Spurs Grizzlies Basketball

Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) helps guard Ja Morant (12) up from the court in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

It looks like lottery numbers: 2, 7, 14, 22, 55.

But former Murray State Racer and Memphis point guard Ja Morant – No. 12 – was the power ball on Friday night, helping the Grizzlies dump the San Antonio Spurs 134-121 at the FedEx Forum.

He finished with 22 points on 55% shooting with a career-high 14 assists, a career-high seven rebounds and two steals – with one of those pilfers leading to a terrific reverse jam and a 75-66 lead on the Spurs with 8:55 left in the third quarter.

Perennial All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan had 18 of his 36 points in that third quarter, too, and had San Antonio within 100-98 going into the final frame, before Morant did what he's been doing this entire season:

Score prolifically in the final 12 minutes.

He went off for 12 points and three assists in closing time, as the Grizzlies – winners of four straight and now 17-22 on the year – outscored the typically savvy Spurs 34-23 down the stretch.

“We just learned from the last time when we played them at home,” Morant told Fox Sports Grizzlies. “We had to force them to take more tough shots, rebound and run. They're a good halfcourt defensive team and a great team all around. It's tough beating a team like them, with smart guys and vets. And we're kind of young.

“But it's like I've been saying all the time: we go out, compete, play unselfish, play together, and do whatever we can to come out with a win.”

Picked to be one of the worst teams in the West this year for clear reasons, among them being the youngest team in the league at both the player and coaching levels, Memphis suddenly finds itself in the thick of a playoff race just before the NBA trade deadline, as it leapfrogged the Spurs for the No. 8 seed.

However, there are 43 games remaining, and the last time a West team with a losing record made the playoffs was 1996-97 – where the 6-seeded Timberwolves were 40-42, the 7-seeded Phoenix Suns were 40-42, and the 8-seeded Los Angeles Clippers were 36-46. (For posterity, the Chicago Bulls won the NBA title over Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Utah Jazz that season, as Michael Jordan hit the game-winner in Game 1, battled for 44 points in a flu-ridden Game 5, and current Golden State coach Steve Kerr hit the winner in Game 6.)

But are these Grizzlies starting to believe?

“Everybody expects the most,” noted center Jonas Valanciunas, one of four Grizzlies with 20-plus points. “Playoffs is a goal. We're playing better and better every day. It's fair to dream about the playoffs, right?”

Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. continued to avoid his sophomore slump, scoring a team-high 24 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the arc, while the Grizzlies moved to 11-0 when former Oregon Ducks star Dillon Brooks scores 20 or more points (22 points, 5-for-12 from three, six assists, no turnovers).

From Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, DeRozan – who nearly secured a triple-double by adding nine assists and nine rebounds – called Morant “the future of this league.”

It was Morant's fifth double-double of the season, and the sixth time he's posted 10 or more assists in a game.

The number of times other rookies have posted 10 or more assists this season? Zero.

Through five games in January, Morant is averaging 21.0 points on 60.9% shooting with 8.8 assists, 4.75 rebounds and 4.4 turnovers.

SAN ANTONIO Min (FG)M-A (FT)M-A (RB)O-T A PF PTS

Aldridge 34:26 7-12 2-2 1-9 3 3 21

DeRozan 37:47 11-18 13-14 2-9 9 5 36

Lyles 15:58 1-5 0-0 0-3 2 2 2

Forbes 28:39 7-12 3-4 0-2 0 1 21

Murray 24:09 3-6 0-0 1-3 5 1 6

Gay 25:44 5-12 0-0 1-5 2 1 13

Mills 23:03 3-6 0-0 0-1 2 1 8

White 19:36 1-6 0-0 0-1 4 2 3

Walker IV 14:45 1-5 0-0 0-2 0 0 3

Poeltl 11:48 3-4 0-1 0-2 2 1 6

Belinelli 2:19 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Eubanks 1:46 0-0 2-2 0-0 0 0 2

Totals 240:00 42-87 20-23 5-37 29 17 121

Percentages: FG .483, FT .870.

3-Point Goals: 17-40, .425 (Aldridge 5-9, Forbes 4-8, Gay 3-7, Mills 2-4, DeRozan 1-1, Walker IV 1-2, White 1-4, Belinelli 0-1, Murray 0-1, Lyles 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: None.

Blocked Shots: 6 (Poeltl 3, Aldridge, Gay, Murray).

Turnovers: 11 (Aldridge 3, Forbes 2, Murray 2, DeRozan, Poeltl, Walker IV, White).

Steals: 3 (DeRozan, Mills, Walker IV).

Technical Fouls: None

MEMPHIS Min (FG)M-A (FT)M-A (REB)O-T A PF PTS

Crowder 22:55 2-5 0-0 0-5 1 2 5

Jackson Jr. 24:32 8-11 3-4 2-3 0 5 24

Valanciunas 30:13 7-11 6-6 2-9 3 4 21

Brooks 30:34 8-20 1-2 2-4 6 2 22

Morant 33:35 11-20 0-0 2-7 14 1 22

Clarke 23:15 3-5 4-4 2-9 4 1 10

Allen 19:39 1-4 0-0 1-3 0 0 2

Melton 17:26 6-11 0-0 0-4 6 2 13

Jones 14:25 1-5 0-0 0-1 4 0 3

Anderson 11:54 3-4 0-0 0-1 0 0 7

Hill 11:32 2-4 0-0 0-3 1 3 5

Totals 240:00 52-100 14-16 11-49 39 20 134

Percentages: FG .520, FT .875.

3-Point Goals: 16-38, .421 (Jackson Jr. 5-7, Brooks 5-12, Anderson 1-2, Hill 1-2, Jones 1-2, Melton 1-2, Crowder 1-3, Valanciunas 1-3, Morant 0-2, Allen 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: None.

Blocked Shots: 6 (Brooks 2, Clarke 2, Melton, Valanciunas).

Turnovers: 8 (Morant 2, Allen, Crowder, Hill, Jackson Jr., Melton, Valanciunas).

Steals: 5 (Morant 2, Allen, Brooks, Clarke).

Technical Fouls: None

San Antonio 32 25 41 23—121

Memphis 37 26 37 34—134

A: 16,448 (18,119). T: 2:05.

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