Mon, 29 May 2023

Grizzlies welcome back Ja Morant by edging Rockets

Field Level Media
23 Mar 2023, 12:55 GMT+10

Jaren Jackson Jr. scored a season-high 37 points while Ja Morant added 17 off the bench in his return from an eight-game suspension as the Memphis Grizzlies secured the Southwest Division title with a 130-125 victory over the visiting Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Jackson gave the Grizzlies a 120-116 lead by making three free throws and Memphis won a critical replay reversal when a foul against Morant was overturned and given to Rockets center Alperen Sengun, who fouled out with 1:26 left after pairing 25 points with eight rebounds. Desmond Bane (20 points, seven assists) scored on the ensuing Memphis possession.

Jackson made 14 of 20 shots from the field in the win. Morant played as a reserve for the first time in his career as Memphis (45-27) extended its winning streak to four games. Jackson added 10 rebounds and two blocks to his ledger.

Jalen Green scored 32 points while Kenyon Martin Jr. added a career-high 31 for the Rockets. Kevin Porter Jr. (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) posted his second career triple-double for Houston (18-55), which received 16 points and four 3-pointers from rookie Jabari Smith Jr.

The Rockets trailed by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter, but when Smith and Green stroked consecutive threes, Houston pulled even at 85-85 and eventually surged ahead when Green completed a three-point play at the 6:05 mark that gave Houston an 88-87 lead.

Memphis responded with a 7-0 spurt to reclaim control and led 101-96 entering the fourth, but the Rockets refused to wilt. When Martin followed his three-point play with a 3-pointer, Houston led 112-111 and set the stage for a hotly-contested finish.

Morant entered at the 3:05 mark of the first quarter and made an immediate impact, assisting on a pair of Jackson baskets before completing a three-point play to give Memphis a 37-32 lead. While David Roddy and Jackson combined for 21 points in the first, Morant provided a spark that extended into the second period when he opened that frame with another three-point play, this one pushing the advantage to 40-34.

Memphis made 7 of 14 shots from behind the arc in the second period, with Luke Kennard drilling three 3-pointers off the bench, including a buzzer-beater that gave Memphis a 75-64 halftime lead.

--Field Level Media

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