Ja Morant marked his return to the home court with a standout performance, contributing 20 points and eight assists, as the Memphis Grizzlies secured a 116-103 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night. This game marked Morant's first appearance at home following a 25-game suspension, a period during which his presence on the court was sorely missed.
His return not only invigorated the team but also played a pivotal role in their triumph. Morant, reflecting on his return, emphasized the significance of his teammates, particularly Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr.
“Having those two guys (Bane and Jackson) alongside of me who can pretty much go and score the ball at will at different levels is big time for us,” Morant said.Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins echoed these sentiments, pointing out the team's strong record when Bane and Jackson score over 20 points.
“I feel like it makes us tougher to guard”.
A Game of Shifts and Momentum
The game was a rollercoaster of emotions and momentum shifts.
Memphis, coming off the high of Morant’s 34-point game on Tuesday night in New Orleans, started strong. By the second quarter, the Grizzlies were shooting at an impressive 60% overall and 50% from the 3-point range, establishing a significant lead.
However, the Pacers, led by Obi Toppin with 22 points and Tyrese Haliburton with 17 points and 14 assists, mounted a formidable 27-6 run, slicing Memphis's advantage to a mere two points by halftime. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged the challenging nature of the game, praising his team for their continued effort and poise under pressure.
Memphis responded to Indiana’s surge with a decisive run of their own, regaining and then stretching their lead in the fourth quarter. This victory was particularly significant for Memphis, marking only their second home win of the season after boasting the best home record in the NBA last season.
The game underscored the importance of Morant's presence in the Grizzlies lineup. His dynamic playmaking, combined with the team's collaborative effort, resulted in 27 assists, including 15 between Morant and Bane. Coach Jenkins summed up the victory as a representation of "Grizzlies basketball" – a style characterized by fluid ball movement and collective effort.