Jackson, Morant lead Grizzlies past Knicks, 120-108
NEW YORK (AP) — Ja Morant had some of his usual high-flying highlight plays, trying to put on a show for a packed crowd at Madison Square Garden and a national TV audience.
He gave it poor reviews.
“I felt like I played terrible,” Morant said. “If you asked me that was probably one of the worst games I played in my career.”
No matter. These Memphis Grizzlies go well beyond their first-time All-Star.
Jaren Jackson Jr. had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Morant added 23 points and nine assists and the Grizzlies beat the New York Knicks 120-108 on Wednesday night.
Morant shot just 9 for 27 from the field and missed all six 3-point attempts.
But rookie Ziaire Williams scored a season-high 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting, while Jackson, Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton all hit four 3-pointers.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau thought the Knicks defended well against Morant and Bane.
“So I thought our perimeter defense was pretty good, the help was good, but then Jackson got loose, Williams got loose, Melton got loose,” Thibodeau said. “So we have to, like, finish our defense.”
Morant had his streak of 30-point games stopped at seven, but the Grizzlies bounced back from an overtime loss in Philadelphia on Monday night to win for the fourth time in five games.
“That was resiliency right there,” Jackson said.
Evan Fournier scored 30 points for the Knicks, who lost for the seventh time in nine games ahead of a difficult five-game Western Conference trip that starts Saturday against the Lakers
Memphis led by double digits for a long stretch before the Knicks trimmed it to 95-90 early in the fourth when Immanuel Quickley made consecutive 3-pointers, the first while being fouled. But the Knicks then accidentally tipped in a Memphis miss and Jackson made a 3-pointer to restore a 10-point lead, and Bane later knocked down a 3 and Morant scored to stop one last New York push.
Melton scored 11 points in the first quarter, sending Memphis to a 35-27 lead. The Grizzlies scored 10 straight to open the second and build a 45-27 cushion.
The Grizzlies pushed the pace late in the half, with Morant throwing a lob to Williams for a dunk in transition and then Williams returning the favor to set up for Morant for a slam that finished a pretty fast break. Memphis led 64-52 at the break.
The Knicks got the Grizzlies slowed down somewhat in the third and climbed back within six points midway through the period, but it was back up to 92-79 after three.
Grizzlies: Coach Taylor Jenkins said C Steven Adams, who had been listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle, was still feeling a little sore but had gone through treatment the last few days to be ready to start Wednesday. Adams grabbed 13 rebounds. ... Melton scored 14 points and Bane 13.
Knicks: Julius Randle had 18 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists before being ejected in the closing seconds for a second technical foul. ... RJ Barrett scored 23 points.
Jenkins said he has noticed more Grizzlies jerseys in road arenas. Morant was seventh on the NBA’s most-popular jersey list last month, based on sales on NBAStore.com for the first half of the 2021-22 regular season.
“Obviously, you see the swag he plays with, the energy he plays with, the uniqueness with his athleticism but also his unique playmaking ability, too,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, he’s a highlight reel, but then I would say he’s also a guy that impacts winning. So he does it all and hopefully the way he handles himself on the court, he handles himself in the media and community is just inspiring to others and hopefully someone who’s rocking the Ja jersey or rocking any of our Grizzlies jerseys out there, it’s a testament to what this team stands for.”
ATHLETES IN THE ARENA
The crowd included Olympic skiing gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and boxers Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, who will meet April 30 for Taylor’s lightweight titles in what organizers say will be the first women’s boxing match to headline Madison Square Garden.
Grizzlies: Visit Orlando on Saturday.
Knicks: Visit Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.