Jaren Jackson Jr. records one of his three blocks on Block Panther socks giveaway night, which yielded a 121-110 win for the Grizzlies at FedExForum. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)
Terry Davis

Winless on their recent road trip, the Memphis Grizzlies kicked their two-game slide aside on Block Panther socks giveaway night largely aided by the power of the evening’s promotional namesake, Jaren Jackson Jr.

In his first game on the FedExForum court this season, Memphis’ power forward – playing in only his second game after overcoming a season-delaying injury – finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds as the Grizzlies downed the Oklahoma City Thunder (121-110).

Jackson, who owns the trademark to Block Panther, notched three blocks in an overall game performance dramatically better than his first-game-back outing (7 points, 6 rebounds against the New Orleans Pelicans), in which he did rack five blocks.

“Rhythm-wise, it felt a lot better out there (than Tuesday’s game against New Orleans) for sure. I was able to get my feet under me, and my legs into my shot, in one motion,” Jackson said.

“It was just my first time back, and I don’t even like the first time back. You just want to get through it…. I didn’t want to think about it being my first time back at home. I just wanted to hoop as if it were another game, so I wasn’t really thinking.”

Ja Morant, who left the game with a fourth-quarter injury, gets off a shot in the paint. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

The win and Jackson’s performance notwithstanding, the evening was marred by an ankle injury that forced star guard Ja Morant out of the game and into the locker room with the aid of the Grizzlies’ staff. After tests, it was announced on Saturday that he suffered a Grade 1 ankle sprain, with his return listed as week to week.

Memphis (10-6) was leading the Thunder 106-100 when Morant (19 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds) hobbled off with 3:09 left in the game.

OKC (7-9) was pesky with multiple runs at the Grizzlies.

“Give them (the Thunder) tons of credit. We knew that would be the case,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins.

Santi Aldama was part of the team defense — Dillon Brooks a notable contributor — that harnessed the output of Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)

The Grizzlies’ defense slowed OKC’s main scoring option, guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, whose15 points were far below his season average (31.1). Thunder guard Josh Giddey led OKC with 20 points (11 assists, six rebounds).

Jenkins noted defensive adjustments Memphis made throughout the game, particularly on Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey.

“I thought our guys did a much better job in the second half than we did in the first half. They’re a tough team. They play free, they play together, they play hard. This definitely makes us better when we get some action like this.”

Memphis’ offense rolled out strong, with the Grizzlies quickly opening a 14-point lead (19-5) behind the strong efforts of John Konchar (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jackson. But at the end of the quarter, Memphis’ lead was five points (33-28).

The Thunder kept answering Memphis’ runs, with the Grizzlies ahead 63-59 at halftime. Four points were the closest the Thunder could get to the Grizzlies.

Dillon Brooks, who only connected on 6 of 20 shots, nevertheless finished with 16 points, including key baskets down the stretch after Morant’s injury. Santi Aldama continued his improved play, with 15 points off the bench.

Steven Adams dunks in two of his six points. He also had 7 rebounds. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defendeer)

Next up for the Grizzlies is a road trip to New York City to face superstar Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets, who may have the services of suspended guard Kyrie Irving.

Memphis has a seven-game winning streak against the Nets (7-9). Tip-off on Sunday (Nov. 20) is at 6 p.m. (CDT). The Grizzlies return to Memphis to face Sacramento’s Kings on Tuesday (Nov. 22) at 7 p.m.