MEMPHIS (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies finally held onto a fourth-quarter lead thanks to the play of their starting guards.
Dillon Brooks scored 31 points, rookie Ja Morant added 26 and the Grizzlies beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 137-121 on Wednesday night.
The fourth-quarter play of the two guards sealed the game with Brooks scoring 16 points in the period and Morant adding 14, The pair combined to shoot 11 of 17 in the quarter.
“It was a good way to end the game,” Brooks said. “We put it in Ja’s hands and he knew how to finish the game.”
But it was Brooks who put the game away, scoring all 10 Memphis points in a 10-2 burst near the midway point of the fourth.
Rookie Brandon Clarke made all seven of his shots and scored 18 points, while Jae Crowder also had 18 points for Memphis.
The game featured two of the league’s fastest teams in pace, leading to rapid changing ends of the court. The Grizzlies were able to record 26 fast-break points compared to 13 for Minnesota. Memphis would end the night shooting a season-best 57 percent, including connecting on 12 of 23 3-pointers.
The 137 points was the second-highest scoring game in franchise history - quite the change from the grit and grind era where Memphis was annually among the slowest-pace teams in the league.
“It was mostly the transition defense, but our halfcourt defense wasn’t that good either,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said.
Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 30 points. Karl-Anthony Towns returned from a two-game suspension for a confrontation with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid to finish with 25 points and 13 rebounds.
“It came down to getting stops,” Wiggins said. “We couldn’t get any stops. They had some guys who kept making plays.”
For Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins, the victory — the Grizzlies’ second of a season — is an example of the continued work needed for his young team to improve. And he is noticing strides in the right direction.
“You’ve got to be able to do this night-in and night-out,” Jenkins said. “Minnesota still scored a bunch of points. We can get better defensively. We can get better offensively. But where we’re trending, this was a big step for us.”
Timberwolves: G Jeff Teague sat out with an illness. With Teague out, rookie Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech, the sixth overall pick in last June’s draft, drew his first NBA start. He scored 15 points. ... F Josh Okogie also started his first game of the season after 52 starts last season. ... Minnesota challenged a basket interference call on a dunk by Towns in the third quarter. The call was upheld on review.
Grizzlies: G Grayson Allen missed his second game with a sore left ankle. ... Crowder had a pair of 4-point plays in the first half. He is the first Memphis player with multiple four-point plays in a game since Mike Miller on Dec. 14, 2007. ... Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and 14 rebounds. ... Morant has reached at least 20 points in three straight games, the first time a Memphis rookie has achieved that since O.J. Mayo had four straight late in the 2008-09 season.
Memphis entered the game leading the league in points in the paint with an average of 56.3. The outscored the Timberwolves inside by 66-50, marking the second straight game Memphis has scored 66 points in the paint.
EASY THERE, ROOKIE
For the second straight game, Morant went flying toward the basket only to end up on the floor in a heap after missing the shot. Each time, the Memphis fans have held their breath. “I tell him to chill out,” Brooks said. “You’re going to get your posters. Don’t worry about it.”
“You know, I foul a lot.” — Brooks on his defense, which Jenkins described as pesky.
Timberwolves: Host Golden State on Friday night
Grizzlies: At Orlando on Friday night.