One of the best teams in the West – Memphis – played the team with the best record in the East – Chicago Bulls – during the 20th Annual MLK Day game with the winners being the Grizzlies and Greater Memphis.
The Grizzlies won the game (119-106) and got back on the winning track after their historic 11-game win streak had been snapped two days earlier.
“It (the MLK Day game) never gets old,” said Memphis forward Jaren Jackson Jr. “It is something that is a staple in our city. It means a lot to everyone here in the community. You can feel it in the atmosphere. …
“We play hard every night, but it is important to make sure that you go out and know who you are representing when you are out there. We always love to play on this day. I hope we always keep it here.”
Memphis got a big scare in the first half when Jackson fell hard to the court and limped off. A noticeable gasp was released later in the second quarter when he returned to the court.
Jackson, who recently was selected as the NBA Cares Player of the month for his continued contributions to the community, finished the game with 5 blocked shots, 14 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
Star point guard Ja Morant once again gave America a reason to watch him play. He had a top-play-worthy 360 layup in traffic that got fans out of their seats.
The game got a little wired up in the fourth quarter. Morant was driving to the basket when an encounter with Tony Bradley slowed him down.
The two players grabbed jerseys. Memphis center Steven Adams literally picked Bradley up and carried him to center court. Both Morant and Bradley were assessed technical fouls and Bradley received a flagrant foul for his actions.
Morant finished the game with 25 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
“He (Bradley) tried to trip me,” said Morant. “That is not a basketball play, so I reacted. He was grabbing my jersey and I told him to get off me. He was still grabbing my jersey. I don’t do any pushing or shoving. Whatever else happened after that happened.”
The Bulls (27-15), who were noticeably short-handed, were led by DeMar DeRozan with 24 points. The Bulls had 5 other players in double digits led by Ayo Dosunmu with 15 points.
Morant said the victory “was big time for us, especially after coming off a loss. We had to turn the page and get back in the column we want to be in, which is the winning column. It’s big time.
“We have to take this momentum and energy on the road. It’s a big road trip for us and we definitely needed this win.”
Next up for the Grizzlies (31-15) is a four-game road trip. It will be a challenging one.
Memphis has won 12 of the last 13 road games.
The schedule: Milwaukee (Jan. 19), Denver (Jan. 21), Dallas (Jan 23) and the Spurs on (Jan. 26).
The Grizzlies will return home to face the Utah Jazz on Jan. 28.