Tyus Jones scored 25 points and the Memphis Grizzlies edged the San Antonio Spurs 112-111 on Wednesday night to capture the Southwest Division title and clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies claimed their first division title in franchise history and accomplished the feat with All-Star point guard Ja Morant watching from the sidelines.
“Definitely a big milestone,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “I told the group, a special accomplishment for a special group, but we’ve got more work to do.”
Memphis never trailed, even as Morant missed his sixth consecutive game with a sore right knee. The Grizzlies improved to 19-2 without Morant this season.
“A gutsy win,” Jones said. “Those are the wins that show you it’s not always going to be a pretty game. It’s not always going to be every shot falling and we win by 20. Sometimes you’re going to have to grind it out and go win a game down the stretch on the offensive end or maybe the defensive end. We need those games down the stretch here.”
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The loss halted San Antonio’s four-game winning streak, the Spurs’ longest of the season. They dropped a half-game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for 10th in the West and the final berth in the play-in tournament.
San Antonio closed within a point, at 112-111, on a tip-in by Keldon Johnson with 27.8 seconds left.
Following a miss by the Grizzlies’ Desmond Bane, Johnson missed a layup contested by Bane with 2.7 seconds remaining.
“What a brilliant (play call),” Jenkins said. “They probably knew that we were going to switch before. They got exactly what they wanted, a shot right at the rim. It just didn’t go in.”
Jenkins stated it was “stressful” matching basketball wits with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, who he considers a mentor. Jenkins spent six seasons with the Spurs, including head coach of their G League affiliate.
Memphis withstood San Antonio with a balanced effort, as it has done for much of the season.
The Grizzlies had five players score in double figures and shot 48% (44 for 91). Dillon Brooks scored 21 points and Bane and De’Anthony Melton each added 16.
Dejounte Murray had 33 points, matching the career-high he set Monday in Houston, and added 13 rebounds. Johnson scored 23 points.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Murray and Lonnie Walker IV and a video review that disallowed a basket by Jarren Jackson Jr. cut Memphis’ lead to 93-86 entering the fourth, the first time San Antonio was within single digits in the second half. The Spurs scored the first five points of the fourth, pulling within 93-91 and setting up the tense final seconds.
Jackson scored the game’s first five points, including his only 3-pointer. The Grizzlies and Spurs were a combined 10 for 23 on 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
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