Morant scores 23, Grizzlies rout Nuggets in West showdown
By CLAY BAILEY
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Ja Morant had 23 points and seven rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies raced to an early lead and coasted to a 112-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night in a matchup of the Western Conference's top teams.
Tyus Jones finished with 17 points, and Luke Kennard, Xavier Tillman and Dillon Brooks scored 12 apiece for Memphis, which trails Denver by six games in the conference race.
Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Jeff Green added 12 points. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Christian Braun each scored 11 points as Denver's four-game winning streak came to an end. Denver was hampered by a 40% shooting game. The Nuggets' starters were 17 of 47 from the field in the game.
Denver's 94 total points was a season low.
The matchup of the West leaders had Denver entering while playing well and Memphis struggling, dropping six of its last 10 games and losing its grip on the second spot as the Sacramento Kings rose to third.
For the first half, the roles were reversed. Memphis converted 56% of its shots and was 9 of 21 form outside the arc. Meanwhile, the Nuggets offense struggled, shooting 38% from the field and making only 3 of 16 3-pointers. Ten turnovers added to the Nuggets' misery.
Memphis lead by as many as 29 points in the first half and led 66-42 at the break.
Memphis opened the second half with eight straight points, pushing the lead to 32 points. That catapulted the Grizzlies to a 94-62 advantage through three quarters. At that point, Memphis was still shooting better than 53%.
With Denver facing the second half of a back-to-back Sunday, coach Michael Malone sat his starters in the fourth quarter.
Nuggets: Denver's 42 points were a season low for the first half. The previous low was 43 against Minnesota on Feb. 5 ... The Nuggets defeated the Grizzlies 105-91 on Dec. 20 in Denver.
Grizzlies: Tillman made all six of his shots in the game. ... C Steven Adams missed his 13th straight game with a right knee sprain. ...Desmond Bane had 10 points, but was 4 of 13 from the field.
Nuggets: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Grizzlies: Entertain the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.
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Updated February 25, 2023