Stephen Jackson shakes his head when considering the potential of teammate Anthony Morrow.
“His upside is what’s scary, how good he can be,” said Jackson, after Morrow scored 24 points off the bench to lead the Golden State Warriors to their first win of the season, 113-105 over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.
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“He’s definitely one of the best shooters in the game, pure shooters. There are a lot of people that can shoot but he’s a pure shooter. There’s been a shortage on those in the league the last couple of years. He is definitely one.”
Morrow’s big night came after he spent all but 47 seconds of the first quarter on the bench. That coincided with the Warriors’ slow start when the Grizzlies raced out to an early 13-point lead.
But after coach Don Nelson inserted the second-year player into the lineup and moved Monta Ellis to point guard, Golden State’s high-intensity offense took off.
Morrow made 10 of 12 shots from the floor, including 4-for-4 on 3-pointers, while getting into a scoring shootout with Grizzlies’ forward Rudy Gay. The two men traded baskets during a four-minute stretch in the third quarter before Morrow’s 3-pointer with 2:49 left started a 10-5 run that gave the Warriors an 87-77 lead that was never challenged.
“It’s just really all about doing what I have to do to stay on the court,” Morrow said. “(Gay) scored some buckets but I wanted to make sure I did the best job I could and also went back at him offensively. He’s a great player so I just wanted to match that level of intensity.”
Ellis had 24 points and a season-high 12 assists, Jackson and Corey Maggette added 20 points apiece while rookie Stephen Curry had seven points and nine assists for the Warriors, who were outrebounded 46-35.
Gay had 29 points and eight rebounds for Memphis while Allen Iverson added 18 points to become the 16th player in NBA history to reach 24,000 for his career. The Grizzlies lost their third straight and were held under 115 points for the first time since their season-opener.
“Defense is what did us in,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “We don’t guard anybody. We haven’t guarded anybody the last four or five games since the season started.”
The Warriors won despite falling into a big hole against the younger, more athletic Grizzlies. Golden State also played much of the first half without starting center Andris Biedrins, who picked up three fouls in the first 5 1/2 minutes.
But after a sluggish start offensively, the Warriors got running with Ellis and Curry pushing Nelson’s fastbreak offense. Morrow, who averaged just seven points in the first two games of the season, was the biggest benefactor.
He sparked the Warriors’ charge in the second quarter, scoring seven of his points, including a tip-in of an Ellis miss and a 3-pointer that tied the game at 43-43 with 5:02 left in the first half. A reverse layup by Ellis put Golden State ahead 49-47 and he later scored on another reverse to help the Warriors take a two-point lead at halftime.
“Morrow really was the only guy I thought was hot,” Nelson said. “This is the first time this year where we were really looking for him. He did the rest. And the fast pace helps him get open.”
Morrow’s scoring streak extended into the third quarter when Golden State outscored Memphis 19-8 over the final six minutes to take control of the game for good. The second-year guard had 15 points, going 6-for-6 from the floor and making all three of his 3-point attempts.
The Warriors later led by as much as 15 in the fourth quarter and coasted home for the win.
Iverson, who complained about his role after playing sparingly off the bench in Memphis’ game against Sacramento on Monday, scored six points during a 17-0 Memphis run in the first half. The Grizzlies used that burst and a 21-9 edge in rebounding to take a 13-point lead in the first quarter but let it slip away when the Warriors made a strong surge in the second period.
“Not a lot of players like to play defense (but) winning teams play defense,” Iverson said. “Some nights you’re not going to be able to throw a rock in the ocean but if you still play defense you give yourself a chance to win.”
O.J. Mayo, who had career-high 40 points against Denver on Sunday, scored 14 on 4 of 13 shooting against Golden State, which beat the Grizzlies for the first time since 2007.
Marc Gasol added 12 points and 14 rebounds while Zach Randolph had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis (1-4), which swept the season-series between the two teams last year.
Notes: The Warriors were without forward Ronny Turiaf, who sprained his left knee in the fourth quarter of Friday’s loss to Phoenix. It’s the same knee that bothered Turiaf before forced him to miss the majority of training camp.