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Three things to Know: Could Grizzlies’ road woes keep them from contending?

Memphis Grizzlies v Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - JANUARY 22: Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on January 22, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Grizzlies 112-110. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Could Grizzlies’ road woes hold them back from contending?

In the FedEx Forum, the Memphis Grizzlies play like unquestioned title contenders — a 20-3 record, outscoring opponents by 11.2 points per game fueled by the league’s best defense.

However, take the Grizzlies out of the friendly confines and everything changes. They are 11-12 and have been outscored away from home after dropping back-to-back games on the current road trip to teams in the play-in mix (the Lakers and Suns).

Memphis is the only team in the Western Conference with a top-10 offense and defense — the traditional sign of a contender — but to make the Finals, a team will have to win big games on the road. Could the Grizzlies’ road woes keep them from contending?

“Got to look ourselves in the mirror. We gotta want to be better if we got to want change,” Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones said when asked about road woes after a come-from-ahead loss to the Lakers Friday night that snapped their 11-game winning streak. “You know, and if we don’t, it’ll be a long road trip for us.”

It might be a long trip. The Grizzlies came out after that loss and got their heads handed to them by the Suns in the first half, trailing 62-37 at the break. Part of the Suns’ energy was the return of Chris Paul after missing the last seven games, he finished the night with 22 points and 11 assists.

The Grizzlies came back in the second half, partly because Ziaire Williams hit the longest shot in Grizzlies history.

Memphis still fell short. Players still felt like they didn’t play Grizzlies basketball.

“If we just follow principles, follow our principles he would have won the game by 15,” Dillon Brooks said after losing to the Lakers. “Shifting, loading up to the ball in transition, making them take tough shots. And then rebounding.”

The one positive is this: The losing really bothers these young Grizzlies.

Not that any team in the NBA enjoys losing, but it seemed to eat at this team more than most. After the loss in Los Angeles, a group of 10 or so reporters were huddled in the corner of the visitor’s locker room waiting to talk to Brooks about his words with Shannon Sharpe courtside that became a thing. Usually after a team loses in Los Angeles (especially on a Friday night), players are moving fast to shower and get out the door to the club or their dinner reservations — even the best teams lose a fair amount in the NBA and let it roll off them. These Grizzlies stewed in it. A core of the group sat at their lockers, bothered by the loss, talking about officiating and what they felt they should have done differently. They were not racing to get out the door. They didn’t like the feeling.

It’s a good sign, although they followed that up with maybe their worst half of basketball of the season two days later. But at least they recognize the problem. That’s a good start. Still, if the Grizzlies are going to win the West, they must fix it. They will need big wins on the road.

2) Shorthanded Nets hand Warriors another loss at home

Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving have a long-running rivalry and history with games against each other on the NBA’s biggest stages, and they put on a show Sunday night — Irving scored 38, Curry 26.

So much for the Warriors flipping the switch. After a hard-fought loss to the Celtics last Thursday, the Warriors did win in Cleveland, but in a game Steve Kerr rested his core players except for Jordan Poole — it was a one-off win. Then they came home and lost to a Nets team without Kevin Durant, where Brooklyn won the second half 60-44 to secure the victory.

Kerr stuck with his new small-ball starting lineup — Jordan Poole starts at guard and Kevon Looney comes off the bench — and the result was Nets center Nic Claxton having a career night.

That’s four straight losses at home for the Warriors, where they had been juggernauts. On the flip side, that’s two quality road wins for the shorthanded Nets in a row, they beat Utah a couple of nights before. Brooklyn is starting to find its offense.

The first game home after a road trip is a traditional trap game in the NBA, the Warriors can explain away this loss that way. But they continue to explain away too many losses this season for a team that fancies itself a title contender.

3) Lakers comeback win over Trail Blazers snapshot of these teams now

Portland is in a tailspin. The Trail Blazers won the second quarter against the Lakers Sunday 45-13 and led by 25 at the half — close this game out, beat the Spurs coming up, and they could have snapped out of their recent funk. Instead, the Lakers roared back to get the win behind 37 from LeBron James, and in a defining part of their season the Trail Blazers have now gone 2-8.

The Lakers, on the other hand, are suddenly looking up. They beat the Grizzlies on Friday night to snap that team’s 11-game winning streak, and now they have an epic comeback against the Trail Blazers led by LeBron’s 37 and 11.

That’s two quality wins in a row for the Lakers, who likely will get Anthony Davis back this week. With the win, the Lakers moved past the Trail Blazers in the standings (although only to 12th), and a path to the playoffs seems possible. Next up for the Lakers are the Clippers back at home.

Another note from this game: Thomas Bryant scored 31 for the Lakers.

It is a sign of an ongoing problem for the Trail Blazers — they are too small, and opposing bigs are feasting. Bryant, a true stretch five, is a problem for Jusuf Nurkic and the Portland defensive system.

The Lakers need this Bryant when Davis returns if they are going to climb up into the postseason.

By the way, LeBron is now 244 points away from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time passing record.