The Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Atlanta on a four-game winning streak with a 24-12 road record this season. Despite the Grizzlies’ success on the road, an Atlanta team without Trae Young or John Collins won 120–105.
The Grizzlies found themselves down early, facing their biggest deficit of the quarter at 17-6 before Morant and Bane combined for 13 straight points to start the offense and cut the lead to just three.
Atlanta’s early shots allowed them to set up their defense and pack the paint to keep Morant and company from getting inside.
A first line-up from coach Taylor Jenkins closed out the first quarter and struggled to create an offense as the Hawks extended their 34-27 lead after the first quarter. Personally, I could leave without reviewing this programming.
After a flagrant foul early in the second quarter by Dillon Brooks, the Hawks pushed their lead to 11 again.
The Hawks’ lead would reach 18 before forcing a timeout on Jenkins.
The Hawks continued to shoot and their defense frustrated the Grizzlies who looked completely disjointed on offense, including on a 20-foot hook from Steven Adams on an inbound play with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.
Despite the defensive focus on Morant, he would finish the first half with 14 points and 4 assists, but his 3 turnovers were indicative of how difficult Atlanta’s defense was to deal with the young Memphis superstar.
Desmond Bane added 10 points to him in the first half as Atlanta led 67-48 at halftime.
Coming out of the break with a steep incline to climb, the Grizzlies picked up the tempo by getting closer to the rim and creating transition opportunities defensively. Morant asserted himself by scoring Memphis’ first 9 points in the third quarter.
The Grizzlies defense cut the water on Atlanta, opening the third quarter on a 15-6 run, cutting the lead to just 10 with six minutes left in the third.
The Hawks would then respond with their own 16-3 run to continue to keep the Grizzlies at arm’s length by taking a 91-72 lead in the fourth quarter.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was quiet for much of the night due to foul (shock) issues but came out aggressive in the final period, hitting a three and entering the paint for 8 runs early in the period.
The Grizzlies would make one final push to cut the Hawks’ lead to just 11, but Atlanta kept shooting and turning Ja Morant over to retire with another 8-0 run.
A pair of threes from Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton would stop the bleeding to make it 103-92 Atlanta with five minutes remaining and forcing a Hawks timeout.
Coming out of timeout, three more and a flight to Atlanta would drive the nail home in the Grizzlies’ coffin.
JJJ is addicted to fouling. Jackson committed five fouls early in the fourth quarter and the foul problem completely took him out of the game offensively. For periods he was an absolute ghost making no effort to get into the paint until his 8-pointer burst in the fourth. This was another game where Jaren had a distinct height advantage against Danilo Gallinari and he was only too happy to stay on the perimeter and settle for three even in the lineups without Steven Adams.
Maybe Ja was really hurt? Most Grizzlies fans considered Morant not playing at Indiana a good move to rest their young star on a long run to the playoffs, but Ja would head to the locker room early in Atlanta. Morant had a real problem getting off the pitch and was clearly feeling tightness in his back. It’s been the main fear of all Grizzlies fans that a long season with Ja’s style of play could lead to injuries. With a half-game lead for the No. 2 seed on the line, the Grizzlies must weigh the cost-benefit of pushing Morant back to the ground, expect him to miss Sunday’s game in Houston to secure himself. prepare for a big showdown with Brooklyn. week.
Discard the tape. The Grizzlies didn’t look ready to play from the jump tonight and were downed, rebounded and shoved throughout the game. Coach Jenkins should consider this a bad game and burn the boards on this game. The only thing to remember is that teams are going to pack the paint come playoff time to neutralize Morant and the shooters have to step in and take shots.