After winning 97-90 at the Dallas Mavericks, the Grizzlies (13-10) became the first team in the last 25 seasons to lead wire-to-wire for four consecutive games without trailing or being tied, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
It wasn't what fans at American Airlines Center probably expected when the NBA schedule was released. Instead of seeing point guard Ja Morant against All-Star guard Luka Doncic, both were injured and it became Desmond Bane vs. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, but Bane had timely, late baskets to keep the Grizzlies ahead. Here's what we learned.
Desmond Bane's revenge
Bane had only two points Thursday but playing just 35 minutes from TCU, where he played in college, he finished with 29 points and nine rebounds, both career highs. He also had 11 points in the fourth quarter, including nine points in the final 6:22 to hold off a Mavericks' rally where they got within 93-88.
MORANT THE MENTOR: Why Grizzlies' Ja Morant has become a mentor as he grows into NBA stardom
After the game, he was fired up facing a team that was high on him leading up to the 2020 NBA Draft. If the Grizzlies didn't take him, he would've been fine with the Mavericks because he thought they were a good fit.
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 5, 2021
Instead, they drafted Josh Green with the No. 18 pick, although he didn't play Saturday and is averaging 1.3 points. Bane, who was taken 30th overall, didn't need the extra push but he's appreciated it.
"Any time we play against a team or an organization that I felt like would've be a good fit and was on me during the pre-draft process, it definitely motivates me a little bit," Bane said.
More defense at work
The Grizzlies held an opponent under 100 points for a third consecutive game, the first time they've done that since a three-game stretch from Feb. 29 to March 4, 2020. Not only have they never trailed, they've never tied after scoring the opening basket during this four-game streak.
Without Doncic, the Mavericks (11-10) couldn't generate enough consistent offense for three quarters. Dallas shot just 33.7% from the field, including 33.3% on shots in the paint.
The Grizzlies' defense lapsed in the fourth quarter but as coach Taylor Jenkins noted postgame, it was a good wake-up call to stay disciplined.
Adams leads rebounding advantage
Defense and Jaren Jackson Jr.'s two-way dominance are the main reasons the Grizzlies haven't lost since Morant sprained his knee. But there's another reason. Owning the rebounding battle.
Steven Adams had one of his better games with 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. With Kristaps Porzingis and Willie Cauley-Stein out for the Mavericks, Adams owned the inside by staying active and trying to tip loose balls to teammates if he couldn't secure them.
The Grizzlies outrebounded the Mavericks 52-42, continuing a trend during this streak. It's also been a good reminder why they lead the NBA in rebounds per game.
Injuries adding up
Brandon Clarke became the latest Grizzlies player to be sidelines as he didn't play due to knee soreness. He joined Morant, Kyle Anderson, Ziaire Williams and Sam Merrill on the bench.
Anderson and Williams missed their second consecutive game with knee and back soreness, respectively. For the first time in this streak, the Grizzlies missed some of that stability with a season-high 23 turnovers and 10 missed free throws.
It's a credit, though, that they were able to stay in control most of the game despite Hardaway's fourth quarter flurry.
D-MELT MAKING PLAYS ON BOTH ENDS OF THE FLOOR pic.twitter.com/7zZh1GTOBp
— Bally Sports: Grizzlies (@GrizzOnBally) December 5, 2021
Depth wins out
Hardaway Jr. finished with 29 points but only two other Mavericks scored in double-figures. It showed how much the Mavericks rely on Doncic, who leads the NBA in usage rate from his scoring and playmaking.
With five players out, the Grizzlies got a collective effort with six players scoring in double-figures. Tyus Jones had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Jackson added 13 points.
Morant's also in the league's top 10 for usage rate but the Grizzlies have found ways to fill in his scoring. Unlike some of the NBA's youngest teams, there's been good development to make sure players are ready to contribute instead of just play and learn.
It carried them last season mostly without Jackson and so far, they've done it again with Morant.
The Grizzlies head to Miami to face the Heat Monday (6:30 p.m.) for the second time this season. Miami won the first meeting 129-103 on Oct. 30 at FedExForum.
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This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphis Grizzlies push win streak to four games with 97-90 win over Mavericks