Morant scores 37 points, Grizzlies turn back Knicks 118-114
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Ja Morant keyed a fourth-quarter rally by scoring 15 of his 37 points in the period to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 118-114 victory over the New York Knicks on Friday night.
Ziaire Williams and Jaren Jackson Jr. each finished with 13 points, with Jackson adding five blocks as part of a season-high 16 for Memphis, which won its second straight. Three of Jackson’s blocks came in the fourth when the Grizzlies outscored the Knicks 31-18.
“Jaren is what everybody needs to be excited about,” Morant said. “His defensive presence was big for us. We’re a totally different team with him out there on the floor. He sparked us.”
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 36 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while RJ Barrett finished with 23 points. Alec Burks added 18 points for New York, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.
In a game that featured 22 lead changes and eight ties, the teams were still swapping advantages midway through the fourth. Trailing 106-105 with 3:54 left, Morant scored 10 straight points for Memphis to put the Grizzlies up 115-108 with about a minute to play. The Grizzlies held on despite foul shooting issues at the end.
“A guy like that, you’ve got to make him work,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Morant. “He took 33 shots, so he’s going to get something.”
But the Knicks coach also pointed to New York’s 16 turnovers in addition to the blocked shots.
“A lot of those (blocks) were on breaks when (the Grizzlies) really hustled to get back and made plays on the ball,” Thibodeau said.
The Grizzlies, who defeated New York 120-108 at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 2, are trying to keep pace with Golden State for the second spot in the West. The win put Memphis up a half-game on the Warriors, who were idle Friday night.
New York, which had shooting troubles in the first half, immediately turned that around at the break by hitting nine of its first 12 shots in the second half. That contributed to a 14-1 run, erasing Memphis’ advantage. The Knicks would eventually outscore the Grizzlies 40-26 in the period, carrying an 96-87 lead into the final frame.
But Thibodeau noted his team’s inability to prevent Memphis from chipping into New York’s 15-points lead in the third was where the game turned.
“We didn’t close out the third (quarter),” the Knicks coach said. “That was a big problem because it gave them life.”
That provided the momentum Memphis and Morant used to get ahead and overtake the Knicks down the stretch. In addition to holding New York to 18 points in the fourth, the Knicks only shot 27%, including missing four of their five 3-point attempts.
“Giving up a 40-point quarter in that third, and then locking down in the fourth, I thought (Jackson) was a huge part of that,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.
The injury to Knicks forward Cam Reddish will result in him missing the rest of the season. Reddish hurt his right shoulder against Sacramento on Monday. “We knew it was serious, but we’re pleased that he won’t have to get surgery,” Thibodeau said before the game. “That’s a good sign. It’s an unfortunate part of the game. We just focus on the rehab now.”
Knicks: New York played without a number of players, including Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose and Reddish. Obi Toppin, who was listed as questionable earlier Friday, sat out his fifth straight game with a left hamstring strain. ... Barrett and Randle were a combined 10 of 27 in the first half. ... C Mitchell Robinson finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds — eight of them offensive boards.
Grizzlies: The win gave Memphis a sweep of the Knicks for first time since 2015-16 season. ... G/F Dillon Brooks, who has missed the past 26 games with a left ankle sprain, appears close to returning. He has gone through some 5-on-5 sessions and should return “sometime in this upcoming road trip,” Jenkins said Friday. ... Memphis, which leads the league in points in the paint at 57.6 a game, had 72 against the Knicks. ... Recorded 10 steals, right at their league-leading average.
Knicks: Play at Brooklyn on Sunday.
Grizzlies: Open a four-game road trip in Oklahoma City on Sunday.
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