If you predicted before the season started that this matchup on January 23, 2023 between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings would feature two of the top three best teams in the conference, here’s my response.
Though few people thought the Grizzlies would be 2nd in the West a little over halfway through the season, nobody had the Kings 3rd, but these aren’t your parents’ Kings. Sacramento had won seven of its last ten entering this matchup and ranked 7th in net rating bolstered by the 2nd-ranked offense. This was always going to be a tough road game on the second night of a back-to-back, especially with no Ja Morant or Steven Adams.
Xavier Tillman started for the injured Steven Adams and got the scoring going for the Grizzlies. An early triple from Dillon Brooks followed by a nice lay-up from Desmond Bane added to the solid offensive start.
Keyword, offensive. The defensive side was a different story.
Memphis doesn’t play the Warriors until Wednesday night, but the Grizzlies got an early taste as the Kings splashed home four straight threes to take a 12-7 lead. Tyus Stones and Jaren Jackson Jr. answered with triples of their own. The early story was Sacramento’s historic three-point shooting pace.
At the 5:40 mark in the 1st quarter, the Kings led 26-19 and were a scorching 8-8 from three. Out of Sacramento’s 26 points, 24 of them came by way of the trey. This couldn’t continue though right?
Sacramento hit its next two triples to make it a perfect 10-10. This was getting absurd.
To add insult to injury, the Kings finally missed its first triple with 1:31 to go in the 1st for it only to be followed with an offensive rebound and a traditional three-point play. The next two Kings possessions ended with, you guessed it, made triples.
Memphis did its best to stay in the game. Sacramento was just unconscious shooting the ball and led 34-47 after the 1st quarter.
As the saying goes, it ain’t over until the buzzer sounds. The Grizzlies went on a 14-2 run to start the 2nd quarter cutting the Kings lead to 6, 43-49 with 9:11 to play in the 2nd. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. hit huge 3s during that run.
Sacramento pushed the lead back to 12 though with three straight buckets as Memphis continued its struggles on the glass. Up to this point, the Kings were winning the rebounding battle 19 to 11. No Steven Adams was definitely hurting the Grizzlies there.
A beautiful Tyus Jones jumper halted the run for a brief moment, but it was only temporary relief as Sacramento continued its hot shooting. All things considered, Memphis wasn’t playing horrible defense. Tough shot-making propelled the Kings to their double-digit lead. Ziaire Williams hit a corner three to make it a single-digit lead, 53-61 with 3:13 left in the half.
That three helped Memphis finish the 2nd quarter with a flourish that included a Tyus Jones buzzer-beater punctuating the end of the half.
Though the Sacramento Kings tied an NBA record with 11 made threes in a quarter, they were only 2-10 in the 2nd quarter allowing the Grizzlies to cut enter halftime with confidence only down 5, 61-66.
After cooling off from three, Sacramento tried to re-ignite the flame with a De’Aaron Fox triple, but Memphis responded with a 7-0 run. Desmond Bane hit a triple showing us his shooter’s touch. Then Dillon Brooks hit back-to-back buckets. Memphis trailed by just one point, 68-69 at the 10:15 mark of the 3rd.
Jaren Jackson Jr. tied the game at 71 with a corner 3 as the Grizzlies inched closer to taking its first lead of the game — a lead that Desmond Bane was happy to provide as he flew down the court for a lay up giving Memphis its first lead of the game, 73-71.
Comebacks take a lot of energy to complete though. Exhibit A was the loss to the Suns just one day ago. While the Grizzlies showed real grit and determination to take the lead, they still had to execute on both sides of the floor to keep up with Sacramento’s lightning quick pace.
Desmond Bane was up to it though. We know he’s a three-point sniper, but his off the dribble game is massively improved. That was on full display tonight as he froze Domantas Sabonis with a clean hesitation dribble before accelerating past Harrison Barnes and finishing over his outstretched hand.
The Kings didn’t let the Memphis run phase them though as they responded with another quick scoring burst to give them an 86-100 lead. As stated before, Sacramento plays with pace and can score in bunches. Though Memphis scored back to back buckets, the Grizzlies trailed 90-100 going into the final quarter.
Things went from bad to worse. Sacramento kept playing up-tempo and scoring in bunches. This team is ranked 2nd in offensive efficiency for a reason. Though the Kings are only 7th in pace, that ranking seems low after watching them live. They fly down the court moving the ball and cutting off the ball with a purpose and intensity few teams can defend.
After the Grizzlies and Kings were tied 80-80 in the 3rd quarter, Sacramento hit another gear to end the 3rd. But just when you thought that was it, they shifted into maximum overdrive like Plankton did in SpongeBob. The only difference is that it actually worked for the Kings.
Grizzlies highlights were non-existent in the 4th as the Kings put Memphis in the rear-view mirror, 100-133.
No reason to mince words. This loss stinks. Sure, Sacramento put on a three-point shooting masterclass. Memphis didn’t have Ja Morant or Steven Adams. Tonight was the second night of a back-to-back. But for a team that takes pride in its depth, losing by 33 points on the road is a poor result.
Memphis travels to San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night. A win there will certainly ease the hearts and minds of Grizzlies faithful across the world.