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Grizzlies getting Ja Morant back, seek two-game sweep of Spurs

Jan 5, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA;  Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) looks on from the free throw line against the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Two days after a 121-113 win over San Antonio, the Memphis Grizzlies host the Spurs again Wednesday night planning to welcome Ja Morant back to the lineup and gunning for their eighth consecutive victory.

Despite playing without Morant (right thigh), the Grizzlies had seven players score in double figures Monday.

Tyus Jones had a team-high 24 points and dished out six assists in the comeback win. It was his second straight game starting in place of Morant and his second straight 20-plus point outing.

Steven Adams added a double-double (13 points, 15 rebounds) in his return from a one-game absence (illness). Jaren Jackson Jr. had 16 points and five blocks, while Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane added 15 points apiece in the win. Santi Aldama and Ziaire Williams added 13 and 11 points, respectively, off the bench.

The Grizzlies led for three quarters until an 11-1 run to open the fourth quarter gave the Spurs a 103-98 lead with less than nine to play.

But a key steal by Brooks late in the fourth quarter, which led to Bane making a 3-pointer, helped Memphis to a 116-109 lead with 4:29 to play in the game. The Grizzlies never trailed the rest of the way.

“Bad shot. Turnover,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “They make a 3 and all of a sudden, it’s a six- or eight-point game. It’s the story of (our) season so far.”

Morant is expected to return to action in the rematch, which will send Tyus Jones back to the bench. But the Grizzlies likely wouldn’t have won without the contributions from their talented backup point guard.

“Just sticking with it,” Tyus Jones said. “We showed our poise in not letting their run kind of deter us from what we needed to get done.”

San Antonio’s Tre Jones, Tyus’ younger brother, had team highs in points (18) and assists (seven). Josh Richardson added 16 points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench.

Jakob Poeltl returned to the starting lineup and had 13 points and seven rebounds. Romeo Langford (13 points), Malaki Branham (12) and Keita Bates-Diop (10) also scored in double figures for the Spurs.

Doug McDermott (nine points, five rebounds) and Zach Collins (nine points, six rebounds) performed well off the bench.

It was San Antonio’s fifth loss in its last six games. But Popovich was pleased with how his young team fought back after trailing by 11 points at halftime.

“We showed up in the second half,” Popovich said. “I thought the first half both teams were bored to death. It was the most boring basketball I’ve seen all year.”

San Antonio has been in position to win its last two games against Boston and Memphis, two of the best teams in the league. But a defense that’s allowing an NBA-worst 120.6 points per game has been the Spurs’ downfall.

Bates-Diop (ankle) and Keldon Johnson (hamstring) are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game. Johnson is averaging a team-high 21.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per outing.

–Field Level Media