Ja Morant, streaking Grizzlies draw woeful Pistons

National Sports

The hottest team in the NBA’s Western Conference can extend their winning streak against one of the league’s worst clubs.

Memphis has collected six straight victories and will host the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. The Grizzlies have already notched back-to-back road wins this week, downing Brooklyn 118-104 on Monday and Cleveland on Tuesday, 110-106.

As usual, Ja Morant led the team in scoring in both games. He had 36 points against the Nets and 26 against the Cavaliers, though that snapped his streak of four consecutive 30-point games.

Morant got plenty of help on the offensive side. Jaren Jackson Jr. reached the 20-point mark for the first time in five games against the Cavs.

“People like to beat up on Jaren a little bit but what people probably don’t understand is how good Jaren’s been defensively for us this season,” said acting head coach Brad Jones, who ran the team with head coach Mark Daigneault in the league’s health and safety protocol.

“He’s had moments and games of great offensive output and yet he has kind of struggled offensively in the last week or so, hit or miss. But his defense has been good and it was good again (Tuesday).”

The second unit had three players in double figures, led by Brandon Clarke (13 points, nine rebounds, 3 blocks) and Tyus Jones (12 points).

“It’s hard to win back-to-back games on the road, especially against two good teams, unless you have bench players step up,” Brad Jones said. “Brandon and Tyus really changed the game for us. About three or four minutes into the third quarter I looked out there at our guys and they were just wiped out. The assistants who were helping me said we have to sub earlier than we normally do. Those guys came in and really gave us a spark.”

Morant’s backcourt partner, Desmond Bane, was held to 11 points, his lowest output in eight games. Bane helped out in other ways, including a career-high seven assists.

“He’s just a winner,” Brad Jones said. “He works at an unbelievable rate, an unbelievable care factor. The sky’s the limit for that kid. He doesn’t care whether he’s scoring 30 or 2.”

However, Bane is doubtful to play Thursday due to quad soreness. Dillon Brooks and De’Anthony Melton are listed as questionable after clearing protocols.

The Pistons had won two straight before getting blown out on Wednesday by Charlotte, 140-111. The Hornets jumped to a 37-19 lead and scored 75 points in the second half.

Detroit defeated defending champion Milwaukee on the road Monday but its defense allowed the Hornets to shoot 59.3 percent.

“We didn’t come out with the right attitude and focus you have to have against a team that just got beat two games in a row,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Just because you beat the top team in the league doesn’t mean jack in this league because the very next night you’ve got another gunslinger coming in. Tonight it was Kelly Oubre (32 points).”

Saddiq Bey and Hamidou Diallo, who carried the team offensively during its recent COVID outbreak, combined for just 20 points.

“You have to learn to compete each and every night and we did not do that tonight,” Casey said. “It should be a great lesson to get your behind beat like that after you had a big win.”

–Field Level Media

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