With Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks back in the lineup, the Memphis Grizzlies host the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night looking for consecutive wins for the first time since mid-January.
Morant sat out Sunday’s heartbreaking 106-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors with a sore wrist. Brooks was also unavailable due to a one-game suspension. That meant three-fifths of Memphis’ starting five was out with Steven Adams sidelined indefinitely with a PCL sprain.
Morant (27.4 points, 8.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds per game) returned to the lineup and scored 34 points and dished out seven assists to lead the Grizzlies to a 104-89 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. Brooks added five points and four assists.
Unlike the game against the Raptors in which the Grizzlies blew an eight-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Memphis outscored the Bulls 32-14 in the final frame and won in convincing fashion.
“This was an important game to get because we kind of battled back in that fourth quarter,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said.
Despite Memphis losing eight of its last nine games before the win over Chicago, Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a major bright spot, especially on the defensive end.
Jackson (16.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) had five blocks in the win over Chicago in addition to scoring 24 points. His 3.3 blocks per game would be the best in the NBA if he hadn’t missed so much time early in the season recovering from surgery for a stress fracture in his foot.
Xavier Tillman (5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Santi Aldama (9.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Brandon Clarke (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) have seen their minutes increase with Adams out. Desmond Bane (21.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg) has been rock solid in the backcourt.
Minnesota is coming off an impressive 143-118 road win over Utah in which it hit 23 3-pointers, tying its season high.
But the Timberwolves were involved in a three-team trade before the deadline that sent D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick to the Utah Jazz and Mike Conley Jr., Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks to Minnesota. The Timberwolves waived Bryn Forbes to allow for the trade to be completed.
Conley (10.7 ppg, 7.7 apg) and Alexander-Walker (6.3 ppg, 2.1 apg) will team up with dynamic youngsters Anthony Edwards (24.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.6 apg) and Jaylen Nowell (11.0 ppg, 2.1 apg) in an already strong backcourt.
Veteran Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf) is out for Minnesota so Memphis won’t have to worry about his presence in the paint. Rudy Gobert (groin), Kyle Anderson (back) and Austin Rivers also did not play against Utah.
Luka Garza is coming off a career-high, 25-point performance against the Jazz and could be a problem in the post for the Grizzlies.
“It was definitely strange,” Garza said about the big trade. “But I don’t want to ever look back in my time in the NBA and be like, ‘I didn’t make the most of what was my childhood dream.'”
Memphis is 2-6 since Adams last played on Jan. 22.
–Field Level Media