Huge Grizzlies comeback is capped by Ja Morant’s game-winning shot in return

Following a 25-game suspension, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant needed just 24 minutes to get back to All-Star form.

Morant ran into the backcourt to get a running start before driving to the rim for the game-winning bucket and a 115-113 Memphis Grizzlies win over the New Orleans Pelicans. He finished with 34 points, eight assists and six rebounds in his first game of the 2023-24 NBA season, immediately changing the fortune of a Grizzlies team that struggled to a 6-19 start before Tuesday.

Memphis trailed by as many as 24 points and was down by 19 at halftime. Morant started slow, making just two shots in the first two quarters. But in the second half, he and his teammates caught fire, thanks to Morant’s relentless attack on offense.

A 36-point quarter got the Grizzlies within ten points, and they kept coming. A Morant bucket with 1:22 remaining gave the Grizzlies their first lead since the 7:06 mark of the second quarter.

He followed with a sprinting layup on the next possession to put Memphis ahead. After Herb Jones tied it with his high-speed layup, Morant and C.J. McCollum traded missed shots before Morant ended it.

27 of Morant’s points came in the second half, with 14 in the final quarter. It wasn’t just his scoring that put pressure on the Pelicans’ defense, but his passing too.

He also created opportunities at the free-throw line, which was a welcome sight for the Grizzlies, who are second-to-last in the league in points off free throws. Morant went 10-of-12 from the line, and thanks to the chaos his drives created, Jaren Jackson Jr. took 15 free throws, making 11, and got several dunks.

It was a huge return for Morant, suspended twice by NBA commissioner Adam Silver for brandishing a handgun on Instagram live streams. He’s stayed out of trouble since the last incident in June and reportedly complied with all of the league’s requirements. He’s also clearly stayed in shape, looking like the most energetic player on the floor down the stretch despite playing nearly 35 minutes.

The game also served as a referendum on the 2019 NBA Draft, where Memphis picked Morant at No. 2 after the Pelicans selected Zion Williamson. Williamson had 13 points and was 5-of-12 for shooting, getting only half as many rebounds (three) as Morant (six).

Memphis still has a long way to go to make up for their poor start. But with their 24-point comeback and Morant’s return, it’s easier to believe they can climb the standings in the Western Conference.

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