. Grit and grind have defined the Memphis Grizzlies with players such as Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
Kings coach Dave Joerger was around them for most of this era, having spent nine seasons with Memphis, the last three as head coach before being fired and becoming the Kings’ coach in May.
So perhaps it was fitting that Joerger’s Kings essentially imitated the style Joerger and the Grizzlies relied on for years in a 96-92 win at FedExForum on Friday night.
The Kings ended a 12-game losing streak in Memphis for Sacramento as Joerger returned for the first time since his dismissal. It’s perhaps the Kings’ most impressive win of the season, coming on the road against a team that has been playing some of the best basketball in the NBA over the last month.
Memphis had won six in a row at home.
The Kings shot poorly (38.8 percent) but they made sure the Grizzlies shot worse (37.7 percent) and found enough defense late to hold off the Grizzlies.
Joerger said the game was “difficult” for him considering he’s spent so much time in the city.
“It was not an enjoyable game to coach from that aspect,” Joerger said. “But now I’m here (with the Kings) and these are my guys now, and so I’m really proud of them, congratulated them.”
Joerger admitted it was tough seeing so many players he knows on the opposite team. He was with the Grizzlies when Gasol won the Defensive Player of the Year award, Randolph and Gasol established themselves as one of the game’s best tandems, and Conley’s stock rose.
“I’ve been with Mike Conley for nine years,” Joerger said. “I’ve been with Tony for six or seven. Marc for eight and on down the line. That goes and transcends far beyond anything about basketball. It’s friendships, relationships. It’s a game, and for two hours it’s competitive.
“I don’t think anybody yelled at each other or anything. You go out and you compete. You coach hard. We ended up with the win, and let’s get out of here and go to Dallas.”
The Kings had faltered so many times down the stretch, whereas Memphis has been excellent late in games.
That changed for a night as the Kings made enough plays after their 15-point lead was cut to 95-92 with 55.3 seconds to play.
The Kings forced an off-balance 3-pointer by Conley with 3.9 seconds left that sealed the game. Ty Lawson made a free throw with 1.9 seconds to play to ensure the Grizzlies could not tie the score with a 3-pointer.
The Grizzlies had not lost a game in a “super clutch” situation this season. That’s when the game is within three points with less than a minute remaining in regulation or overtime.
They are now 12-1 in those situations.
“Tonight, they absolutely outcompeted us all night,” said Memphis coach David Fizdale. “They beat us to every single loose ball. They outhustled us. They wanted the game more, quite honestly.”
The Kings were clutch thanks to big games by Kosta Koufos (16 points, 13 rebounds) and Garrett Temple (17 points, six rebounds, four assists).
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 22 points, shaking off a slow start to shoot 7 of 20. He also had nine rebounds.
Joerger was pleased with defense and the communication he heard from his players on that end of the floor. And after Sacramento gave up 22 3-pointers in a loss at Houston on Wednesday, Memphis shot just 5 of 25 from 3-point range.
Granted, Memphis is not Houston when shooting the 3, but the Kings have been susceptible to the shot all season.
Gasol led the Grizzlies (18-10) with 20 points.