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The Miami Heat will seek to be the next to take advantage of Mike Conley’s absence when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
The Grizzlies lost for the 14th time in their last 15 games Saturday night, falling 102-101 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime.
They’ve gone winless on a three-game homestand that ends Monday despite leading by 17 and 20 points in their last two contests.
“We have to figure out a way to close out these games,” noted Andrew Harrison, who has taken over as the starting point guard with Conley out. “It’s frustrating. Hard to sleep.”
Harrison didn’t do much to help the cause against the Thunder, missing seven of his eight shots.
Overall, while they were able to top 100 points for the third time in the last five games, the Grizzlies needed overtime to do it, managed only a season-low nine points in the third quarter while trying to protect a big lead and were held to 44.3 percent shooting overall.
Forty-five percent has been a magic number of sorts for the Heat, who have gone 9-3 when limiting the opponent below that mark.
They did that Saturday night in Mexico City against Brooklyn, holding the Nets to 40.7 percent shooting in a 101-89 win.
“A great game for us, especially defensively,” Heat guard Goran Dragic observed afterward. “We know that they were going to try to play fast. They scored 89 points and shooting 40 percent from the field. That’s in our wheelhouse. We want to play like that every night on defense.”
Dragic had 20 points and just one turnover against the Nets. The Heat helped their cause with just six turnovers, tied for the second-fewest in a game leaguewide this season.
The Heat is swinging through Memphis on the way back from Mexico, having begun a three-game trip in San Antonio. A win Monday would give them just their fifth set of back-to-back wins this season.
Defense had been a problem before going south of the border. The Heat had allowed five consecutive opponents to score 100 points or more, three to reach 115.
The Heat have lost 10 of 13 games in which the opponent has reached 100 points this season.
Fortunately for the Heat, they’ll be seeing a team Monday that has struggled offensively since Conley was shelved because of Achilles soreness after the Nov. 13 game at Milwaukee.
Memphis hasn’t even reached 96 in nine of 13 games since, a run that would have become 10-in-13 if not for the overtime Saturday.
The drought has occurred despite the offensive brilliance of Tyreke Evans, who has averaged 28.0 points on 23-for-43 shooting (53 percent) on the homestand.
The teams have split their two-game season series each of the past two years. The Heat snapped a five-game losing streak at Memphis with a 90-81 win in a defensive struggle last November.
Interestingly, then-Grizzlies coach David Fizdale picked that night to demote Conley to the bench and give Harrison just his third start of the season.
Harrison missed all eight of his shots, but did record a game-high seven assists.