MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Ja Morant had 26 points, 10 assists and a fourth-quarter dunk over Victor Wembanyama, Desmond Bane added 24 points and the Memphis Grizzlies used a second-half spurt to beat the San Antonio Spurs 106-98 on Tuesday night.
Santi Aldama added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis, which snapped a three-game losing streak
Wembanyama led the Spurs with 20 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Keldon Johnson finished with 19 points, along with six rebounds and four assists. Julian Champagnie and Jeremy Sochan scored 12 points apiece.
Morant brought the Memphis crowd to its feet with 9:11 left as he drove down the right side of the lane, cut left into the middle and dunked on the 7-foot-3 rookie from France, who leads the NBA in blocked shots. The dunk led to a scream, a shake of the head from Morant and an 88-70 lead for the Grizzlies.
“Good player. Very small, so it’s hard to catch up with him,” Wembanyama said. “Very fast. Just another great player that I see every night in the NBA.”
Despite the crowd’s anticipation each time Morant matched up against Wembanyama, the Grizzlies guard said there wasn’t any extra incentive to challenge the No. 1 pick.
“The moment was just like any other moment for me when somebody is guarding me,” Morant said, adding: “I don’t try to dunk on people like I used to. Just get a bucket. Find a way.”
Memphis held the Spurs to 42% shooting and forced 16 turnovers.
“I think we were communicating pretty effectively,” Aldama said. “We were following the game plan discipline, something we’ve been lacking. I think we just let our defense dictate our offense, and we played very hard. When we play that way, it’s very hard to beat us.”
The game was a matchup between two teams mired at the bottom of the Western Conference. The Spurs are trying to learn on the fly with the youngest team in the NBA, centered around Wembanyama. Meanwhile, Memphis has dealt with mixed results in finding a balance and the right rotations since Morant’s return last month from a 25-game suspension for a displaying a gun on social media.
Memphis is last in the league in average points scored at 106.8, and the two teams rank at the bottom in offensive rating.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was pleased with his team’s effort, saying “it’s all about attitude,” and the difference was the Grizzlies “made a few more shots.”
“We can’t have 16 turnovers,” Popovich said. “You’re there. You played a pretty good game. We had a lot of guys who played well, but we have to be sharper.”
The first half, a low-scoring, poor-shooting two quarters, fit the narrative of the two teams at this point of the season. Both teams went into halftime connecting at less than 40% from the field, and Memphis was 5 of 19 from 3-point range. The Spurs’ issue was a dozen turnovers in the half.
Wembanyama had an effect on the Grizzlies’ shooting with all of his four blocks in the first half.
Memphis improved its shooting in the third quarter, allowing the Grizzlies to build the lead to as many as 18 in the second half.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Johnson said. “The record doesn’t really show, but they’ve got one of their best players back (Morant). Probably them making shots and us missing shots down the stretch let them get away from us.”
Spurs: Host Milwaukee on Thursday.
Grizzlies: Close a three-game homestand against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.