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Grizzlies in a groove heading to Orlando

Dec 25, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dribbles against Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the fourth quarter at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies seek their fifth consecutive win and second in as many nights, playing the second leg of a road back-to-back on Thursday when they visit the Orlando Magic.

Memphis won its fourth straight contest on Wednesday, 131-107 over the Charlotte Hornets, behind a balanced scoring attack. Nine Grizzlies finished with at least eight points, paced by Ja Morant’s 23.

Desmond Bane added 19 points and 11 rebounds, Dillon Brooks scored 18 points, and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

The Grizzlies faced minimal resistance from the struggling Hornets, leading almost the entire way and by as many as 37 points. Each win in Memphis’ winning streak has been by a double-digit-point margin, with Wednesday’s marking the most lopsided of the run.

It was also the ninth straight time the Grizzlies won by 11 points or more.

“We’re starting to find that groove, on both ends of the floor. Really prioritizing defense, and we know that fuels our offense,” Memphis guard Desmond Bane told Bally Sports in his postgame interview. “It’s the perfect time to do so.”

The Memphis defense has shined of late, holding each of its last four opponents – Toronto, New Orleans, Sacramento and Charlotte – to 108 points or fewer. The Grizzlies have limited opponents to 103.8 points per game over their 12 wins since the beginning of December.

Orlando, meanwhile, welcomes Memphis to town hoping to continue the positive momentum of its best offensive performance in four games rolling.

The Magic ended a three-game losing skid on Wednesday vs. Oklahoma City with a 126-115 win. Rookie standout Paolo Banchero played a strong, all-around game with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Wendell Carter Jr. recorded his first double-double since returning from a month-long absence due to plantar fasciitis. Carter missed 18 of 19 games from Nov. 16 through Dec. 21 but, in his fourth game back, scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Carter missed the Magic’s 119-100 loss to Washington last Friday, serving a suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation with members of the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 28. He contributed to Orlando’s defensive effort against the Thunder.

The Magic held Oklahoma City to just 30 points in the paint, which Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said in his postgame press conference is an area the team is “continuing to work on and will continue to improve.”

Carter’s return is one in a number of roster shake-ups for an Orlando team that dealt with a variety of absences previously in the season.

Markelle Fultz, who did not make his debut until Nov. 30, finished with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists against Oklahoma City. He was one of eight Magic players to score in double figures. Gary Harris — appearing in just his ninth game of the season – knocked down 3 of 5 from 3-point range en route to 18 points.

“It’s fantastic,” Mosley said of the balanced scoring. “Their ability to share the basketball, understanding what we’ve talked about the whole time: attack the paint, spray out, find the open man and step in your shot with confidence.”

Orlando welcomes back more key contributors on Thursday with Franz Wagner returning from his suspension after the Detroit fracas. The Magic will remain without Moritz Wagner, who will serve the second game of his two-game suspension on Thursday.

-Field Level Media