Dillon Brooks scored eight of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to help put Memphis ahead to stay and the Grizzlies eliminated the San Antonio Spurs 100-96 on Wednesday night in the first Western Conference play-in game.
The Grizzlies will play the Golden State Warriors or the Los Angeles Lakers, who played later Wednesday night for the No. 7 seed, for the No. 8 seed Friday night and a first-round series starting Sunday against the top-seeded Utah Jazz. Memphis is trying to snap a skid of three straight seasons without a postseason berth.
Jonas Valanciunas had a season-high 23 rebounds and 23 points for Memphis. Ja Morant added 20 points and six assists. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 10 points.
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DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay each scored 20 points as the Spurs lost their fifth straight. Dejounte Murray had his fifth triple-double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Keldon Johnson added 11 and Jacob Poeltl 10.
The Spurs last led 83-81 on Johnson’s 3 with 6:55 left. Brooks started his scoring spurt with the Grizzlies trailing 80-79, and his driving 5-footer with 5:57 to go put Memphis ahead to stay at 85-83.
Memphis pulled out all the stops possible in a pandemic in the biggest home game since the Grizzlies’ last playoff appearance in 2017 against these very Spurs.
Inside the FedExForum, capacity was doubled to 40% with a sellout of 7,019 fans, and a yellow towel proclaiming “NXT UP MEMPHIS” was on each seat. Rapper Al Kapone performed outside during halftime and was shown on the video board with fans joining in waving towels when he sang “Whoop That Trick.”
In five playoff series between these teams, the Spurs swept three of the four San Antonio won. Memphis’ only series victory came in 2011 as the then-No. 8 seed, the start of seven straight playoff seasons for the Grizzlies.
Those players are long gone with Mike Conley now with the Jazz and Marc Gasol with the Lakers.
On this night, the Grizzlies’ next generation took over with a roster that was the second-youngest at the start of this season and Jackson, the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2018, along with Morant, the second overall draft pick in 2019 and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year.
The Grizzlies led 38-19 after the first quarter. Gay dunked late in the first quarter, starting the Spurs on a 22-3 run that pulled them within 41-39 of the Grizzlies. But Morant ended Memphis’ cold spurt with a dunk, and Memphis led 56-49 at halftime.
The teams each scored 16 points in the third as this game turned into a battle. Memphis took a 72-65 lead into the fourth quarter.
Spurs: San Antonio finished 7-32 when trailing after three quarter. … Murray had his fifth triple-double, most for the Spurs since David Robinson in 1993-94. … DeRozan led the Spurs in scoring this season and in all but one of their final six games. But he was just 1 of 11 shooting in the first half and finished 5 of 21 from the floor. … Poeltl tied his career-high with five blocks.
Grizzlies: Memphis improved to 35-11 when leading after three. … Valanciunas had his 50th double-double this season during the second quarter. He also had his sixth career game with 20 or more points and 20 or more rebounds and fourth this season, most in the NBA. Only Zach Randolph has more in franchise history with 11. … Kyle Anderson matched his career-high with four blocks. … Grayson Allen returned after missing seven games with a left abdominal strain.
The Spurs go into the offseason with coach Gregg Popovich having more time to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics as head coach of the U.S. team.