Grizzlies look to adjust without Ja Morant vs Kings
The Memphis Grizzlies are breathing a sigh of relief after watching star guard Ja Morant hobble to the locker room Friday with a knee injury.
Preliminary imaging showed a sprained left knee, which will likely keep Morant out of action for weeks but is not a season-ending injury.
The Grizzlies will look to regroup without Morant starting Sunday against the visiting Sacramento Kings, who improved to 2-1 under interim coach Alvin Gentry with Friday’s 141-137 triple-overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Memphis struggled after Morant exited in the first quarter of Friday’s 132-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
“I think seeing the way that he went off the floor kind of sent shockwaves through the team,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “The Hawks played really, really well. We had a lot of looks that didn’t fall. Definitely the mojo was kind of lost.”
Morant is averaging 24.1 points to lead the Grizzlies, who have won their last three meetings against the Kings.
Sacramento is coming off its most impressive win of the season Friday, when seven players scored in double figures.
De’Aaron Fox scored 34 points in the win over the Lakers and Buddy Hield added 25, and the Kings received strong efforts from reserves Marvin Bagley III, Terence Davis and Tristan Thompson.
“There are guys this season that haven’t played many minutes, but they are starting to give us a boost when called upon,” Gentry said. “For us it takes a village, and that’s what we are trying to do. We continued to compete, plow our way back a little at a time and eventually took the lead.”
Hield has now scored at least 21 in three consecutive games for the Kings, who have won two straight after losing eight of nine.
“It’s been good to get the two wins but we are still climbing,” Fox said. “We wanted to keep running and keep the pace up. We didn’t have fresh legs out there, but they were young legs.”
Sacramento outlasted the Lakers without starters Harrison Barnes (foot) and Richaun Holmes (eye), but both are listed as day-to-day and could return to face the Grizzlies.
Alex Len started his second game at center in place of Holmes and Friday had 12 points in 17 minutes. Second-year guard Tyrese Haliburton made five 3-pointers and scored 19 points and has eight steals in the last two games.
Memphis has lost three of its last four games and will be looking to fill the scoring void left by Morant’s absence.
Tyus Jones started the second half of Friday’s game at point guard and recorded 10 points over 20 minutes while Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 14 points and Dillon Brooks added 12.
The Grizzlies will also need more production from forward Kyle Anderson, who is averaging eight points off the bench but was held scoreless on Friday after missing all eight of his shots, including five from beyond the arc.
Guard Desmond Bane has scored at least 20 points in three of his last four games for Memphis, which owns a 9-10 record. Nine of the Grizzlies’ 10 defeats have come by double digits, including a 43-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 20.
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