SAN ANTONIO – Tyus Jones scored 25 points and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-111 Wednesday night to win the Southwest Division title and clinch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies won their first division title in franchise history and accomplished the feat with All-Star point guard Ja Morant watching from the sideline.
“Definitely a big step,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “I told the group, a special achievement for a special group, but we still have work to do.”
Memphis never trailed, although Morant missed his sixth straight game with right knee pain. The Grizzlies improved to 19-2 without Morant this season.
“A bold win,” Jones said. “It’s the wins that show you it’s not always going to be a great game. It won’t always be all the shots that fall and we’ll win by 20 points. Sometimes you’ll have to go out and win a game down the stretch on the offensive side or maybe on the defensive side. We need those matches in stride here.
The loss ended San Antonio’s four-game winning streak, the longest of the Spurs season. They fell half a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for 10th place in the West and last place in the qualifying tournament.
San Antonio closed one point, 112-111, on a Keldon Johnson tip with 27.8 seconds left. Following a miss from Desmond Bane of the Grizzlies, Johnson missed a layup challenged by Bane with 2.7 seconds left.
“What a brilliant (play call),” Jenkins said. “They probably knew we were going to change before. They got exactly what they wanted, a forehand to the rim. He just didn’t come in.
Jenkins said it was “stressful” matching the spirit of basketball with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, whom he considers a mentor. Jenkins spent six seasons with Spurs, including head coach of their G League affiliate.
Memphis held off San Antonio with a balanced effort, as it has for much of the season.
The Grizzlies had five players who scored in double figures and shot 48% (44 for 91). Dillon Brooks scored 21 points and Bane and De’Anthony Melton each added 16.
Dejounte Murray had 33 points, matching the career high he set Monday in Houston, and added 13 rebounds. Johnson scored 23 points.
Straight 3-pointers from Murray and Lonnie Walker IV and a video review that denied a field goal from Jarren Jackson Jr. cut Memphis’ lead to 93-86 entering the fourth, the first time San Antonio was at a number in the second half. Spurs scored the first five points of the fourth, shooting 93-91 and setting up the tense final seconds.
“I was really proud of them,” Popovich said. “But I’m proud of them, it was great. Great product. Great growth experience for them against a hell of a team. Like I said before Taylor and his team did a fantastic job. This team competes hard , they’re performing very well, maybe better than most in the league, so it’s a great performance for us tonight.”
Jackson scored the first five points of the game, including his only 3-pointer. The Grizzlies and Spurs were a combined 10 for 23 on 3-pointers in the first quarter.
With Memphis having the weekend off, Jones plans to travel to New Orleans on Saturday to watch Duke play North Carolina in the Final Four.
Jones played for the Blue Devils under Mike Krzyzewski, who is retiring at the end of the tournament after 41 seasons as the team’s head coach.
“I’m not nervous, I’m excited. I’m excited,” Jones said.
The fact that Duke is facing rival North Carolina for the first time in the NCAA Tournament only makes this moment more meaningful for Jones and the Blue Devils.
“It’s kind of fate that the first time he plays at UNC is in his senior year in the Final Four with the chance to go to the championship game,” Jones said. “Everything lines up. I’m excited for him.
Grizzlies: Morant was shooting 3-pointers minutes before pregame warmups after his teammates left the field. Morant showed no signs of discomfort during his workout. He circled the field as he attempted numerous half-court and three-quarter shots before sprinting off the field. … Jackson played 25 minutes after being a playing time decision due to a sore right thigh. … Jones injured his left hand in the first half after the ball bounced and caught his fingers. He came back in the third quarter with his middle and ring fingers stuck together. … The Memphis bench is averaging a league-high 98.5 minutes per game.
Spurs: San Antonio has lost six straight to Memphis and five straight at home. Spurs’ last home win over the Grizzlies was on Jan. 5, 2019, and their last overall win was on Dec. 23, 2020. … Walker had six points and played 14 minutes in his return after a four-game absence. Walker suffered a back injury on March 18 after a blind screen from Willy Hernangomez on March 18.
Grizzlies: Host Phoenix Friday night.
Spurs: Host Portland on Friday night.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.