Mark this down: “You are not going to win too many games when you shoot 23 percent from behind the three-point line.”
Case in point: Memphis – at home at FedExForum – loses 118-108 to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night (Nov. 10).
The assessment was voiced by Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. He was not alone.
“We missed open shots and we shot 23 percent from three,” said Memphis’ floor general, Ja Morant, explaining why the Grizzlies could not engineer a win after closing a double-digit deficit to three points in the final frame.
After a thrilling win over Minnesota on Monday, the Grizzlies faced off against the Hornets in a game that featured the last two NBA Rookies of the Year – Morant and Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball. It also was accented by the season’s debut of Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, who missed the first 10 games recovering from an injured hand.
“It (being back on the court) felt good,” said Brooks. “I was not trying to push the pace with aggressiveness. I was trying to get my teammates involved. I was trying to play in the flow of the game.”
Brooks finished with 20 points and 6 assists.
“I am tired and sore,” said Brooks. “I have to plan more on the people I have to guard, but it is a stepping stone.”
In his fifth 30-point performance of the season, Morant racked 32 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. He had 8 games with 30-plus points last season. Jaren Jackson Jr. turned in 19 points and 6 rebounds.
Memphis got off to a very good start, spurting to a 20-14 lead with about 8 minutes left in the first quarter. Brooks, greeted with a warm reception by the crowd, entered for the first time at the 6:07 mark. Memphis led by a bucket (36-34) as the first quarter ended.
The Hornets got their buzz on in the second quarter with an 14-0 run (48-36) while Morant was on the bench. Kyle Anderson finally got the Grizzlies on the board in the second quarter with a layup with 6:31 left in the first half.
Down 56-42 when Morant returned to the lineup with 3:42 left in the half, the Grizzlies pushed back and trailed 60-52 going into the break. half. At that point, Morant already had 22 points with Brooks adding a dozen.
A flagrant foul by Ball with 11:23 remaining in the third quarter sparked the Grizzlies. After Morant hit both free throws and scored on the in-bound play, Memphis was within four (60-56). Jackson then mustered seven points in a short span to give the Grizzlies the lead (65-62).
As the third quarter wound down, Memphis trailed by a point (79-78). Then the wheels came off, with the Grizzlies falling behind by as many as 14 points in the final quarter. Fighting back to within three with five minutes to go, Memphis was faced with a player they did not handle.
Kelly Oubre Jr., who did not start the game, scored 15 points in the fourth quarter en route to 35 points in the game. Gordon Hayward finished with 25 points; Ball had 12 points 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
Ja Morant on the return of Dillion Brooks: “Dillion is aggressive on both ends of the floor. We need that type of energy. He pushes everyone to be better. Glad to have it back. The shots he normally makes, he missed. Same with the rest of the team.”
Taylor Jenkins on Brooks’ return: “I thought DB was great. He played with poise, his shot-making and decision making with 6 assists. He has put in a lot of work over the course of the summer. I think he took all the work he put in and really made an impact on the game. He was playing within himself.”
Memphis will host the Phoenix Suns on Friday (Nov. 12), with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The Suns’ roster includes former Lausanne player Cameron Payne, who played collegiately for Murray State, which also is Morant’s alma mater.