each had one of their best games of the year. The trio combined for 36 points, including 13-21 on field goals and 6-10 from beyond the arc. Even more importantly, they also combined for 11 assists against zero turnovers. They were the true difference into tonight's game.
While Melton and Allen continue to emerge as reliable bench options, the big development is the continued turn around of Tyus Jones. Now with 41 assists compared to just two turnovers over his last eight games (h/t GrizzliesPR), the Grizzlies finally have a one-two combo at point guard that can be a true asset as one of the league’s best. In games where Morant may struggle, this type of support from the bench will be critical in maintaining leads and earning victories.