The Memphis Grizzlies have overcome a rocky start behind an offense that just keeps improving.
Memphis aims to win three straight games for the second time this season when it opens a six-game homestand against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies have won nine of their past 15 games after a sketchy 6-16 start and the offense has been humming by scoring 110 or more points in 14 of the 15 contests.
The attack really revved up during a road back-to-back, beginning with Saturday’s impressive 140-114 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers and followed up by a 121-114 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
Memphis had 31 assists against Phoenix to set a new single-season mark of 14 games with 30 or more assists. The Grizzlies had 36 in the demolition of the Clippers while setting a season best for points.
“The unselfishness, which is what I keep continuing to talk about, 31 assists,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said after the win over Phoenix. “Obviously, guys are shooting the ball great but when the ball is moving around and we’re backing up our defensive activity with this great offensive play, it’s awesome.”
Four players scored more than 20 points against the Clippers — Jae Crowder (27), Jaren Jackson Jr. (24), Dillon Brooks (22) and Ja Morant (22) — while big man Jonas Valanciunas was the big scorer with 30 points against the Suns.
Valanciunas connected on 12 of 16 field-goal attempts while dominating the interior.
“I’m just trying to get some open buckets,” Valanciunas told reporters. “We’re trying to execute, get some open shots. Spacing is a big key for me so yeah, I was just trying to find my role.”
The Grizzlies also knocked down 18 3-pointers in each of the wins. Brooks was particularly sharp from long range by making 11 of 20 from behind the arc.
“We were just doing the sacrifice plays — setting screens, we were hitting shots, we were playing very unselfish,” Brooks said afterward. “This is what we have to do every single game.”
Brooks has been superb in Memphis’ two wins against the Timberwolves this season.
The third-year pro scored 31 points and made 5 of 7 3-point attempts during a 137-121 home win on Nov. 6, and tallied 26 while connecting on 4 of 5 from 3-point range in a 115-107 victory in Minneapolis on Dec. 1.
The Timberwolves have displayed some life lately by winning four of six games following an 11-game losing streak.
Minnesota defeated the host Cleveland Cavaliers 118-103 on Sunday, but it wasn’t easy as a 25-point, third-quarter lead got away. The Timberwolves responded with a 22-6 finishing kick to get the victory.
“That was a locker room after the game where it didn’t feel like a full road win,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders told reporters. “Our guys knew we came away with one in a situation where Cleveland outplayed us for a good amount of the second half.
“We did execute and buckle down defensively towards the end. We should feel good about that, but we should also not be satisfied.”
Gorgui Dieng stood out and collected 13 rebounds to go with seasons highs of 22 points, six assists and four blocked shots. He has four double-doubles in the past eight games while filling in for Karl-Anthony Towns. The two-time All-Star center is expected to miss his 11th straight game due to a knee injury.
“He was impressive. He is doing the right things right now,” Saunders said of Dieng. “He’s doing that by his work and how he is in the gym and how he wants to be better for his teammates.”
Small forward Andrew Wiggins returned from a four-game absence due to illness but was rusty with 6-of-19 shooting while scoring 15 points.
Guard Shabazz Napier scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting and has tallied 20 or more in four consecutive games. The 28-year-old has made 15 of 19 shots over the past two games.
Memphis has won eight of the past 11 meetings.
–Field Level Media