Morant returns but Thunder down Grizzlies to avenge 73-point loss | Inquirer Sports

Morant returns but Thunder down Grizzlies to avenge 73-point loss

/ 12:06 PM December 21, 2021

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

FILE – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in action during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 20, 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Alex Goodlett/Getty Images/AFP

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 23 points to fuel the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder to a 102-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

Rookie Josh Giddey collected a career-high-tying 19 points and a career-best 11 assists and Kenrich Williams added 13 points off the bench for the Thunder, who avenged a 152-79 shellacking in Memphis on Dec. 2. The 73-point margin in the earlier contest was the largest in NBA history.

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Memphis’ Desmond Bane celebrated his 100th career game by draining five 3-pointers and finishing with 25 points. Dillon Brooks scored 19 points, and Ja Morant had 16 points and eight assists in his return from a 12-game absence caused by spraining his left knee on Nov. 26.

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Jaren Jackson Jr. had 15 points and Steven Adams recorded 12 of his 14 rebounds in the first quarter for the Grizzlies, who have dropped two in a row following a sizzling 10-1 run.

Gilgeous-Alexander’s layup gave Oklahoma City a 94-93 lead with 1:42 to play before Morant answered with a short jumper on the next possession. Gilgeous-Alexander alertly found a cutting Giddey for a layup with 50 seconds left to regain the advantage for the Thunder.

Memphis’ Kyle Anderson misfired on a mid-range jumper before Gilgeous-Alexander made an uncontested dunk off an inbounds pass to push Oklahoma City’s lead to three points with 16.6 seconds remaining.

Gilgeous-Alexander stole the ball off another inbounds pass and made two free throws with 12.6 seconds to go. Morant responded with two free throws, and after Giddey made 1 of 2 foul shots, Bane’s tip shot trimmed the deficit to two.

Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort split two free throws before Brooks’ desperation heave from beyond half-court fell short to end the game.

Morant opened eyes with a pronounced bounce pass that caught Xavier Tillman in stride for a fastbreak dunk to give the Grizzlies a 37-21 lead early in the second quarter. The Thunder, however, slowly chipped away and forged a tie before Bane sank a 3-pointer to allow Memphis to seize a 50-47 advantage at halftime.

The Thunder hit the ground running to start the third quarter, scoring 25 of the first 37 points to take a 72-62 lead. Dort drained three 3-pointers in that surge, but the Grizzlies countered with a 10-2 run to end the quarter.

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TAGS: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies, OKC Thunder

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