MEMPHIS — The Memphis Grizzlies crashed the Western Conference playoff picture on Friday night by beating the San Antonio Spurs. On Sunday, they faced a test of maturity against the Golden State Warriors.
Would a young Memphis team seemingly clicking on all cylinders hit a letdown against a lowly opponent?
"There is always a chance of that," coach Taylor Jenkins said before the game.
The Grizzlies erased that concern by outscoring the Warriors by 18 in the third quarter and cruising to a 122-102 win over Golden State at FedExForum. Memphis improved to 18-22 with the win — its fifth straight — and kept its lead on San Antonio for the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings.
“Great team win. On to the next one”
– HC Taylor Jenkins after todays victory over GS. #GrzNxtGenpic.twitter.com/3FEXgaK0HE
Jonas Valanciunas paced the Grizzlies with 31 points and 19 rebounds against a Warriors team (9-32) that had no answer for his bruising style in its eighth straight loss.
Valanciunas had a double-double by halftime, but did his best work in the third quarter, when he scored 15 and grabbed five rebounds.
"Naturally as he's gotten integrated more and more with his teammates after not having a preseason, you see all his hard work paying off," Jenkins said. "It's the new version of Jonas."
Valanciunas checked out to a standing ovation with 1:19 left in the third quarter. The crowd of 16,408 featured plenty of Warriors fans, but they lacked their usual fervor as Golden State navigates a rebuilding season while stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson recover from injuries.
“We’re a young team, we got to play with energy and that’s what we did in the 2nd Half.”@JValanciunas talks to @thefishnation after the Grizzlies win against the Warriors@memgrizz | #GrindCitypic.twitter.com/JQ5X7dfF3E
Golden State still deployed a pair of All-Stars on Sunday in D'Angelo Russell and Draymond Green, but they could not slow down a Grizzlies team that has won 12 of its last 18 games entering a Tuesday night home game against the Houston Rockets.
Russell, who had missed the last six games with a shoulder injury, led the Warriors with 34 points.
Golden State pulled with 15 with 3:49 left.
That's when the Grizzlies slammed the door with a sequence that featured a De'Anthony Melton block at the rim and a Jaren Jackson Jr. 3-pointer, followed by a transition dunk by Ja Morant off a lob pass from Melton.
Both plays added to the team's final assist total of 33 as the Grizzlies creep closer to the top of the NBA in assists per game. The Grizzlies entered the game second in the NBA in assists per game at 27.8, just behind Phoenix's 27.9.
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