The young Memphis Grizzlies may not be the talk of the NBA, but they have inserted themselves in the conversation.
The red-hot Grizzlies aim to extend their season-high winning streak to seven games on Friday when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rookie point guard Ja Morant highlighted his 26-point performance by making 10 of 11 shots from the floor in Memphis’ 121-110 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. The second overall pick added eight assists to become the first rookie in NBA history with at least 25 points and eight assists in a game in which he shot better than 90 percent from the floor.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” the 20-year-old Morant said. “I’m enjoying every bit of it. I’m thankful and grateful to even be here and be able to play for Memphis in front of this crowd with these guys.”
Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 19 and Jaren Jackson Jr. chipped in 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter for the Grizzlies, who are a full game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs for eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
“Every game is a statement game at this point,” Jackson said, “because you are playing for seeding, playing for the playoffs. Everybody is trying to work towards that, but definitely, when you’re on a winning streak, it gives you a bit more energy.”
Memphis has averaged a robust 126.2 points per game during its winning streak and has scored at least 110 in 12 consecutive contests, the longest active streak in the NBA.
So, when was the last time the Grizzlies failed to reach 110 points? A 114-107 setback in Cleveland on Dec. 20.
Kevin Love made five 3-pointers to finish with 21 points and 13 rebounds in that contest, but he sat out on Tuesday with the Cavaliers playing on back-to-back nights. Cleveland didn’t fare well, dropping a 128-103 decision at the Los Angeles Clippers.
The setback was the Cavaliers’ seventh in nine games, although the lopsided result produced a few positives.
Case in point, rookie Darius Garland recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and a career-best 10 assists.
“It’s a great milestone for me. I came close a couple times. [Tuesday] in L.A., first double-double, it’s really cool,” said the 19-year-old Garland, who was the fifth overall pick of the 2019 draft.
“Just seeing my game grow, the game is slowing down for me a lot and just making the right reads.”
Collin Sexton, who averages a team-best 18.8 points per game, scored 25 on Tuesday and Cedi Osman added 21 after making five 3-pointers.
“We’re a lot better than Game 1, I’ll tell you that much, you know what I’m saying? Especially with Darius and Collin, I really see their growth, and teams are really trying to scheme against them,” Cavaliers big man John Henson said.
“That’s always a good thing for the franchise as a whole, and the future. We’re trying to help the young guys grow, get healthy, and turn this thing around.”
–Field Level Media