The Memphis Grizzlies hosted the Phoenix Suns for the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration game, the most special game of the year each season. This year, the National Civil Rights Museum honored Gary Payton, Nancy Lieberman, Luol Deng, and Eddie George with Civl Rights Museum Sports Legacy awards prior to today’s game.
Celebrating the @NCRMuseum Sport Legacy Award honorees for their dedication and contributions to civil and human rights and the social justice movement.— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) January 16, 2023
The sun was not out in the 901 today, but the Suns came out blazing in this game. They converted on their first 6 shots, excluding Shamet’s two free throw attempts. Ja Morant and Desmond Bane helped get the Grizzlies going in the early going, and more enticingly, they converted on several step-back jumpers. However, the Suns kept the momentum going with a 14-0 run midway through the quarter. The Grizzlies trailed 36-29 to close the first quarter.
The Grizzlies closed the gap in the 2nd quarter, and had a nice spark from Brandon Clarke off the bench. The Suns managed to keep themselves in the game through the firepower of [checks notes] Josh Okogie. The Grizzlies weathered that frenzy though with hot shooting from Ja Morant, who finished with 5 made 3’s in the first half. After a Steven Adams putback, the Grizzlies led 68-65.
Oh buddy, that 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies put their foot on the gas, outscoring the Suns 39-23 in the period. It was a ruthless quarter fueled by their downhill attack. Ja Morant sliced his way through the defense at will. Jaren Jackson Jr. identified mismatches and bullied his way to buckets. The Grizzlies led 107-88 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The Grizzlies continued to stay locked in during the 4th quarter to prevent any comeback shenanigans. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane got things rolling for the offense, and Brandon Clarke had a riveting poster dunk on the Suns defense. Jackson was a defensive menace in the period — joining the Gasol brothers as the only players in franchise history to block 5+ shots in a single quarter.
The Grizzlies came away with a 136-106 win to extend their winning streak to 10 games.
- Locked in. The Grizzlies were hit with some absurd shooting in the first half, as the Suns role players had their offense flowing. It wasn’t an excellent display of being locked in there, but they stayed the course. They stayed locked in, trusted the flow of the game, and went hard in the paint to start the second half — en route to a victory. Games like these where it’s a high stakes, high adrenaline game — and when the other team is missing key guys — can often be trap games. Nonetheless, the Grizzlies put their foot down to win.
- Brandon Clarke is so valuable. Brandon Clarke recently came back from hip soreness, and he popped off in this game. His athleticism and finishing around the rim were explosive, and he played very smart 2-man games with his teammates to generate easy scoring opportunities. He isn’t the microwave scorer of the 6th man archetype, but his efficiency is a constant for this team. He fits very well with the Grizzlies’ core players and provides a valuable punch off the bench.
- Big games from the Big 3. The Grizzlies’ big 3 put on a show, highlighting the vision with this team. Ja Morant led the charge with his electrifying blend of scoring and playmaking. Desmond Bane had his best game back since his return — converting on 10 of his 12 shots (3-4 from 3 and 7 of 8 on 2’s), while also dishing out 6 dimes. Jaren Jackson Jr. bullied his way into 18 points and 6 blocks. This Grizzlies team will go as far as they go, and it’s always nice to see their Big 3 put it together in the same game.
As the winning streak hits double-digits, the Grizzlies will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Wednesday night.