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Tired Grizzlies look to get back on track at Kings

Jan 22, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) reacts against the Phoenix Suns in the second half at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies have the unenviable task of following up a draining loss with a matchup at the Pacific Division-leading Sacramento Kings when they take the court for the second half of a back-to-back Monday night in the California capital.

Down 62-37 at halftime and seemingly content to coast into a more winnable game on the second night of its consecutive contests, the Grizzlies thoroughly outplayed the host Phoenix Suns in the second half Sunday night, only to fall two points short, 112-110.

Ja Morant had 27 points in a team-high 37 minutes for the Grizzlies, who also have endured a one-point home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers and a one-point road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers over the past five days.

To add insult to injury, a five-game trip continues Wednesday night against the Grizzlies’ chief rival, the Golden State Warriors, in San Francisco.

The club’s two-game losing streak isn’t sitting well with coach Taylor Jenkins, who watched his team sail up the Western standings with 11 straight wins before the narrow defeat in Los Angeles on Friday.

“It doesn’t matter who is in the lineup, who we are playing,” he observed. “We’ve got to be better on the road. ”

Despite the consecutive losses, the Grizzlies still bring the Western Conference’s second-best record into their matchup with the Kings, who have solidified their No. 3 spot in the West with six wins in their last seven games.

The clubs will be wrapping up their four-game, regular-season series, with the Grizzlies having prevailed in two of the first three meetings, including a 125-110 romp at Sacramento in the second week of the season.

A Grizzlies-Kings matchup means a duel between the Kings’ Domantas Sabonis, one of the league’s top offensive forces, and the Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr., a candidate for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Jackson missed his team’s win at Sacramento in October, and he’s battled Sabonis on rather even terms in the two most recent matchups, averaging 18.0 points and 4.0 blocks. Sabonis has averaged 13.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists in those games, which included a Kings win at Memphis in November.

The point guard battle between the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant and the Kings’ De’Aaron Fox has been a doozy all three games, with Morant going for 22, 34 and 35 points, while Fox countered with 27, 32 and 19.

The Kings saw a six-game winning streak come to an end in their most recent action, a 129-127 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday. Sabonis had 16 points and 10 assists, missing a triple-double by one rebound, while Fox led the way with 31 points.

It’s rare when a power forward leads his team in assists, as Sabonis does at 7.3 per game. But he’s quick to point out that, under coach Mike Brown’s direction, he’s far from a one-man show when it comes to ball distribution.

“We have a lot of weapons,” he noted. “The best part is we’re moving the ball. We’re not taking tough shots. We’re making simple plays. Coach always says, ‘Hit singles, hit singles and the other team will break down.’ We’ve been doing that.”

–Field Level Media