Ja Morant is back in the starting lineup for the Memphis Grizzlies, who carry a six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s matchup against the visiting Orlando Magic.
Morant made his first start since serving an eight-game suspension in Sunday’s 123-119 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The two-time All-Star played 29 minutes and scored 27 points as he continues to ramp up his conditioning.
“I’m getting there,” Morant said. “I’m getting a lot more comfortable. Getting my legs under me a little bit. My staff is preparing me the right way, having me ready for games each and every night. I believe in them 100 percent in how they’re managing me and ramping me back up.”
Desmond Bane added 25 points in the win over Atlanta, while Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman each had 15 points and eight rebounds. Memphis (47-27) is second in the Western Conference with eight games remaining.
The Grizzlies have received a welcome boost from guard Luke Kennard, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 9. Kennard matched his career high with 30 points in last Friday’s win over the Houston Rockets and is quickly growing more comfortable with the team’s offense.
“I was passing up some shots once I first got here, and the coaches were on me,” Kennard said. “As soon as I came out of the game, they were letting me know. I was watching film with one of our guys during practices like, ‘Why didn’t I shoot this?’ Now it’s in my head as soon as I step on the floor. Any kind of space that I have, I’m going to let it go.”
The Grizzlies are returning to FedEx Forum, where they have won 11 straight games and boast the NBA’s best home record at 32-5. They’re facing an Orlando (32-43) team that has won three straight.
Orlando is looking to avenge a 123-115 loss to Memphis on Jan. 5, when Morant and Jackson combined for 63 points.
The Magic beat the Brooklyn Nets 119-106 on Sunday. Orlando outscored Brooklyn 58-38 in the paint, and Cole Anthony had 21 points to lead eight Magic players in double figures.
“Tonight we did it by committee. That’s the message that we continue to sell,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Eight guys in double figures, 30 assists. Our ability to do it together is the most important thing for this group.”
The Magic also welcomed back guard Jalen Suggs (16 points), who had missed the previous four games with a concussion. Suggs, who has missed 29 games this season due to injury, played 24 minutes against Brooklyn and finished 6-of-9 shooting from the floor.
“I was so eager to get back on the court,” Suggs said. “I think I’ve missed my fair share of time now.”
Anthony has recorded at least 14 points and five rebounds in eight straight games for the Magic, who are 13-24 on the road compared to 19-19 at the Amway Center.
Anthony has played a key role in Orlando’s rejuvenated offense this month. The Magic are averaging 117.2 points over the last 13 games while scoring at least 110 points in 12 of those games.
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