The Memphis Grizzlies were able to thrive against the Miami Heat on Monday, even without star point guard Ja Morant.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had plenty of success lately when their own standout point guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, has been off the floor.
Wednesday, the Grizzlies hope Morant will return after missing the win over the Heat with left ankle soreness, while the Thunder hope they are able to continue thriving when Gilgeous-Alexander heads to the bench as the teams face off in Memphis.
Memphis has won three consecutive games and five of its last six, and Tyus Jones has been a big part of the Grizzlies’ success lately.
Against Miami, the Grizzlies’ first victory this season in four games without Morant, Jones had a career-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting with 10 assists.
“I view myself as a starter in this league. I feel like I am a starter in this league. I just come off the bench,” Jones said after making his fourth start of the season. “I have no shame in that.”
Wednesday’s game is the second of four this season between the teams.
Memphis won the first meeting 121-110 on Nov. 18 in Memphis, with Jones posting 13 points and five assists off the bench.
“We know that Ja is such a big part of our team’s scoring, that when he’s out, we’re going to need Tyus to come in and take shots and make shots,” Memphis’ Brandon Clarke said. “Tyus has always seemed to be ready for that moment in these games when Ja’s out.”
The Thunder have been hot themselves, entering Wednesday on a three-game winning streak.
The run started against the Spurs in a game Gilgeous-Alexander missed. And while Gilgeous-Alexander has returned and played big roles in wins over the Timberwolves and Hawks to begin their season-long five-game road trip, Oklahoma City has been holding its own when Gilgeous-Alexander has gone to the bench.
The Thunder have outscored their opponents 75-53 in the fourth quarter in the last two games, and they were a combined plus-18 in the fourth when Gilgeous-Alexander checks out of the game.
Early in the season, Oklahoma City regularly struggled without their star and leading scorer on the floor. Now they’re starting to turn that around.
“The good thing about our team is we don’t give in,” the Thunder’s Josh Giddey said. “We play through it. When things get tough, we come together.”
Gilgeous-Alexander has scored at least 30 points in each of his last seven games. He is averaging a career-high 31.3 points per game this season.
During that seven-game stretch, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 13.4 free-throw attempts per game. He’s shooting nearly 93 percent from the line this season.
“I think that’s a sign of a good player, there’s like a reliable source of offense,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “And I think it’s a sign of a good team.”
In Monday’s win at Atlanta, Gilgeous-Alexander was 15 of 15 on free throws — all in the second half.
“Free points,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I try not to seek them too much, just play aggressive basketball.”
–Field Level Media