The Memphis Grizzlies saw their uphill climb to begin the season grow steeper when they learned that star Ja Morant will miss three to five weeks with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain.
The injury-riddled Grizzlies push forward without the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year on Wednesday when they bid to snap a nine-game series losing streak to the host Boston Celtics.
Morant scored a career-high 44 points in Memphis’ opener and is averaging team-leading totals in points (26.3) and assists (6.3) in three games this season. He rolled his left ankle Monday while defending a shot by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot late in the first half of the Grizzlies’ 116-111 overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets in New York.
“With Ja going out, I’m going to have to step it up, Kyle (Anderson’s) gotta step it up,” Dillon Brooks said Monday, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “The next night, Tyus (Jones) has to step it up. We got guys that are ready to play and hungry to play.”
Anderson recorded a career-high 28 points, Brooks added a season-best 24 and Jonas Valanciunas posted his third straight double-double (14 points, 14 rebounds) on Monday for the Grizzlies, who are already without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow.
Jackson, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is out indefinitely while recovering from surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. Winslow is returning from a left hip injury.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins credited his team with keeping its focus against the Nets after Morant went down.
“A moment like that can really test you, but our guys just kept fighting,” Jenkins said. “They recognized the opportunity to go out there and keep competing and playing for each other. And that’s what they did, and I’m really proud of them. It’s a true testament to our resiliency and the group that we have here.”
Valanciunas collected 16 points and 13 rebounds in Memphis’ 119-95 loss at Boston on Jan. 22. He added 14 and 10, respectively, in a 122-107 setback on Aug. 11.
Jayson Tatum scored 23 and 29 points, respectively, to pace the Celtics to those victories and had 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter of a 116-111 win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Tatum, who is averaging 25.5 points in four games this season, also had 11 rebounds on Tuesday.
Jaylen Brown pumped in 20 points and added four steals to help Boston overcome a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to snap a modest two-game skid.
“I don’t know what the lead was for them, but it sure felt like it dissipated pretty quickly,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s a good team win. That’s a good basketball team. We’re not what we want to be, but sometimes you have to find a way to win.”
Promising rookie Payton Pritchard rewarded the faith of Stevens by contributing 10 points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench at Indiana.
“Having that confidence from your coach and also from my teammates, it means the world to me because it can allow me to keep growing as a player,” Pritchard said.
–Field Level Media