by Liaudwin Seaberry Jr. —
The shockwave of franchise point guard Ja Morant being aided to the locker room and the Atlanta Hawks’ efficient offensive attack punctuated the Memphis Grizzlies’ blowout loss (132-102) on Saturday night.
Known for his signature attacks on the rim, Morant sprained his knee during a non-contact moment in the first quarter. As play continued toward the opposite end of the court, Morant hopped to the sidelines and crumpled, holding his knee. The sight hushed the FedExForum crowd.
“Yeah, I think seeing the way he went off the floor sent shockwaves through the team,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins.
“I think the guys are trying to stay positive. Obviously, a really tough loss. Sticking together through all of this. Trying to find ways to continue to get better. Obviously not our night and hopeful for the best.”
Morant took to Twitter before learning of the diagnosis of the injured knee, posting, “ITS IN GOD’S HANDS NOW. ALL WE CAN DO IS PRAY.”
An hour later, he followed with this: “blessed.”
The Grizzlies (9-10), who were attempting to bounce back from a pouncing by the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, were trailing when Morant went down with about three and a half minutes left in the first quarter. He had two points on a pair of free throws and had missed his only shot.
Down by eight points after the first quarter, the Grizzlies faced a 14-point deficit by the halftime break and things got worse from there.
Hawks point guard Trae Young scored 30 points along with 10 assists. Center Clint Capela racked a double-double (23 points, 17 rebounds), while forward John Collins contributed 20 points.
“Obviously, the Hawks (11-9) played really, really well tonight,” said Jenkins. “We had a lot of looks that didn’t fall tonight, so definitely the mojo was kind of lost.”
Memphis forward John Konchar led the team with 17 points off the bench. Starters Dillion Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. produced 12 and 14 points, respectively.
Trailing 62-48 at intermission, the Grizzlies surrendered 43 points in the third quarter, with Atlanta’s lead swelling to 40 points. Memphis’ porous defense allowed the Hawks to convert on 58 percent of their field goals for the contest. Memphis shot 41 percent.
“We felt like we fought in the first half of the contest and in the third quarter they just hit us,” said Grizzlies point guard Tyus Jones.
With the timetable for Morant’s return undetermined at this point, Jones is next in line for the starting point guard responsibilities.
“There is a next-man approach mentality and I am going to do my job,” said Jones, “and we are going to continue to get through all of this together.”
Notes and next:
The Grizzlies were outrebounded by the Hawks 49-36 and this really set the tone for the entire night.
Memphis shot only 31 percent from the 3-point line while the Hawks converted on 48 percent of their long-distance attempts.
The Grizzlies return to the court at FedExForum on Sunday afternoon to face the Sacramento Kings.