Minus Ja Morant, Grizzlies take on improving Lakers

The absence of star Ja Morant is just one impediment for the Memphis Grizzlies as it visits the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

Published : Mar 07, 2023 17:23 IST

Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. | Photo Credit: AFP

Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. | Photo Credit: AFP

The absence of star Ja Morant is just one impediment for the Memphis Grizzlies as it visits the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

Morant will miss a second consecutive game as the team holds him out of action while the NBA conducts an investigation into his behavior. Morant appeared to be holding a gun in a social-media video he posted live early Saturday morning in the Denver area after Grizzlies’ loss to the Nuggets on Friday night.

Without Morant, Dillon Brooks (one-game suspension), Brandon Clarke (season-ending Achilles injury) and Steven Adams (knee), the Grizzlies put together a massive third-quarter rally to move in front of the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, only to run out of gas in the fourth quarter of a 135-129 road defeat. Clarke and Adams will miss the Lakers game, too.

Memphis used a 51-point third quarter on Sunday to turn an 11-point deficit into a lead that topped out at 16 points, but they lacked a finishing touch when the Clippers made fourth-quarter defensive adjustments.

The Grizzlies’ Tyus Jones had 20 points in the third quarter alone but did not score in the final period. Desmond Bane had 30 points to lead Memphis.

“They picked up their physicality, (which is) something we have to learn from,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of the Clippers’ defense. “Obviously, I thought we had great looks in the fourth quarter. We missed an open (3-pointer), a couple of layups there, and some chippies that could have turned the tide a little bit, but our guys played phenomenally. I’m so proud of them.”

The Lakers have reason for optimism, too, entering the Tuesday contest.

Los Angeles is 4-2 since the All-Star break and has won five of its past seven games overall amid an effort to become postseason eligible. At the start of NBA play on Monday, the Lakers were in 11th place in the conference, barely outside of the last spot to make the play-in tournament.

The team has been able to hold its own as of late despite missing star LeBron James for the past four games with a tendon injury in his right foot. In addition, D’Angelo Russell has missed the past five games with an ankle injury. James remains sidelined, but Russell was listed as questionable for Tuesday.

Anthony Davis stepped up his game in an effort to leave his mark on the team’s playoff chase. Davis, who missed 20 games in December and January with his own lower leg injury, has averaged 33.8 points and 11.8 rebounds over his past four games.

In a 113-105 home victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, Davis had 39 points while going 14 of 25 (56 percent) from the field. He is listed as probable for Tuesday despite a right foot injury.

“He’s fighting through a lot,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of Davis. “Getting hits to the face, to the arms, scratches, everything. He’s battling through it all. ... He’s in a great, great place right now.”

The Lakers dropped a 121-109 decision at Memphis on Feb. 28, though Davis did his part with 28 points and 19 rebounds. Morant had a triple-double in that contest with 39 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

“We’re in a great rhythm right now,” Davis said, according to the Orange County Register. “No team has ever played a perfect game of basketball, but we want to come out here and do the best job we can and stick to our schemes on both ends of the floor and give ourselves a chance to win.”

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