Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas, top, shoots between Golden State Warriors forward Glenn Robinson III (22) and guard D’Angelo Russell (0) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
By Jerry Feitelberg
The Golden State Warriors, who have played well in their last four games. were hoping to snap their seven-game losing streak Sunday. They were facing a young Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis.
The Grizzlies, like the Warriors, are a young team. They, however, have turned their season around and were able to win their fifth game in a row by a score of 122-102. The oldest player in the Grizzlies’ starting lineup was 29-year-old Jae Crowder.
The Warriors welcomed back D’Angelo Russell to the starting lineup Sunday. Russell missed six games due to a right shoulder contusion when he ran into the Dallas Mavericks’ Luke Doncic in December.
Neither Damion Lee nor Ky Bowman was available as they are close to the limit of games that they can play in the NBA as they have two-way contracts. Lee is expected to sign a deal soon that would give remove the two-way status.
With Lee and Bowman out, the Warriors started D’Angelo Russell and Alec Burks at guard. Omari Spellman, who has been in double-figures the last four games, made his second career start in the NBA.
Spellman had the unenviable task of having to stop the Grizzlies big center, Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas hails from Lithuania and is six-feet eleven inches tall and is a force in the middle. The other player that is making a difference for Memphis is the rookie, Ja Morant. Morant, who played his college ball at Murray State, is averaging 18 points a game and, at the moment, is the odds-on favorite to be Rookie of the Year in the NBA.
The Warriors and the Grizzlies played a very competitive first 24 minutes. In the first half, the lead changed six times. The Warriors made five threes in the first quarter and kept pace with the Grizzlies. D’Angelo Russell had some trouble making his shots as he showed a little rust after missing six games. The Grizzlies finished the first quarter with a 27-26 lead.
Memphis increased the lead to nine 39-30 early in the second quarter. Russell started to make shots. Russell got hot and finished the first half with 18 points. Each team scored 33 points in the second period, and Memphis retained their one-point lead at the end of the first half.
The third quarter was a different story. Over the last five years, the Warriors used to own the third quarter. They would go on the attack and put teams away. On Sunday night, the tables were turned. It was the Grizzlies that owned the quarter.
The Warriors could not stop Jonas Valanciunas. The big center helped the Grizzlies dominate. He grabbed eight offensive rebounds. He made layups. He even made a three-point shot. Memphis stopped the Warriors offense cold in the third quarter.
The Warriors scored just seven points in the first six and one-half minutes pf play in the quarter. Memphis outscored them 35-17 to finish the period with a 19-point advantage 95-76.
The Warriors played better in the final stanza. Eric Paschall and D’Angelo Russell did what they could, but it was too little, too late. Memphis won the quarter 27-26 and the game 122-102.
Game Notes and Stats- With the loss, the Warriors lost their eighth in a row and are 9-32 for the season. Memphis won their fifth in a row and are now 18-22. Memphis, if the playoffs were to start now, own the eighth spot in the Western Conference.
The Warriors had five players in double figures. Russell led Golden State with 34 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Russell made five threes in nine tries. Jordan Poole and Alec Burks each had thirteen. Poole made four threes. Omari Spellman had 12 points, four assists, and has made three threes in three tries. Paschall finished with ten.
Jonas Valanciunas had a monster double-double. Jonas knocked down 31 points and pulled down 19 rebounds. Memphis outrebounded The Dubs 60-47. They ripped down 18 offensive boards. The Warriors had 12. Jaren Jackson, Jr. had 21, Ja Morant 11. The Memphis bench added 47 points. Bench players Grayson Allen had 11, Tyus Jones 11, and De’Anthony Melton 10.
The Warriors return home to face the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night at the Chase Center. The game will start at 7:30 pm.