Ja Morant and the Southwest Division-leading Memphis Grizzlies, will complete a three-game road trip Saturday night when they take on the Orlando Magic for their first match of the season.
The Grizzlies are seeking their fifth win in six games after being without Dillon Brooks (ankle), second-leading scorer since January. Memphis defeated the host New York Knicks 120 to 108 on Wednesday, when Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Morant missed 18 shots including 0-of-6 3-point shooting to end his streak with seven consecutive games scoring 30-plus points. The playmaker was still voted as one of the Western Conference starters for the All-Star Game. He contributed 23 points and nine assists in the Grizzlies’ 17th road victory of the season.
Ziaire Williams scored 21 points, while Steven Adams grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Memphis, which was leading 92-79 at the end of three quarters. De’Anthony Melton (14) and Desmond Bane (13) each made four 3-pointers, as the Grizzlies shot 41% (16 of 39) from beyond the arc.
Marc Gasol was joined by Morant as the only All-Star starters for the Grizzlies. Morant led the league in scoring at 26.3% per game. Memphis is still third in the Western Conference standings, behind Phoenix and Golden State.
Taylor Jenkins, Memphis head coach, stated that “We have a chance of winning a lot more ball games every night because of the great growth and individual performance we’ve shown.” With their physicality, the Knicks can be a very difficult team to play against. That was something we struggled with in the first quarter.”
After becoming the NBA’s first team that loses 40 games this season, Orlando continues to make progress.
Since their Jan. 26 nine-point loss at home to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Magic are now 3-1. This is their 40th loss. Orlando has won four of their last six games, while averaged 29.3 assists.
The Magic overcame a 17 point second-half deficit and beat Indiana 119-118 on Wednesday. This earned them a back-toback road split. It began with a loss to Chicago of 126-115, while the Bulls scored the final 11 points.
The Magic won the game against Indiana and outscored them 55-37 in the last 18:36.
Gary Harris, an Indiana native, made six 3-pointers against the Pacers. He also scored a team record 22 points. Wendell Carter Jr. had 19 points and 18 rebounds, his 21st season-high double-double. Rising Stars selection Franz Wagner scored 17 points. He made a three-point play in the final 77 seconds to give the Magic the lead.
Harris stated that “We feel like our team can compete with anyone and it’s been a lot of fun playing with these guys learning how to win.” We’ve been in many games, some close, and we’ve fallen a lot. It’s important for us to fight, to always have a chance of winning in the final three minutes.
Six of Orlando’s twelve victories were the result of a double digit comeback. On Dec. 1, the Denver Nuggets had a 16 point deficit, which was the previous season’s highest.