The Memphis Grizzlies are at the start of a rebuild after having finally sent out the last remaining members of their Grit ‘N Grind core in trades over the last year. With Marc Gasol and Mike Conley gone, it’s all about the future in west Tennessee where Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. now take starring roles.
As the second overall pick in this year’s draft, Morant had a great deal of hype coming out of Murray State, but as should always be the case for rookies (especially point guards), the expectation was that it would take some time for him to grow into his role as the starting PG. That’s going to be the case, and there will be ups and downs, but on Sunday evening against the Nets, he put on a show in the fourth quarter to illustrate just how high his ceiling is.
Morant led a Grizzlies comeback to force overtime, scoring 17 of his 30 points in the final quarter, including eight in the final three minutes with Memphis trailing by eight. He put his crazy athleticism on display on a few occasions, as he is already an incredibly dangerous player in transition, and tied the game late with an impressive finish in traffic.
MORANT THROWS IT DOWN. 😤
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) October 27, 2019
— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) October 28, 2019
He also made a big play on the defensive end, blocking Kyrie Irving’s game-winner, as the Nets’ star guard continues to put up monster numbers with a 37-point outing, albeit in a loss this time.
Ja Morant just blocked Kyrie's potential game-winning shot to send it to OT
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) October 28, 2019
The reason the Nets lost was Jae Crowder’s three-point shooting, of all things. Crowder gave the Grizzlies their first lead of the overtime period with a three-pointer, and after Spencer Dinwiddie split a pair of free throws to put Brooklyn up two, Crowder hit a buzzer-beater from the top of the key on a Morant drop-off assist.
The point guard duel in Memphis even drew a coveted matter-of-fact Magic Johnson tweet.
We witnessed outstanding point guard play between Kyrie Irving and Ja Morant!! The young rookie held his own against Kyrie scoring 30 to Kyrie’s 37.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) October 28, 2019
The Grizzlies made some young mistakes late, including Morant throwing an inbounds pass that never got touched and went out on the opposite sideline to force Memphis into fouling Dinwiddie, but they are an incredibly fun team to watch. They probably won’t win a lot of games, but they’re fairly competitive, and Morant’s abilities are truly stunning.