A fresh picture of Ja Morant taking control of a basketball game emerged in the third quarter of the Memphis Grizzlies 109-95 handling of the Detroit Pistons at FedExForum on Friday night.
Morant scored 13 points in the frame on five-of-6 shooting from the field and three of four on his free throws. Afterwards, he was in assessment mode, asking media to grade his performance and receiving marks that ranged from 8.0 to 9.4 on a 10-point scale.
The star point guard, who scored 29 points, with four assists and three rebounds, gave himself a 6.5.
“I felt like I missed some shots. I got to be better behind the arc. I had a dumb foul at the beginning of the game. I got to be better.”
Five games earlier after a win over Charlotte he put in some extra work on his shooting. Since then, he has had three, 20-point games, a triple double and his shooting percentage has improved.
He’s still looking to get better, for himself and the team.
“Team-`wise, I can continue to put us in better position during the game, making sure we are running our sets and getting good shots; making sure everybody is locked in.”
With the NBA All-Star Game break looming, Morant was asked if he should be on the team.
“I don’t like speaking too much on my game,” he said. “I feel I have been playing well. I definitely should be in that conversation. If there is an opportunity for me to be an All-Star, it would be an honor. …
“I give a lot of credit to my teammates, coaches and family … holding me accountable and pushing me to get better.”
The win over Detroit was the second straight for Memphis (13-12), with fans allowed back into the arena after harsh weather conditions forced restricting them for the previous game this week. They saw star-of-the-game Morant key 66 points in the paint as he forced the defense to him and opened up the inside.
“To start the game we able to get some driving angles in transition. Ja had a heck of a night,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins.
“Our assist totals were low, but we were able to get downhill. We were able to score without the pass. We give our bigs a lot of credit. That is what led to a great night in the paint for us.”
Grizzlies’ center Jonas Valančiūnas continued his double-double run (now at 14 games), with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
The NBA All-Star reserves will be announced on Tuesday.
“I think Ja is very deserving,” Jenkins said. “He has done an unbelievable job in developing this season. He has been impactful to our team and how we are winning.
“If you look at the fans, media and players and the recognition he has been getting after the last tally in the votes, … he is deserving to be in that conversation.”
Next and notes
- De’Anthony Melton returned after missing six games because of injury. He contributed five points, four steals and three rebounds.
- Desmond Bane, who also has missed several games because of personal reasons, added 10 points.
- Former Memphis Grizzlies player Josh Jackson, who plays for Detroit this season, had 15 points off the bench.
- Memphis closes out its four-game homestand on Saturday (Feb 19) against the Phoenix Suns. The Grizzlies won the earlier meeting (Jan. 8), capturing a 108-104 victory at FedExForum.