ATLANTA — Missing a star point guard doesn't work out for too many teams, since it requires depth and versatile players. The Memphis Grizzlies have succeeded in stretches without Ja Morant, but on Friday night, star Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young was downgraded to out almost an hour before tipoff.
Gambling sites boosted the Grizzlies' chances to win the game, but that energy didn't carry over to State Farm Arena. The Hawks, without Young, came out shooting and never slowed down in a 120-105 victory over the Grizzlies.
The loss snapped Memphis' four-game win streak.
Atlanta (35-35) shot better than 50% from the field and 3-point range in the first half while holding the Grizzlies (48-23) to 17-for-40 shooting (41%). The Hawks shot 49% overall.
The Grizzlies had a season-low 18 assists and 16 turnovers.
"We got ourselves in some bad spots where we weren't moving the ball early in some possessions, their length bothered us, but I got to give them credit," Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. "They played real well defensively."
Morant led the Grizzlies with 29 points on 11 of 23 shooting. He limped to the locker room after the game.
"No firm update," Jenkins said. "He said he felt a little soreness in the knee. Jgot a little tight on him, so just precautionary, wanted to take him out."
Here are some observations from the game:
Defense has been up and down for the Grizzlies since the All-Star break. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins has noticed and challenged his team, but the results have been mixed. The Grizzlies put on a defensive masterpiece in a 135-102 win against the Indiana Pacers. A game later, they struggled to stop the Hawks.
Atlanta has been one of the NBA's elite offenses this season, but most of that work was with Young.
The offense struggled in the first half, too. but the pace picked up in the third quarter. Morant got downhill in transition and the Grizzlies got within 10 in the third quarter. After the Hawks pushed the lead north of 15 points, the Grizzlies got within 11 points one more time, making it a 103-92 game with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter. The Hawks responded with an 8-0 that put the game away for good.
The return of Dillon Brooks wasn't as simple as inserting him into the starting lineup and moving Ziaire Williams to the bench. Mixing and matching lineups has been a strength for Jenkins. When Brooks was out, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Bane starting the second quarter with the bench. In Friday night's game, Bane was replaced with Brooks. The Grizzlies entered the second quarter trailing 34-29. By the time a lineup change was made, the Hawks led 50-36. The game did not get back within single digits.
"We've had three games with Dillon back, and he's been great in two," Jenkins said. "Our group in general wasn't good tonight, so I'm not looking at rotations as why we lost."
Former Grizzlies player Delon Wright got the start with Young out and came out playing like he was the two-time All-Star. Wright had 11 points, three assists, three steals and three 3-pointers in the first quarter. His defensive pressure and shooting paced the Hawks early. He finished with 18 points, six assists and five steals. The points and assists were his second-most this season, and the steals were a season-high.
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