After seeing a five-game winning streak end Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies will need to gather their emotions for the second half of a back-to-back against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
The Grizzlies dropped a tension-filled, 104-96 decision to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday as Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 26 points and Dillon Brooks added 15. Brooks received his second technical foul and was ejected with 27.5 seconds remaining, then had choice words for game officials as he was escorted off the court.
“This (officiating) crew did not protect the players,” said Brooks, who could be facing league discipline. “They just wanted to get the game over with, and that’s (expletive). It was (expletive) from the very beginning.”
The game included nine technical fouls, six for Memphis. Brooks noted the Grizzlies’ own physical style of late, something that has helped the team on its recent run of success, but stated that Wednesday’s game was called much tighter.
“Obviously I can’t put it all on (the referees),” Brooks said. “We’ve got to get 50-50 balls, we’ve got to be able to rebound the basketball, we’ve got to be able to hit shots in timely ways.”
Memphis won’t have a lot of time to dwell on it with the Lakers in town.
The Grizzlies were on an every-other-day schedule in compiling their season-best winning streak. Most impressive was that the streak came without leading scorer and assist man Ja Morant, who first had a sprained left knee and is now in COVID-19 protocols.
Morant returned to basketball activities last week and had been on his way toward rejoining a team that has played well behind the leadership of Jackson.
Before the winning streak started, Jackson had averaged 14.9 points per game. He has averaged 20.3 points in the six games Morant has been out of action.
The Lakers also are in the midst of a solid run of play, winning three of their past four games. The only one they dropped in that stretch was on Friday to the Los Angeles Clippers, who needed one of their better-played games this season in order to pull off the victory.
The Lakers enter off a 117-102 home victory on Tuesday over another rival, the Boston Celtics. LeBron James scored 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting and Anthony Davis added 17 points with 16 rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 24 points and 11 assists.
“I’m proud of this team,” James said. “I’m proud of how we just came with our mindset, had our hardhats on from the beginning and played a heck of a game from start to finish.”
James is looking to match a season high by playing in his third consecutive game. His stop/start season has been interrupted by ankle and abdominal injuries, as well as a one-game suspension and a one-game stint in COVID-19 protocols.
The Lakers’ results have been just as spotty as James’ availability, as they hold a 13-12 record as the season approaches the two-month mark.
“My job is to make sure our team is ready to go, and when we’re not, I take that responsibility on myself,” James said. “Just watching film and figuring out how I cannot let us lull ourselves to sleep and make sure that I keep my energy flowing in the right direction so my teammates can follow.”