Kings-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

On the verge of their longest winning streak of the season, the Memphis Grizzlies are starting to come together.

The Sacramento Kings have also shined of late with former Grizzlies star Rudy Gay leading the way.

Seeking a fifth consecutive victory, Memphis tries to continue its recent domination of visiting Sacramento on Friday night.

The Grizzlies (19-19) have followed a 6-11 stretch by surrendering 91.0 points per game during their win streak. Memphis came out with another stifling defensive effort Wednesday, allowing its lowest point total of the season in an 82-77 victory at Milwaukee.

"A couple of weeks ago we don't pull this game out," coach David Joerger said. "I'm proud of the growth that we've made. That's a happy locker room."

The Kings (14-23) had one as well after their fourth win in five games Wednesday, 111-108 at Minnesota. Gay stayed hot with a season-high 33 points while Isaiah Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins scored a combined 46.

"Obviously our big three got going tonight with Rudy, Isaiah and DeMarcus," coach Michael Malone said. "When those three guys are all hitting on full cylinders, we become a pretty tough team to defend."

Despite managing 12 points the previous night in a 116-92 loss at Indiana, Gay has averaged 23.8 while shooting 59.5 percent during the 4-1 stretch. A career 45.0 percent shooter, he's made 52.6 percent while averaging 20.8 points in 17 games since coming over from Toronto on Dec. 9.

"He's such a pro," Malone said. "After the game in Indiana, I said a couple of words and he stepped up and apologized to his teammates for how he played last night. He felt he didn't show up."

Gay, who spent the first six-plus seasons of his career with Memphis, scored 23 in his first trip back Nov. 13, leading the Raptors to a 103-87 victory.

"Obviously, you want to win every game, but for me personally, it was more emotional," he said afterward.

Gay now tries to help Sacramento pick up a rare win in this series. The Kings have dropped 12 of 14 to the Grizzlies, including five straight while being held to 84.8 points per game.

Sacramento has also dropped seven in a row in Memphis by an average of 16.7 points.

The Grizzlies got back to .500 for the first time since they were 10-10 on Dec. 9 despite a quiet performance from Marc Gasol, who went scoreless in 14 minutes Wednesday - his second game back after missing 23 with a sprained MCL. He had 12 points the previous night in a 90-87 win over Oklahoma City.

"Marc Gasol has some of the best hands I've ever seen," Joerger said. "To watch balls fall off of his hands, that wasn't him. It was very emotional (Tuesday). He's had to be very patient. He's a team guy and gave us everything he had, but it was just one of those nights."

Gasol has averaged 17.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 58.2 percent shooting during the Grizzlies' 9-1 stretch against Sacramento.

Mike Conley, averaging a team-leading and career-best 18.0 points, has scored 25.4 per contest in his last five at home. He is averaging 22.0 while shooting 60.5 percent in his last three against Sacramento.

The Kings are 12-3 when they score at least 105 points.

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