2023 Playoffs: West First Round | Grizzlies (2) vs. Lakers (7)

Ja Morant (hand) shows progress, but misses Game 2 win against Lakers

The All-Star point guard left Sunday's Game 1 loss in the 4th quarter after injuring his right hand.

Ja Morant celebrates on the sideline as the Grizzlies take control in Game 2 of their first-round series vs. the Lakers.

The Memphis Grizzlies overcame Ja Morant’s absence to defeat the Lakers 103-93 in Game 2. Xavier Tillman scored a career-high 22 points and had 13 rebounds to help tie the series 1-1. Ja Morant was officially ruled out an hour before Game 2, per the Grizzlies’ Twitter account.

“Obviously, this is a big win for us,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “You know, great performance from him (Tillman), other guys as well.”

The No. 2-seeded Grizzlies sat Morant after he tested the right hand originally hurt April 7 in a win at Milwaukee and aggravated driving to the basket in the opening loss to the Lakers. He had more exams on the hand before being declared inactive and watched from the bench with his hand bandaged.

Jenkins called the move a “collective decision” as the Grizzlies hope Morant continues the improvement he’s shown the past couple days and will be back sooner than later. Jenkins wouldn’t guarantee when that will be. Game 3 is Saturday in Los Angeles (10 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“Hopefully over the next couple of days, there’s more significant improvement,” Jenkins said. “All the testing he’s doing, grip, dribbling, all that stuff. Just feeling confidence in that right hand, that’s kind of the final test.”

Jaren Jackson Jr., the Kia Defensive Player of the Year, scored 18 points for Memphis. Desmond Bane had 17, while Jones had 10 points and eight assists after having an hour’s notice he would start for Morant.

But LeBron James noted that Jones has led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio for five straight seasons, the longest such streak in NBA history. Memphis gave him starter money last summer to stick around for his seventh season.

“They’re just as dangerous a team when Tyus is starting,” James said. “They don’t miss a beat, and we knew that. No matter if Ja’s in the game. If Ja’s starting, dangerous. If Tyus is starting, dangerous. It didn’t change our approach.”

Injuries now have kept Morant out of four of the Grizzlies’ last five playoff games, dating back to last year’s Western Conference semifinals.

Ja Morant heads to the locker room after a hard fall in the 4th quarter.

Morant’s injury took place late in the fourth quarter of the Grizzlies’ 128-112 Game 1 loss to the Lakers on Sunday.

He drove to the basket against the 6-foot-10 Davis with 5:48 left, with Memphis trailing the Lakers 105-101. His right hand appeared to bend the wrong direction as he hit the court. Morant writhed in pain, then ran toward the Grizzlies’ bench letting out a yell near midcourt before sprinting to the locker room.

At the end of Tuesday’s practice, Morant smiled as reporters watched and Jenkins said the guard tested his hand earlier Tuesday dribbling and shooting but wasn’t his normal self yet.

Morant had 18 points before leaving in the fourth quarter of Game 1. The Grizzlies’ superstar played Game 1 with his right hand already wrapped from what coach Taylor Jenkins described as a contusion in his pregame availability.

“I feel like I can go out there and be somewhat myself, I’ll be playing,” Morant said Sunday. “If not, I don’t want to do anything to hurt the team.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.