Wednesday, February 24

Busy Grizzlies squeeze Thunder visit

The Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder weren’t scheduled to meet in the first half of the NBA season.

However, after the Grizzlies had several games postponed in January due to COVID-19 protocols, the NBA added a meeting between the teams on Wednesday in Memphis.

The time change gave Memphis a four-game home streak in five days, beginning with a 144-113 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

The Grizzlies are the first NBA team to face such a streak since the 2016-17 season.

Memphis has played just two in a row so far this season, but will play two this week.

The Grizzlies are moving forward with the changes, and the pace of this season’s compressed schedule will help Memphis get past the home stretch, guard Tyus Jones believes.

“This year, with how fast the changes have been and how consistently they have been, you’ve been mixing on much lighter days just because you’re playing every other day for extended periods of time,” Jones said.

Memphis is 1-1 on the second night of back-to-backs.

The Grizzlies end their week hosting the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Before Tuesday’s loss, Memphis had not given up more than 134 points in any game this season and the Grizzlies had not lost more than 19.

Oklahoma City is coming off a 115-104 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. The Thunder fell behind by 24 points in the second half before taking a late lead, but they ended up losing for the fifth time in seven games.

However, the Thunder have been quite competitive. The last seven games have been decided by an average of 4.4 points.

“We continue to be resilient, we continue to fight,” Thunder center Al Horford said.

Oklahoma City has mostly done it without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The team’s starting point guard and leading scorer has missed four straight games and six of the last eight due to a sprained left knee.

In the last four games, Luguentz Dort has averaged 18.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Dort scored a team-high 23 points in Tuesday’s loss, his second-best total of the season.

The second-year player from Arizona state is drawing attention for his ability to generate offensive fouls.

“Very few players have that ability and, being so young, he’s figuring out how to get into position,” Horford said, saying that Dort’s ability to thwart blockers led to many of the fouls.

The Thunder are 2-2 on the second night of back-to-backs.

Horford, 34, has yet to play the second night of a back-to-back this season.

Memphis has been without De’Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane recently. Melton has missed five straight games due to shoulder pain, while Bane has missed three games in a row after the death of his great-grandmother.

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said Tuesday that Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow, neither of whom have played this season, were closer to making their season debut. Jackson underwent knee surgery in the offseason as Winslow recovers from a hip injury.

–Field level media

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