Memphis found itself in a strange position Wednesday night. With a win over the Knicks, the Grizzlies would improve their record to 24-24, the first time the team was at .500 or better since the end of the 2018 calendar year. New York was looking to improve their January record to 5-11, having lost six of their last eight games.
Jonas Valanciunas fresh off his 22nd double-double of the season, came out of the gate scoring again with four of the Grizzlies first eight points. Julius Randle put the Knicks up 12-11 before an 8-0 Dillon Brooks powered Grizzly run put Memphis up 19-12. New York put together their own run to keep the 1st quarter close as the two teams would close the quarter trading baskets. Neither team would get a decisive advantage, as the game went into the 2nd tied at 32.
Memphis started the 2nd on a 16-6 run to jump ahead 48-38. The early part of the quarter also saw the season debut of Josh Jackson, after his call up from the Memphis Hustle earlier in the week. Jaren Jackson Jr.’s tough 1st quarter continued into the 2nd as he picked up his 3rd foul and found himself on the bench for the rest of the half. New York put a 8-0 run to tie the game up at 50 with 2:41 to go in the 2nd. The Grizzlies would then almost shut out the Knicks over the last two minutes to go into the break with a 59-52 lead.
Dillon Brooks was the offensive spark throughout the half scoring 19 points to lead all scorers. Brandon Clarke scored 10 off the bench, and Ja Morant was a plus-18 in his 14 minutes of play. No other Grizzly was higher than a plus-8 in the half. On the other side, Elfrid Payton led the Knicks with 10 points and seven assists.
Memphis kept their run going, starting 7-0 to extend to their largest lead of the night so far at 14 points, 66-52. The Grizzlies kept it going with their starting five extending the lead out to 22 points by the midway spot of the quarter. New York would get hot and go on a 14-5 run before back-to-back Brandon Clarke baskets would push it back to a 93-77 lead. In the end, Dennis Smith Jr. would hit a three to close the 3rd and keep New York within 12 at the end of three, 96-84.
The Knicks had all the momentum heading into the 4th closing the Grizzly lead to just 10 before Memphis built it back up to 17 at 103-86 with 9:45 to go. Late into the 4th, New York would make a few shots and make it a little more interesting, cutting the lead down 12 with a little over 3:00 to go, but Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas would come back in to try an close it out. A couple Grizzlies baskets extended the lead, and things got a little out of hand.
Eflrid Payton and Jae Crowder got into it. pic.twitter.com/WIV31fUIgz— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) January 30, 2020
In the end, Elfrid Payton got a Flagrant 2 and was ejected. Jae Crowder got a technical and was ejected for escalating the situation. Jonas Valanciunas and Damyean Dotson both received techs, and Marcus Morris was given a tech and ejected as well. Commentary online during the game mentioned players from both teams potentially leaving the bench during the scrum, so some suspensions may be happening down the line as well. A crazy end to a game that didn’t have much tension beforehand.
Dillon Brooks was great again, with 27 points. Ja Morant had a double-double with 18 points and 10 assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had another one as well with 12 points and 13 boards. Jae Crowder also had 18 points, while Brandon Clarke scored 17 off the bench. All five Grizzlies starters scored in double figures.
Looming next for Memphis are the Pelicans on Friday night and the first matchup between Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7pm central from the Smoothie King Center in downtown New Orleans.