The Memphis Grizzlies’ offense was silenced in the fourth quarter of the Denver Nuggets loss

The Memphis Grizzlies ended the third quarter tied with the Denver Nuggets in a heavyweight fight Friday night between the West’s top two teams.

While Ja Morant got a break on the bench early in the fourth quarter and sat nearly five minutes, the Nuggets went on their run. Morant returned to the game with 7:06 minutes remaining, but by that time Denver’s lead had grown to 10.

Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets kept pouring it as they drove away and the Grizzlies hit the road 113-97.

The Grizzlies (38-24) kept the high-profile Nuggets offense under control in the first half by limiting their effectiveness to 3-pointers. As the Nuggets’ offense got going, Memphis simultaneously went into an offensive drought.

Denver (45-19) now has a six-game lead over the Grizzlies in NBA Western Conference standings and a neck-and-neck tiebreak. The Grizzlies’ lead over the Sacramento Kings for the No. 2 seed shrank to one game.

Morant led the Grizzlies with 27 points and 10 assists. Jokic finished with 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.

Here are some takeaways from the game.

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Grizzlies center Brandon Clarke had to be helped off the ground late in the first quarter after shooting a free throw and seemingly suffering a non-contact injury. Clarke hobbled up the ground near halfcourt before falling. He needed help in the dressing room.

The Grizzlies ruled out Clarke at halftime with a lower leg injury. Without Clarke, the Grizzlies primarily traded Xavier Tillman Sr., Jaren Jackson Jr., and Santi Aldama between the power forward and center positions. Memphis started the fourth quarter by playing Jackson down center and using a small ball lineup that included Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, John Konchar and Dillon Brooks.

The masked Ja Morant looks good

Morant suffered a broken nose in the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets, so he wore a clear mask against the Nuggets. Aside from occasionally adjusting his mask early in the game, the all-star point guard seemed happy with his new look. Morant attacked the rim aggressively, interfering with teammates. He recorded a double-double before the end of the third quarter.

Avalanche in the fourth quarter

Brooks took on the job of guarding Nuggets’ top scorer Jamal Murray. The two exchanged verbal jabs throughout the game, but Murray had the final say. With Jokic on the bench early in the fourth quarter, Murray edged out Brooks and helped Denver build a lead before the two-time MVP returned. With Jokic behind, Denver left Memphis behind.

What’s next

The Grizzlies stay out west and play the LA Clippers for the first time this season Sunday night (9 p.m. ESPN, Bally Sports Southeast). The Clippers trended higher before losing their last five games. Each of the five losses was against teams currently forecast for the playoffs.

Brooks recorded his 16th technical foul in the fourth quarter. If the foul is not overturned by the league office, he will be suspended for one game and unavailable to the Clippers.

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis Grizzlies, Ja Morant Fall to Nikola Jokic-led Nuggets The Memphis Grizzlies’ offense was silenced in the fourth quarter of the Denver Nuggets loss

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