Grizzlies, Kings look to end skids

SACRAMENTO — Two early-season surprises at risk of falling back to .500 hope to end losing streaks Friday night when the Memphis Grizzlies visit the Sacramento Kings.

Both teams will take the court with 16-15 records, with the Grizzlies having fallen back with four straight losses, while the Kings have dropped their last two.

The Western Conference clubs will be meeting for the third time, with each having won on its home court.

The Grizzlies went to Sacramento and lost a Memphis-style game, 97-92 in October, before the Kings visited Memphis and came up short in a Sacramento-type, high-scoring affair, 112-104 in November.

The Grizzlies have struggled offensively of late, getting held under 100 points in seven straight games.

They were hoping Mike Conley’s return from a hamstring strain after missing a 110-93 loss at Golden State would help, but Memphis scored even fewer points in a 99-92 loss at Portland on Wednesday night.

The good news: Conley was able to play 37 minutes, scoring 23 points despite 7-for-19 shooting.

Backcourt mate Garrett Temple recognizes the Grizzlies will have their ups and downs offensively, but would like to see more consistency on the defensive end, where Memphis allowed 100 or more points three straight games before the 99 at Portland.

“Mentally, we’ve just got to be able to withstand those games when we’re not great offensively by playing great defense,” he told reporters earlier this week. “If we can get back to consistently turning defense into offense, we can fill some of those offensive gaps that we’ve had.”

The Grizzlies had no such offensive issues in their 112-104 home win over Sacramento last month. Jaren Jackson hit 11 of 16 from the field en route to 27 points in a game in which Memphis shot 50.6 percent.

That win gave Memphis a 9-5 record. The Grizzlies haven’t been at .500 since opening 2-2.

The Kings, who have been above .500 since 11-11 on Dec. 1, had defensive issues of their own in Wednesday’s 132-113 home loss to Oklahoma City. It was the fourth time in five games that Sacramento gave up 130 or more points.

The loss to the Thunder featured a highlight-reel game of two-on-two between Kings guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield against Thunder stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

Hield torched the Thunder for 37 points, including seven 3-pointers, and Fox complemented 12 assists with 28 points.

But the Thunder more than matched that with George’s 43 points and 12 rebounds, and Westbrook’s 19-point, 17-assist, 11-rebound double-double.

Some Sacramento fans enjoyed the show, but not Kings coach Dave Joerger, who was bothered also by Steven Adams’ nine offensive rebounds on a night when his 20 points and 23 boards were a third element his club could not counter.

“It’s not exciting for me watching guys just tee it up and go right down the lane over and over and over,” he assured reporters afterward. “So we’ve got to get better individually guarding the basketball and we’ve got to get a little bit more active in our help, and we’ve got to make more efforts to close out and get to guys.”