by Najee El-Amin —
With just under four minutes remaining in the second quarter of Monday’s (Dec 28) game versus the Brooklyn Nets, Grizzlies’ nation started experiencing a rapid heartbeat with implications far beyond one game.
After attempting to block the shot of Nets’ forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Ja Morant landed unevenly on his left ankle. The Rookie of the Year and team leader limped off the floor, writhing in pain.
Tuesday evening, the Grizzlies announced Morant will be sidelined three to five weeks after suffering an ankle sprain.
Even though no fans were in attendance, it is fair to say that the gruesome fall had many fans, who were watching or listening to the game, holding their breath.
Morant would leave the floor in a wheelchair and would not return to the game. Despite the shocking turn of events there still was a game to be played and the rest of the Grizzlies did not take it lightly.
Memphis would maintain a good-sized lead within the first half, but Brooklyn would not let the same thing happen in the second. The Nets rallied to gain the lead several times, but at the end of regulation the game was tied 106-106.
Thanks to some overtime heroics by Kyle Anderson, the Grizzlies were able to obtain their first win of the year, 116-111.
Anderson not only led the team with 28 points (a career high), he was also able to knock down three critical free throws at the end of the game to solidify Memphis’ lead.
Dillon Brooks followed with 24 points and 4 assists.
Jonas Valanciunas also let his presence be known by earning his third consecutive double-double of the year hustling up 14 rebounds and 14 points.
With a hard-fought victory under their belt, the Grizzlies would normally be ecstatic and anxious for their next chance to prove themselves.
Unfortunately, with the current circumstances surrounding Morant, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to enjoy their win the to the fullest.
Coach Taylor Jenkins and many of his players sent their best wishes to the injured guard, but they also wanted to make it clear that the team will keep pressing onward and pick up the slack for him.
“So tough to see Ja go down,” said Jenkins. “It sends a shock for a second but then the guys just kept plowing along. Great contributions up and down the entire lineup.”
The question that now remains is where do the Grizzlies go from here? They still have two more games to play during this road trip, facing off with the Celtics and the Hornets before coming home to battle the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The Grizzlies now have to get more creative with their offense and some players must step up to the plate and take on a larger role.
It appears Jenkins will try to utilized both Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke on a more consistent basis. Both had their playing time drastically increased during the game.
Guard De’Anthony Melton’s playmaking contributions also will be needed during the Grizzlies offensive reboot. He’s still out of the lineup due to COVID-19 protocol, but is expected to soon return.
The good news out of Monday’s game is that the season still is young. All signs currently point toward Morant being able to eventually return, so all hope is not lost.
The rest of the Grizzlies starters, as well their bench, proved that they can still hold their own against tough competition.
Now, all that is left to see is whether they can continue playing at the level while Morant mends.