The Memphis Grizzlies were considered a team on the rise before the season began. Now it is obvious their ascension has arrived sooner than expected.
Memphis sits third in the Western Conference after winning 12 of its last 14 games, and not much has fazed the young team, although they have dropped two of their last three games.
During a recent 11-game winning streak, the Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Lakers twice, took down the Golden State at home and topped the Phoenix Suns on the road. They went 5-1 with head coach Taylor Jenkins in health and safety protocol.
Memphis was short-handed when it lost at Milwaukee on Wednesday night and might still be without two of its top scorers for Friday night's game at the Denver Nuggets.
The Grizzlies didn't have Dillon Brooks (ankle) against the Bucks, and Desmond Bane was placed in health and safety protocol. Brooks (18.4 points per game) and Bane (17.7) are second and third, respectively, on the team in scoring behind Ja Morant (24.7).
In addition to missing those two players, Kyle Anderson, Tyus Jones and Killian Tillie also were in health and safety protocol.
With multiple players out, Morant took on more responsibility, scoring 33 points and dishing out 14 assists against the Bucks.
"My job is to take what the defense gives me and continue to be aggressive at all times," Morant said.
Friday will be the third of four games between the teams this season. Memphis won the first two at home two nights apart in early November, needing a fourth-quarter rally in the second game to pull out the victory.
Denver is coming off a thrilling 130-128 overtime win Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. Nikola Jokic delivered his 10th triple-double of the season with 49 points -- one off his career high -- 14 rebounds and 10 assists. The last assist came on Aaron Gordon's tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left in overtime.
Jokic will have another option to pass to as soon as Friday night. The Nuggets acquired Bryn Forbes from San Antonio in a three-team deal that was finalized Wednesday, with the hope he can provide much-needed outside shooting.
Forbes won a title last year with the Bucks before returning to the Spurs in the offseason. Denver sent two injured players -- P.J. Dozier and Bol Bol -- to Boston and a second-round pick to San Antonio. Denver traded Bol to Detroit last week, but the deal was nullified when Bol failed a physical. He then had surgery on his injured right foot.
The deal opens another roster spot for Denver, possibly to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a 10-day deal, but more importantly it gives them another scorer.
"Really for me, it comes down to Bryn Forbes is a career 42 percent 3-point shooter," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "You go back to last year in their run in winning a world championship in Milwaukee, that first-round series they swept Miami, and Bryn Forbes averaged 15 points a game.
"Shooting makes up for a multitude of sins. He's a knockdown shooter, and I think any time you can add shooting to your team, obviously, it's something that you have to look for."
--Field Level Media