Grizzlies' Ja Morant sets new franchise record against the Bulls
The Memphis Grizzlies' Ja Morant put in a sensational peformance on Saturday night against the Chicago Bulls on his way to a new franchise record.
In the house of Michael Jordan, one of the NBA's most exciting players in recent years, put on a show that the legend himself would have been proud of. Unfortunately for the Bulls, he's not one of their players.
Grizzlies' Ja Morant turned it up
On Saturday night Ja Morant was nothing short of sensational. The Memphis Grizzilies' All-Star guard dribbled, spun and more or less flew his way to an unforgettable performance against one of the league's best teams at the moment. When the dust had settled, Morant had posted a franchise record 46 points on the way to helping his team to a 116-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls. In an arena that has seen it's share of historic performances, there was ironically a video of Michael Jordan highlights played on the video board before the game. Was it a motivating factor? "I did watch it," Morant said. "And then, I did start scoring a lot. It probably played a part in it."
Ja Morant by the numbers
With his performance, Morant broke Mike Miller's previous record of 45 points, which was set back in 2007. If you're wondering, No this isn't the first time Morant has made history. Previously Morant also set a new franchise mark for overall points in the playoffs last season, when he scored 47 in a Game 2 loss to the Utah Jazz. On Saturday Morant and the Grizzlies were actually close to collapsing when they let a 17-point lead drop down to just one point before finally managing to right themselves as they held on for the win after losing their last two consecutive games. With the win they brought an end to Chicago's six game winning streak.
Morant himself posted 16 points in the first half, followed by 20 in the third quarter. on the night he made 15 of 28 shots, including three 3-pointers, and went 13-for-15 from the free throw line. Speaking about his teammate's incredible prowess and highlight plays, fellow Grizzly and center, Steven Adams joked. "I've seen too many of them. Kinda boring now, He's such an amazing player." Adams for his part didn't have a bad night either. The big man put up 12 points on the night but had an incredible 21 rebounds - a season high - on a night when the Grizzlies truly frustrated the Bulls.
DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls and MJ's legacy
Though they did lose, bringing to an end an impressive winning streak, Chicago's main man DeMar DeRozan was still as sharp as ever. On the night the five-time All-Star scored 31 points, making it 10 straight 30 point games for him. For perspective, that's the longest such streak by any Bulls player since Jordan did it in 10 straight from December 25th, 1990, to January 14th, 1991. It should be mentioned, however, that DeRozan was just 10-of-29 from the field, ending his NBA-record run of eight games of scoring at least 35 while shooting 50% or better. Indeed it was a night on which the Bulls' star was frustrated by the opposition and in the end actually got himself ejected in the final seconds of the game.
"As remarkable as he has been, he did not have a great shooting night," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said post game. "I thought early in the game, he got fouled really, really quite a bit, and he should have been to the foul line. I have not watched the film. That's just going from my eyes watching the game on some downhill plays. Who knows what the game's like for him if he gets four quick free throws or some of those plays are called differently."
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How did the Grizzlies vs Bulls game play out?
While focus was understandably on the matchup between Morant and DeRozan, the game actually proved to be a showcase of intensity. Rising star Zach LaVine scored 28 points for the Bulls in just his second game back in the team, having missed Chicago's last three games - before the All-Star weekend - due to his left knee which has been a problem for him of late. Meanwhile Memphis, who led by as much as 17 in the third, entered the fourth with Morant actually off of the court. In the last quarter the Bulls would go on a 14-0 run to close the gap bringing the score to 101-99 after DeRozan sunk two free throws. At that point there was just 4:38 left in the game.
Things were definitely tense at that stage in the game and even more so when Chicago's Coby White made it 106-105 after nailing 3 with 2:30 on the clock. There was then a flurry of plays. Morant with two free throws, a DeRozan a layup and even the Grizzlies Desmond Bane got in on the act with a 3 to take them to 111-107. The Bulls' Nikola Vucevic then sunk a foul shot, Bane and Morant both missed jumpers and then LaVine hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 111-110 with 25.5 seconds remaining. As the time ticked away, Tyus Jones hit a pair of free throws for Memphis to make it a three-point game with 14.9 seconds left. Clutch time.
While some will debate what happened next, the reality is, it happened. Rather than go for a three point opportunity, the Bulls chose to attack the rim. Unfortunately DeRozan missed in the lane and proceeded to argue for an uncalled foul, which saw him receive his second technical foul at which point he was ejected from the game. In the chaotic scramble that ensued Morant was fouled by LaVine and as such went to the line. With ice in his veins he sunk the two more free throws with the clock showing 5.3 seconds. Game over.