Surging Grizzlies host inspired Warriors

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The hot-shooting Memphis Grizzlies will be looking for a fifth straight win and their first season-series victory over the Golden State Warriors in seven years when the clubs clash Sunday in Memphis.

The Grizzlies have averaged 128.5 points over the past four games in wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Minnesota and San Antonio.

The offensive rampage, which has featured 52.2 percent shooting overall and 40.8 percent accuracy on 3-pointers, has produced the club’s longest winning streak since a five-gamer in November 2018 and elevated it into the thick of the Western Conference playoff race as the season approaches its midpoint.

Balanced scoring has been a key to the Grizzlies’ assault. Four players — Dillon Brooks (22.8), Jaren Jackson Jr. (21.0), Ja Morant (20.5) and Jonas Valanciunas (16.0) — have averaged 16 or more points per game during the flurry.

“It feels so good just to see some hard work pay off,” veteran forward Jae Crowder, a fifth Memphis player who has averaged double-digit points (12.3) in the four-game run, gushed after Friday’s 134-121 win over San Antonio. “It’s just us playing unselfish, believing in each other and playing as a group. Nobody feels like they’re bigger than the group. We’re just playing together. All five guys on the court are on the same page.”

The Warriors, meanwhile, will hit the halfway point of the season Sunday. At 9-31, they already have more losses 40 games into the season than they totaled combined the past two seasons, when they were 26-14 and 32-8.

If there’s reason for optimism on a team that’s lost a season-high-tying seven in a row, it’s in that they’ve played competitively in their past four losses, games that have finished with remarkably similar scores: 111-104, 111-98, 107-98, 109-100.

The latter two have been particularly encouraging, with the Warriors having hung within five points of Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee until the final minute of a 107-98 loss on Wednesday, before leading the Clippers by 10 points entering the final period on the road Friday in what turned into a 109-100 loss.

Warriors players noted having injured Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson along for the ride on the team’s two-game trip was inspirational in the loss in Los Angeles.

“Steph and Klay came out today, and we got their support,” forward Glenn Robinson III assured reporters after the loss. “Even though we’ve lost a couple of games, I think the energy in the locker room has still been great. The guys have been confident, and it shows.

“We played great for three quarters tonight, and now we’ve got to continue to put it all together so we can get a win.”

Someone else who watched Friday was D’Angelo Russell, who missed his sixth straight contest with a sore shoulder but is expected to be a participant Sunday in Memphis.

The Warriors have lost all six games with Russell out, after he led them to four wins in five games, averaging 28.2 points.

The clubs have split the first two meetings in the three-game season series, each winning on the other’s home floor.

–Field Level Media

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