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Grizzlies 127, Knicks 123: “Exciting game!”

So close.

Memphis Grizzlies v New York Knicks Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks (9-11) nearly overcame a triple-double by Ja Morant, but ultimately fell to the NBA’s most annoying team, 127-123. The Memphis Grizzlies (12-8) beat New York by three in overtime on opening night. Maybe we should have expected this to be a thriller, too.

Morant was sidelined with an ankle injury recently but showed no sign of suffering tonight. The Grizzlies’ top scorer kept the Memphis offense flowing, but the Knicks matched their pace to start. By the game’s first time out, halfway through the quarter, the score was knotted 9-9. Here we see Mitch and JB putting in the work.

Memphis rates as the NBA’s twelfth-fastest team, and they kept moving and grooving. Too often, they found an easy backdoor dunk or an open lane, which must have churned Tom Thibodeau’s stomach acid.

The Knicks finally have a damn good point guard, too. Tonight he contributed 30 points, nine assists, and five rebounds in 36 minutes. While playing with a contused quad. The team relies on him for speed, but he twisted an ankle and subbed out with 4:46 remaining in the first, limping to the locker room with a trainer in tow. Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley subbed in, with RJ Barrett coming out for a breather. Quentin Grimes and Quickley worked to keep the game close with Brunson out.


Cam Reddish and Obi Toppin replaced Grimes and Julius Randle at the 1:51 mark. The subs promptly cooperated for a sweet Obi lob. With a three-point play from Quickley, the Knicks finished Q1 ahead 26-25. Surprisingly the Grizzlies completed the first frame without shooting a single free throw.

Dillon Brooks is the player I most despise in the Association, a judgment not based on skills or stats but rather his mosquito-y disposition. He kept Memphis chugging early in the second quarter. At one point, Reddish, entangled with Brooks for a rebound, seized the opportunity to elbow the mouthy Grizzly in the chops. I rescind all previous Cam slander and hereby declare him one of my favorite Knicks. (Cam got dinged for a flagrant tech. Totally worth it. Hope he dislodged a tooth.)

Even though the Knicks kept it close without him, Brunson clocked back in with 9:34 to go in the second. One might ask why the coach saw fit to send his best player back in so soon after leaving with a twisted ankle and suffering a sore quad. Count on Thibs to test Brunson’s indestructibility many more times this season.

Obi missed all three of his long-range, first-half shots. Dunks, though, are never a problem.

Another injury scare—depending on how you feel about him, perhaps—came when Randle collided with Robinson, and Julius stayed down, necessitating a team timeout. His knee seemed affected; nonetheless, Thibs left him in while a perfectly healthy Obi sat on the bench. I shrug.

The Grizzlies pulled ahead by seven, thanks to sloppy play and fouls. Still missing from downtown, RJ Barrett kept most of his shots close-range and tied with Randle and Brunson, as team leaders with 10 points apiece at intermission. Nice balanced scoring. Grizzlies were up 54-52.

First-half roundup: New York was gawdawful from deep throughout, shooting 3-for-16 (19%!). Conversely, Memphis shot well, going 7-for-15 (47%). The Knicks bested them from the charity stripe (11-for-15) and in the paint, where they scored 30 to the Grizzlies’ 24. Both teams shot 19-43 from the field.

After the break, more three-point misses dropped the Knicks into a nine-point hole. Brunson’s ball movement saved their bacon yet again, promptly tightening the deficit to 66-65 by the timeout at 7:50.

Jalen exited again at the 5:13 minute mark. The Grizzlies’ lead kept inching ahead, reaching 10, then 12 points in the final quarter of the quarter. Thanks to an Isaiah Hartenstein tip-in of an RJ miss (naturally), our heroes closed the third frame down 93-83. By then, New York had shot a gnarly 6-for-24 from deep. At the end of the bench, Evan Fournier thought to himself, “I hold the record for threes, you know.” (I assume that’s what he thought, I can’t mind-read French.)

True, Toppin played some weak defense in this one, but he contributed five points—including a three!—to stoke our hopes to begin the fourth. That Obi mojo is contagious, and Barrett finally hit a three, too. The deficit ebbed and flowed.

On one spectacular sequence, Robinson missed his second of two free throws, but RJ wrestled the rebound and zipped it to Cam, who found Mitch under the rim for an easy dunk and another free throw for a three-point play.

Cam can be such a spark on offense, yet so inconsistent on defense. As at large commented, “Ja went by Cam like he wasn’t even there.” To be fair, Ja does that to everybody, but, by my eye, the Knicks’ interior defense was far too accommodating to the high-flying string bean all evening. Ultimately, the Knicks were outrebounded 50-42.

But wait! Reddish redemption! Cam nailed a 25-footer to give the Knicks a brief one-point lead before the Grizzlies scored four consecutive.

The Knicks needed a leader, and up stepped Brunson, once again. Injuries be damned, Brunson scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, including a desperately needed trey with 1:40 left.

When Brooks tripped Jalen with 25 seconds on the clock, New York’s best point guard in two decades coolly swished both freebies. Inevitably, the unstoppable Morant retaliated for two. As the clock dwindled, Jalen failed to score twice, including a potential game-tier with 1.6 seconds left. Jaren Jackson, Jr was fouled, and that was all she wrote, folks.

Grizzlies win 127-123. Morant finished with 27 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. Over the last three games, Brunson has averaged 32 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds. Jalen is great, but Jalen needs help.


  • Barrett came into the game with averages of 39% from the floor and 26% from deep. He had been especially foul from deep over the last five games: 6-for-29 from deep for 21%. Ill or not, those numbers are atrocious. He stunk for long stretches of this one, too, but he never quit. He finished 9-for-18 from the floor, 2-for-6 from deep, with 22 points.
  • Reddish was back in action after missing the previous three games with a groin issue. He finished the night with 11 points and +4 in 24 minutes.
  • Derrick Rose, back after missing two games with a sore toe, logged six points in 12 minutes. With Brunson wounded, I expected to see more of Rose.
  • Robinson logged five blocks, seven boards, and a season-high 16 points in 32 minutes. His Lobness was huffing and puffing but finally seems healthy again (before the last three games, he had missed eight games with a sprained knee).
  • The Grizzlies came into the game 12-13 all-time at Madison Square Garden. Make it 13-13.

Quoth hockeybeaverton: “Exciting game!” Indeed. On the road to Detroit for the next one. See you Tuesday.