by Najee El-Amin and Terry Davis –
Most Grizzlies’ fans had exited FedExForum Wednesday night after Memphis’ 14-point win over Charlotte when Ja Morant – the star largely responsible for drawing them there – returned to the court to practice.
Morant, the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the year, finished with 15 points, 11 assists and three steals in 31 minutes of the Grizzlies’ 130-114 victory. Still, he wasn’t happy with his play.
“I felt like I had to (get) better on the court in all areas,” Morant would say later. “I wasn’t happy, nor satisfied with my play as of late. So I went to get some extra work in.”
On a night when the Grizzlies allowed the Hornets to shoot a dizzying 62.5 percent from the floor in the first quarter, the third quarter was difference. Trailing by four points after the first quarter and up by two at halftime, the Grizzlies outscored the Hornets by 16 (31-15) in the third and finished within two points (31-29) in the final-frame tally.
Memphis set a franchise record Wednesday night, knocking down 23 three-pointers. Grayson Allen showed off his range, connecting in the first quarter on four of his five, first-half shots from beyond the arc. He finished with 18 points.
Kyle Anderson, who came within a point of his career high by scoring 27 points, set a record with six made three-pointers.
“We got some unselfish guys, guys who play well without the ball, guys who are going to knock down the shots and we trust each other,” Anderson said. “We are a close group on and off the court….”
Head coach Taylor Jenkins noted that the losing streak had not dashed the Grizzlies’ confidence.
“It’s a product of just continuing to stay the course and put in the work,” said Jenkins. “Were not just built on making shots. We’re built on playing the right way.”
On the team’s play in the pivotal third quarter, Anderson said, “We are just trying to make that stride. We keep trying to get better. We didn’t put all 48 minutes together, but we are going to keep working towards that until we get it.”
Before putting in his post-game work on his shooting, Morant gave his game jersey to a person from his Murray State family.
“That is my family from Murray; some great caring people,” Morant said. “They took me in when I was there. They showed me a lot of love, traveling here for my game. I love them. …. I haven’t (given) them a jersey since I have been playing here.
“It was even better to get a win in that jersey.”
Notes and next
- In addition to Morant, Allen and Anderson, Memphis had seven players with double-digit scoring – Dillion Brooks (20), Desmond Bane (18), Jonas Valančiūnas (12 points, 15 rebounds) and Tyus Jones (12).
- The Grizzlies improved to .500 (10-10) and next head to the West Coast to face the defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers on Friday (Feb. 12) and the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.