NBA: Ja Morant drops 49 points, Grizzlies ground Rockets
Ja Morant scored a game-high 49 points and steered the visiting Memphis Grizzlies to a 129-122 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
Morant torched the Rockets on mid-range jumpers and forays to the rim off pick-and-rolls, from behind the 3-point arc and in transition. He finished 5-for-6 on 3-point attempts, his lone miss coming late in the fourth quarter on a heave against an expiring shot clock.
Morant, who fell three points shy of his career high, added a game-high eight assists and two blocked shots, both coming in the fourth quarter as the Rockets kept things close.
“I know I’m the spark on this team,” Morant said. “Being a leader I know I have to do that. That’s my job, that’s why I came out to try and get us back in the game.
“Credit to the group, without the rest of the guys I wouldn’t have been able to have the game I had tonight.”
It was a Morant assist on a Desmond Bane 3 that provided Memphis an 80-79 lead which erased what was once a 16-point deficit. But Morant did his damage by scoring in the third, pouring in 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the period. When he returned from his final stretch of rest in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies led 111-110 with 7:41 remaining. Morant followed by scoring seven points and assisting on a John Konchar 3 that extended the lead to 123-113.
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Jalen Green led the Rockets with 33 points while Kevin Porter Jr. added 18 points and four assists. Alperen Sengun produced a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
Morant was the driving force throughout. The Grizzlies led 17-13 when he took a seat at the 4:59 mark of the first quarter and the Rockets later responded to his absence with a 17-0 run that bridged the first and second periods. Green and Porter were integral in helping Houston carve a six-point advantage entering the second and when Eric Gordon sank a pair of free throws with 9:51 remaining in the half, the Rockets extended to their largest lead of the contest at 42-26.
When Morant returned midway through the second quarter, he steered the Grizzlies back into contention. Whether penetrating the Houston defense with his probing off high screens or by feeding Jake LaRavia (12 points) and Konchar for open 3-pointers, Morant proved unstoppable.
Still, the Rockets extended their lead to eight points by the break with Green posting 20 first-half points and Sengun pairing 13 points with six rebounds prior to the intermission. But when Morant exploded in the third quarter, the Rockets could do little to keep grasp of the momentum.