MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – The Memphis Grizzlies are on their longest winning streak of the season, defeating teams above them in the standings and relying on youthful excitement in their drive for a spot in the postseason.
Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 24 points, Ja Morant added 22 points and a season-high 14 assists and the Grizzlies won their fourth-straight game, beating the San Antonio Spurs 134-121 on Friday night.
Dillon Brooks also scored 22 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 21 as six Memphis players scored in double figures.
The victory put the Grizzlies percentage points ahead of the Spurs for eighth place in the Western Conference. And, while there still is more than half the season left, Memphis players were aware of the victory’s meaning in the standings.
“Playoffs is a goal,” Valanciunas said. “We’re playing better and better every day, so it’s fair to dream about playoffs, right?”
San Antonio’s play Friday night was not indicative of its recent performances in which it ecorded double-digit wins over Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee and Boston earlier in the week.
“If you don’t bring it in the NBA, you don’t win,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I think we had three or four guys who were no-shows, and that didn’t help.”
DeMar DeRozan held up his end, matching his season-high with 36 points, and adding nine assists and nine rebounds for San Antonio. LaMarcus Aldridge and Bryn Forbes each scored 21 points, combining to go 9 of 17 from 3-point range.
Unlike when the Spurs defeated the Grizzlies 145-115 on Dec. 23, Memphis charged to a double-digit lead in the first half, with the margin reaching 15 points. But the Grizzlies squandered much of the advantage in the closing minutes of the first half, clinging to a 63-57 lead at halftime.
DeRozan helped keep the Spurs close in the third quarter, scoring 18 in the frame as Memphis held a scant 100-98 lead heading into the fourth.
But San Antonio was still close midway through the fourth. One of Aldridge’s 3-pointers pulled the Spurs within 116-113 with 6:28 remaining. But the Grizzlies converted a trio of 3-pointers, two from Brooks, and built their lead to 125-113. Meanwhile, Morant was going 6 of 8 from the field for 12 points in the closing frame, the ninth time the rookie and second overall pick in last summer’s draft has recorded double-digit scoring in the fourth.
“That was some high-level basketball from two good teams,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
Lakers 129, Mavericks 114
In Dallas, LeBron James had 35 points and 16 rebounds and Kyle Kuzma scored a season-high 24 points starting in place of injured star Anthony Davis as Los Angeles went up big early in a victory over the Mavericks.
James was dominant from the start to help the Lakers build a 22-point lead in the first half, which ended with Luka Doncic in a ripped jersey on a frustrating night for the 20-year-old Dallas phenom against the player he grew up admiring.
Doncic, who had played James just about even while the Lakers took two of first three in the season series, had 25 points and 10 rebounds but ripped his jersey late in the first half after one of his 11 misses (8 of 19).
Davis missed the first game of a road back-to-back after taking a nasty fall in a win over the Knicks in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Jazz 109, Hornets 92
In Salt Lake City, Rudy Gobert had 15 points, 13 rebounds, and six blocked shots, leading Utah to a victory over Charlotte.
Jordan Clarkson led the Jazz with 20 points off the bench. Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points and Georges Niang chipped in 15 while matching his career high with five 3-pointers.
Utah has won eight straight games and 13 of 14.
Terry Rozier scored 23 points to lead the Hornets. Miles Bridges added 11. Charlotte finished with 21 turnovers, leading to 24 points for the Jazz. The Hornets have lost three straight.
The Jazz swept the regular-season series with Charlotte for the second straight season.
Nets 117, Heat 113
In New York, Spencer Dinwiddie scored 26 points and had a career-high 14 assists as Brooklyn beat Miami and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Jimmy Butler scored 33 points and Bam Adebayo added 22 for the Heat.
Pelicans 123, Knicks 111
In New York, Brandon Ingram scored 28 points, Jaxson Hayes had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead New Orleans past the Knicks.
Lonzo Ball had 15 points and 11 assists, and Josh Hart added 13 points and 10 rebounds as the Pelicans won for the seventh time in nine games.
Taj Gibson led New York with a season-high 19 points.
Bucks 127, Kings 106
In Sacramento, Khris Middleton had 27 points and 11 rebounds, Eric Bledsoe scored 24 and Milwaukee whipped the hosts despite an off night for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks improved to an NBA-best 34-6 and extended the best start in franchise history.
Antetokounmpo was held to a season-low 13 points and 10 rebounds. The reigning MVP took only nine shots and picked up three of his four fouls in the first half.
Clippers 109, Warriors 100
In Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points, Lou Williams added 21 and the Clippers rallied from a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to defeat Golden State.
Glenn Robinson III and Omari Spellman scored 17 apiece for the Warriors, who have lost their last seven. Alec Burks added 16.
Wizards 111, Hawks 101
In Washington, Jordan McRae scored 29 points, Troy Brown Jr. added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Wizards overcame a poor shooting performance to beat Atlanta.
The Hawks (8-31), who have the worst record in the NBA, lost for the 14th time in 16 games. Trae Young, who had 42 points in a defeat to Houston on Wednesday, led the Hawks with 19 points.
Pacers 116, Bulls 105
In Chicago, Myles Turner set season highs with 27 points and 14 rebounds, and short-handed Indiana withstood a huge effort by Zach LaVine to beat the Bulls.
The Pacers overcame 43 points by LaVine and escaped with the victory after Chicago rallied from 16 down to cut the deficit to four in the closing minutes.
T.J. Warren scored 17 for Indiana after being fined $25,000 by the NBA for an altercation with Miami’s Jimmy Butler on Wednesday night.
Suns 98, Magic 94
In Phoenix, Devin Booker scored 24 points, including late back-to-back 3-pointers, and Ricky Rubio came up with a steal and a free throw to help the Suns rally past Orlando.
Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 22 points and Rubio added 11 points, 10 assists and three steals.
Evan Fournier led Orlando with 28 points, 16 in the second half.