Steven Adams grabbed the first game-winning basket of his career as the Memphis Grizzlies rolled to a franchise record-equalling 11th straight victory on Wednesday with a 115-114 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
New Zealand international Adams was on hand to tip-in at the basket after an attempted layup by Ja Morant with just under 17 seconds remaining of a thrilling battle at the FedExForum in Memphis.
Memphis small forward Dillon Brooks then conjured a crucial block to thwart Cavs point guard Darius Garland’s attempt at a buzzer-beating three-pointer.
“We’ve got a bunch of dogs over here who are ready to play every single night,” Brooks said afterwards.
Memphis’s 11th straight victory equalled the team’s longest win streak set last season and leaves them with 31 wins and 13 defeats in the Western Conference, just behind leaders Denver (32-13).
The outcome of a see-saw game was in the balance up until the final seconds of a contest that saw the lead change hands no fewer than 16 times.
Memphis looked to be cruising towards another blowout after opening up a 19-point lead in the second quarter.
Cleveland hit back however to reel in the Memphis lead, and appeared poised for an upset victory after Evan Mobley’s hook shot put the Cavs up 114-111 with just over a minute remaining.
Two Morant free throws got the Grizzlies to 114-113 however, and when Cleveland coughed up a costly turnover for a five-second time violation, Morant drove forward to set up the layup for Adams’ winning rebound — the first game-winner of the Kiwi’s nine-season NBA career.
“That was his first game-winner, he’s definitely hyped,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of Adams.
“There was a lot going on in that game. Two competitive teams playing pretty high-level basketball, definitely ebbs and flows, highs and lows, but in the end we made the plays.”
Desmond Bane led the Grizzlies scoring with 25 points while Morant added 24 with eight assists. Jaren Jackson Jr posted 15 points while Adams finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Nikola Jokic posted a 31-point triple double as Denver ensured they remained on top of the West with a 122-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Nuggets’ eighth consecutive victory went down to the wire, however, with Minnesota leading by five points at 118-113 with just under three minutes remaining at Denver’s Ball Arena.
But the Nuggets finished strong with a 9-0 run to keep their winning streak intact.
“We love it, we know we can improve, and we can see we have ups and downs in a game,” Jokic said of Denver’s form. “Fourth quarter is the winning time and I’m just glad we always deliver when we need it.”
In Los Angeles, LeBron James delivered another high-scoring performance but it was not enough to stop the Lakers slipping to a 116-111 defeat to the Sacramento Kings.
James, who is on pace to overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar next month as the NBA’s all-time leading points scorer, finished with 32 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.
But the Lakers slid to their 25th defeat of the season after a solid Kings performance that saw De’Aaron Fox score 31 points.
In Dallas, Dejounte Murray scored 30 points as the Atlanta Hawks swept to an impressive 130-122 win on the road over the Mavericks.
Dallas star Luka Doncic matched Murray’s 30-point tally but the Mavs were unable to contain a balanced Atlanta offensive display which remarkably saw eight of their nine players finish in double figures.
John Collins had 19 points while Trae Young added 18 points with 12 assists for Atlanta.
“We’re playing for 48 minutes now and not just for 24 or 30 or whatever,” Murray said after Atlanta’s fourth straight win.
In New Orleans, Bam Adebayo’s 26 points helped the Miami Heat to a 124-98 win over the Pelicans.
Jimmy Butler chipped in with 18 points while Tyler Herro added 14 as Miami improved to 25-21 to remain in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.
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