| Memphis Commercial Appeal
TNT knows drama and the Grizzlies and Ja Morant played their roles to perfection on Monday .
The Grizzlies wore their best clothes with their Soul City Edition jerseys. Then Morant delivered the finishing show on Martin Luther King Day.
He found Grayson Allen for a go-ahead 3-pointer then made a layup on the next possession. It carried the Grizzlies to a 108-104 win at FedExForum over the Phoenix Suns.
Not only did the Grizzlies (7-6) top one of the Western Conference’s best teams, they pushed their winning streak to five games, their longest since a seven-game streak last season.
Morant, who had 17 points and 10 assists, added a finishing kick in a back-and-forth affair. With the game tied at 98, he split a double-team and rose to shoot but instead threw a perfect pass to Allen in the corner.
Allen’s shot gave the Grizzlies the lead with 1:06 left. After DeAndre Ayton dunked on the Suns’ ensuing possession, Morant drove by Ayton before finishing at the rim with 30.8 seconds left.
“That left handed lay that he had, I don’t even know how he got it off,” Xavier Tillman Sr. said of Morant.. “He was unbelievable.”
For good measure, he drew a charge on Chris Paul on the next possession. Despite just one field goal attempt in the quarter, he did more than enough to help the Grizzlies finish off the win.
“Ja has a crazy good feel for the game,” Brandon Clarke said. “I feel like those first three quarters, he’s just watching the defense, watching us, seeing what the defense gives him. And by the fourth quarter, he’s already figured out everything with that.”
The Grizzlies, now at .500 for the first time this season, also relied on the strengths they found in his absence such as defense and balance. They held All-Star Devin Booker to just 12 points on 5-21 shooting and had 13 steals.
Tillman, a spark off the bench during the winning streak, had 12 points and six rebounds in his first NBA start with Jonas Valanciunas out due to health and safety protocols.
Brandon Clarke had 17 points to match Morant’s team high.. Despite De’Anthony Melton not playing, the Grizzlies’ bench outscored Phoenix 49-31 led by Allen’s 16 points.
With Morant gaining more confidence in his second game back from an ankle injury, it was just a matter of time before he reminded why he was one of the NBA’s fourth quarter finishers in his rookie year.
As a national audience watched, the Grizzlies showed why they were resilient without their star and must-see TV with him on the court.
“He’s a really bright player and he’s able to read the game. By the fourth quarter, it’s pretty much over,” Clarke said of Morant.
The Grizzlies travel to Portland for a pair of games against the Trail Blazers, starting Wednesday (9 p.m., Fox Sports Southeast)
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