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Morant, Grizzlies secure ‘bigtime’ OT win over Pelicans

by Brett Martel –

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Ja Morant let out a triumphant yell as he threw down an alley-oop dunk in overtime that punctuated his third 30-point performance in just the fourth game of his return to the resurgent Memphis Grizzlies.

Morant scored 31 points and the Grizzlies defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 116-115 in overtime on Tuesday night to improve to 4-0 since Morant made his season debut in same arena a week earlier.

“Obviously excited to be back,” Morant said. “But being able to come back and win four games now and continue to take this momentum to the next game, and the next day, is bigtime for us.”

Desmond Bane scored 27, including a 3 in the final minute of regulation that helped Memphis erase a 15-point, second-half deficit. Bane also made what turned out to be a clinching free throw to give the Grizzlies a 4-point lead with 4 seconds left in overtime.

Memphis also won with defense, finishing with 17 blocked shots — five by Xavier Tillman — and 10 steals.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Morant said of the way his team once again erased a double-digit deficit and closed out a victory on the road. “We told ourselves, we’ve been here before. We were very confident.”

Indeed, they had been there before, in Morant’s season debut on Dec. 19 against the same team and on the same court. The Grizzlies trailed by 24 in the second quarter of that game and by 19 in the second half.

Morant scored 34 that game, capped by his game-winning floater over a crowd of defenders as time expired.

He’s averaged 28.8 points since completing a 25-game NBA suspension stemming from his antics with guns on social media. And earlier on Tuesday was named the Western Conference Player of the Week.

“I’d average 40 if I’d make some 3s,” Morant said with a grin after missing six of his 7 attempts from deep. “A lot of credit to my teammates. Obviously, without them on the floor, I won’t have the gaps I have, the lanes I have and them always telling me to be aggressive allows me to go out and deliver for us.”

The Grizzlies had gone 6-19 before Morant returned to the lineup.

Jaren Jackson Jr. added 19 points, redeeming his missed free throw at the end of regulation with a pair of baskets late in overtime that gave the Grizzlies the lead for good. Marcus Smart, returning from a 17-game absence because of a sprained left foot, scored 13 points, highlighted by his transition layup as he was fouled by McCollum in overtime. He also had five steals.

“We’re starting to kind of get a groove and get our roster together,” Bane said.

Zion Williamson had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans. Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and blocked four shots. Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and CJ McCollum added 16 points for New Orleans, which dropped its second straight — both at home.

“For three-and-a-half quarters, our game-plan discipline was at a high level,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “As the game started to get a little close, we get tired … and we started to turn the ball over, not execute as well and we let them right back into the game.

“It’s not one guy, it’s all of us,” Green added. “This crap hurts, losing games like this. But it’s a part of it and we have to learn from these moments.”

The overtime came after a dramatic last few seconds of regulation that took several minutes to complete because of video reviews of foul calls.

The sequence began when Morant narrowly missed a driving scoop with 1.5 seconds left. Officials initially called a defensive foul, but changed the call after a challenge by Green, saying video showed Morant had released the ball before contact could have been made on his shooting arm.

Officials then called for a jump ball, which Memphis won with 0.4 seconds left. The Grizzlies immediately called timeout to set up an alley-oop attempt for Jackson on an inbound pass. Jackson couldn’t convert, but Valanciunas was called for a foul trying to deny Jackson the ball.

Green also challenged that call, which was upheld. Jackson made the first free throw to tie it at 103, but the second rolled off the rim.

“At that point, it’s winning time,” Morant said. “We had an extra 5 minutes of basketball and we know we had to get it done.”


 Grizzlies: Visit Denver on Thursday night.

Pelicans: Host Utah on Thursday night.


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