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Jan 13, 2024 3:52 am

Knicks chase bounce-back effort vs. banged-up Grizzlies

Their five-game winning streak snapped, the New York Knicks will look for a complete effort when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday.

The Knicks will need a stronger start after allowing 44 points in the first quarter of a 128-124 loss to the host Dallas Mavericks on Thursday. The defeat was New York’s first since acquiring OG Anunoby from the Toronto Raptors in a five-player trade on Dec. 30.

Julius Randle scored 32 points vs. Dallas, while Jalen Brunson finished with 30 points against his former team despite shooting 4 of 12 from the field in the first half.

New York trailed by as many as 21 points in the third quarter before making it a one-point game with just over a minute to play.

“Our defensive transitions to start the game were poor,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We turned the ball over and put them in the open floor. They got confidence early, and once a team gets going like that, it’s tough to get it turned around. First-quarter readiness is huge in this league.”

Randle, who is averaging 29.9 points on 50.6 percent shooting over his past eight games, said the Knicks need to learn from the Thursday loss.

“We didn’t do ourselves any favors to start the game,” Randle said. “We’ve got to come more prepared, ready to play. We thought we had a final breakthrough in the fourth, but we couldn’t get a rebound.”

New York has lost its last four meetings against the short-handed Grizzlies, whose lengthy injury list continues to grow.

Memphis had its three-game winning streak snapped with a 128-119 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 21 points to lead the Grizzlies, while Xavier Tillman added 20 and David Roddy finished with 17.

Memphis guard Desmond Bane exited the game in the third quarter due to a left ankle sprain and did not return.

Bane’s ailment capped an injury-plagued week for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant was shut down for the season with a torn right shoulder labrum just days before Memphis guard Marcus Smart was ruled out for the next six weeks due to a right ring finger injury.

Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins admires how his team has remained focused during the current wave of adversity.

“Our circumstances are pretty heavy right now, for sure, but the attitude has been phenomenal,” Jenkins said. “We’re going to go out there and lay it on the line every single day and keep pouring on the work. That’s what we’ve got to focus on.”

The Grizzlies’ injury bug has resulted in more opportunities for players such as Vince Williams Jr., who was rewarded with a three-year contract earlier this week.

Williams is averaging 9.8 points over his last four games while shooting 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) from 3-point range. The second-year wing has become a key part of the Grizzlies’ rotation in recent weeks.

“A guy that we believe in for the future obviously with our core guys,” Jenkins said of Williams. “He’s an awesome fit with this group. Super excited for him, getting him on board for a number of years. He’s earned it.”

–Field Level Media

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