The opening score of Friday’s Rising Stars game was something Grizzlies fans have gotten used to this season: Grizz phenom Ja Morant tossing a lob up by the rim to be thundered down by Jaren Jackson Jr.
Team USA 2, Team World zip.
Out of concern for injury, exhibition games like this and Sunday’s All-Star Game have increasingly become high-scoring fancy layup lines devoid of any defense. That explains the 151-131 score – across four 10-minute periods, mind you. Put it this way, both teams combined to put up 282 points in EIGHT MINUTES LESS than a regular season NBA game.
So it was all about the highlights – rim rocking dunks, alley oops and more. TSD photojournalist Warren Roseborough was back in his hometown of Chicago for the festivities and filed the above images of the night. And here’s how your three Grizzlies – Morant, Jackson and Brandon Clarke, who as a Canadian, suited up for Team World:
Ja Morant (10 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists)
All the TV coverage centered on Zion Williamson, who paid off on it by putting on a show that included damaging the rim. But Morant fed his former AAU teammate several lobs including an in-air, under the leg lob to Zion and a near full-court alley oop pass for a dunk. There were a couple of spectacular dunk attempts – if Ja had brought home that Trae Young misfire . . . WOW – but Morant didn’t get the “Ja-dropping” highlight play fans wanted. Something tells me this isn’t Morant’s last All-Star weekend so . . .
Jaren Jackson Jr. (12 points, 7 rebounds, 1-4 from 3-point)
If Memphis fans were clamoring for Morant dunks and passes, then Jackson’s highlights would have meant getting hot from the arc. He did not, going just 1-4 from deep. He had a nice night, but other than the opening dunk feed from Morant, nothing especially spectacular.
Brandon Clarke (22 points, 8 rebounds)
If Team World had won, Clarke likely would have been MVP. Much like his Memphis teammates did against Portland, Team World kept feeding lobs to the rim for Clarke to dunk. He also showed how quick he is off his feet and while his efficiency is best appreciated on a box score (11-15 from the field), we Grizz fans know he is quietly an stat-stuffing monster.