Postgame Report: Memphis falls to San Antonio 131-119 despite historic night from Ja Morant
Key Stat of the Night
- Ja Morant posted a career-high 44 points (18-27 FG, 1-2 3P), including 34 points in the second-half, to go with nine assists and two rebounds and one block in 35 minutes of action. Morant (21 years, 125 days) is the second-youngest Grizzlies player to score 40 points in a game in franchise history. Jaren Jackson Jr. (20 years, 89 days) scored 43 points vs. Milwaukee on Dec. 13, 2019.
- Morant’s 44-point performance ranks second in Grizzlies franchise history behind Mike Miller’s 45-point performance at Golden State on Feb. 21, 2007. Morant’s 44 points tied Pau Gasol for the most points in a Grizzlies home game (March 28, 2006 vs. Seattle).
- The only other player in NBA history to record a higher scoring total in the first game of his second season is Elgin Baylor (52 points on Oct. 18, 1959 vs Detroit). Morant is one of six players in NBA history to score 40+ points in the first game of their second season.
Key Run of the Night
- The Grizzlies led 41-39 with (9:31) to play in the second period before San Antonio ripped off a 25-9 run over the next (9:01) of play. Keldon Johnson connected on a layup with 28.7 seconds to play in the second quarter to give San Antonio a 64-50 advantage.
- San Antonio out-scored the Grizzlies 36-20 in the second period while out-shooting the Grizzlies 57.1 percent (16-28 FG) to 33.3 percent (8-24 FG) in the quarter.
The Memphis Grizzlies fell the San Antonio Spurs 131-119 on Wednesday night inside FedExForum, in their regular season opener, despite a career-high 44 points from Ja Morant.
Memphis used a strong start on the offensive end to help take command of the game early on. Kyle Anderson connected on a 3-pointer with (7:13) to play in the first to give the Grizzlies a 22-12 advantage. Memphis shot 50.0 percent from the field in the opening period while taking a 33-30 lead into the second quarter. However, San Antonio would flip the game in the second, highlighted by a 25-9 run late in the period. The Grizzlies led 41-39 with (9:31) to play before San Antonio ripped off 25 of the next 34 points. To cap off the run, Keldon Johnson connected on a layup with 28.7 seconds to play in the quarter to give San Antonio a 64-50 advantage, before ultimately taking a 66-53 into the halftime break. San Antonio out-scored the Grizzlies 36-20 in the second period, led by Dejounte Murray with 11 of his 21 points, while out-shooting the Grizzlies 57.1 percent (16-28 FG) to 33.3 percent (8-24 FG) in the quarter.
The two teams traded baskets for most of the third period before the Grizzlies cut the lead to eight points following a basket from Brandon Clarke with 4:34 to play in the quarter. San Antonio stretched their lead back to 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, where they would ultimately pull ahead by as many as 18 points. Morant attempted to carry his team back from the 18-point deficit by scoring a franchise record-tying 34 points in the second-half, but it would not be enough as San Antonio cruised to the 12-point victory. Morant’s career-high came on 18-of-27 shooting and included 18 points in the fourth quarter alone. Memphis was unable to overcome foul troubles that allowed San Antonio to get to the free-throw line 29 times, compared to 18 for the Grizzlies. The charity-stripe proved to be the difference maker as the Grizzlies out-shot San Antonio 51.6 percent to 50.5 percent from the field.
Morant (21 years, 125 days) became the second-youngest Grizzlies player to score 40 points in a game in franchise history. Jaren Jackson Jr. (20 years, 89 days) scored 43 points vs. Milwaukee on Dec. 13, 2019. Morant’s 44-point performance ranks second in Grizzlies franchise history behind Mike Miller’s 45-point performance at Golden State on Feb. 21, 2007. Morant also tied Pau Gasol for the most points in a Grizzlies home game, when Gasol scored 44 points on March 28, 2006, vs. Seattle. Jonas Valanciunas posted a double-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and two assists on 6-of-11 shooting. Valanciunas led the Grizzlies team last season with 39 double-doubles. Dillon Brooks totaled 16 points (7-14 FG, 1-3 3P) to go with four rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes. Desmond Bane made his Memphis Grizzlies debut, totaling six points and four rebounds in ten minutes off the bench as Memphis dropped to 0-1.
DeMar DeRozan totaled 28 points (7-14 FG, 14-15 FT) to go with nine rebounds and nine assists to lead San Antonio. Murray added 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds on 9-of-15 shooting. LaMarcus Aldridge added 20 points (9-17 FG, 1-4 3P), three rebounds and one assist in 29 minutes of action. Keldon Johnson pitched in 16 points, five rebounds and three assists. Patty Mills led San Antonio’s bench with 13 points, two rebounds and two assists as the spurs moved to 1-0 to start the season.
The Grizzlies will host Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, Dec. 26, at 4 p.m. inside FedExForum. Fans can watch the game on FOX Sports Southeast with Pete Pranica and Brevin Knight or hear Eric Hasseltine on 92.9 FM ESPN.
On Ja Morant’s performance:I thought Ja was special tonight. His stat line, obviously, amazing. I thought his aggressive mentality was great. The Spurs were throwing a lot of physicality on our entire roster, but I thought he did a great job of handling it and finding a way to get into the paint, create for others with nine assists and one turnover, got to the foul line a number of times. He led a big charge and we need to lean on him to keep this game somewhat competitive. Just didn’t get the results tonight. He had a heck of a game.
On the challenge the defense faced:It was a combination of things. We got off to a good start. We were getting stops. It was a high-scoring first quarter, but we were able to get out in transition. They really picked up their pressure in the second quarter, which I think really impacted both sides of the ball. We were unable to get in our stuff as we normally do. We weren’t able to get downhill as we normally do. They took advantage of it. They forced some turnovers, forced some errant shots and wasted possessions. It gave them some momentum. I thought they were an attack-force all night. A lot of their guys played really well tonight, made a lot of shots, made some tough shots. Their aggressive mentality got them a lot of points in the paint and got them to the free throw line a lot, which is really disappointing on our part when we’ve really been stressing that all preseason. Credit to the Spurs. I thought they picked up their physicality there in that second quarter, which really dictated that quarter. Just all night, I thought offensively they really had us on our heels. We didn’t do a good job of keeping them out of the paint, keeping them one-on-one, and we paid the price for it.
On defending the 3-point shot:I think when you look at 25 3-point attempts, that’s actually not that bad. They got hot. I think a couple of guys got open looks that we could’ve done a better job with, whether it was guarding the ball in rotations, couple of missed assignments. We’ll go back and look at it, but we’ve talked all preseason long that if we’re going to have to live with something it’s going to be some threes from the high (quadrant). We’ll go back and chart what we did from the 3-point defense. What we can’t live with is giving up 60 points in the paint, that’s more of the issue than the 3-point line right now. If we can take care of the paint and not give up 130 points, give up 25 3-point attempts and only 10 makes, that’s actually not bad.
On Brandon Clarke and the bench:Our bench means a lot to us. I think Brandon [Clarke] shook it off there after the first half and played a lot better in the second half. I think collectively, we just didn’t have it with our bench tonight. I think in the second quarter their bench shooters really got after ours and it kind of threw us off. It’s going to be great to go back and watch the film to give these guys the, ‘Hey, I’m going to go out there and be successful, which they are, pretty much night in and night out.’ Tough one tonight, didn’t get it from the bench, but I know they’ll be better the next game.
On the biggest takeaway from the game:There’s a lot of things. I think offensively, how teams are going to continue to guard us, which is to try to take away the paint. I think for the majority of the game, they did a great job. I kept looking up at the board to see how many paint points we had, an idea of how many paint touches we had. Then, we finally got there and exploded in the second half late in the game. What are teams doing to us offensively that are going to make us struggle? How are they shifting and taking away the paint? How are they pressuring the ball? Tonight, we hadn’t seen that, so the way they were really getting in on the ball really dictated how our offense operated. Defensively, just continuing to identify how we can be better one-on-one. I think it starts there. Our transition defense always has to be a key. We gave up 20 points on the fast break, that can’t happen, and then the free throw line. Couple of things, but great areas of improvement. Hopefully, if we can turn that around game-to-game and just keep folks on it, finding incremental ways to get better, it’s really going to make us a much better basketball team.
On the game:I’m not happy at all. Obviously, I wanted to win that game. We came up short. Learning from this game. Preparing for the next. For my play, I did alright.
On playing against the Spurs:Some teams have a different game plan. My job is, when I’m out there, read the defense, and me and (Coach Jenkins) talk and try to find the best plays that work against that defense. Tonight they did what you said, and we came up short.
On his aggressiveness tonight:That's just my mindset for the season. I got tired of my teammates and coaches saying I have to be aggressive at all times last year, so that's my mindset now. Just be aggressive at all times and try to get something good out of each possession.
On having confidence in himself and his teammates:I just feel like the team we have is very unselfish. Throughout the game guys just told me to continue attacking, continue to do what I'm doing. I just feel like they have a lot of trust in me with the basketball, and that's all around just given me a lot of confidence when I'm out there to have my teammates’ trust, and I'm pretty sure everybody knows that I have that same trust in them when they have the basketball I'm just going to continue to play how I play and try to make the best play possible.”
On the self-alley-oop:I think we got a steal. B.C. [Brandon Clarke] was pushing the left wing. I was running down the middle of the floor. He kicked it to me, and we were pushing the break together. He was like, ‘I'm running with you.’ I saw DeMar [DeRozan] trying to play both. My mind actually was to throw B.C. an alley, because I know he was running with me as he said, and DeMar played the alley from B.C. and off the glass to myself was the only choice I had, so that’s what I did.
On the Grizzlies’ performance tonight:The Spurs’ starting lineup has three guys that scored 20 points, and the other guys had 16 points (each). That’s unacceptable. We have to guard the ball better, and take on the challenge. I feel like they took the challenge to us with their physicality. They were blowing up screens. We have to do that more. That’s what we were taught, and we laid down a little bit, but that’s a good start.
On Ja Morant’s performance:Amazing. He is getting to his spots, finishing and finding guys. Obviously we are going to rely on him, but we got to find other guys to step up. I got to knock down some shots and guard the ball a lot better because I’m going to be guarding the best players on each team.
- Ja Morant scored 34 of his 44 points tonight in the second half, tying Jaren Jackson Jr.'s franchise record for points in a single half. Jackson Jr. scored 34 points after in the second half vs. Milwaukee on Dec. 13, 2019.
- Jonas Valanciunas posted a double-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and two assists on 6-of-11 shooting. Valanciunas led the Grizzlies team last season with 39 double-doubles.
- Dillon Brooks totaled 16 points (7-14 FG, 1-3 3P) to go with four rebounds and six assists in 33 minutes.
- Desmond Bane made his Memphis Grizzlies debut, totaling six points and four rebounds in ten minutes off the bench.
- DeMar DeRozan totaled 28 points (7-14 FG, 14-15 FT) to go with nine rebounds and nine assists to lead San Antonio.
Fans who want to support the Memphis Grizzlies and purchase 2020-21 Season Tickets can do so by calling (901) 888-HOOP or going online to grizzlies.com. Single Game Tickets are available for purchase at the FedExForum Box Office, ticketmaster.com, online at grizzlies.com or by calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX.