The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 116-115 in overtime on Tuesday night in an electrifying matchup featuring two of the NBA’s young stars in Ja Morant and Zion Williamson.
Back-and-Forth Battle Goes to OT
The game featured 10 ties and 12 lead changes as neither team could pull away for good. Brandon Ingram’s jumper with 30 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 108 and sent it to overtime.
In the extra session, the Pelicans took a 113-110 lead on a Williamson dunk with just over 2 minutes remaining. But Memphis responded with a 6-0 run capped by Morant’s alley-oop dunk to put them ahead for good with 1:22 on the clock.
Morant took over down the stretch, scoring the Grizzlies final 8 points including four clutch free throws in the final minute to seal the win. He finished with 31 points and 8 assists.
“They thought it wasn’t going to happen again,” Morant said after the game about his late heroics. “Back-to-back game-winners. I don’t know, I might be becoming a villain.”
Table of Key Performers
|Jaren Jackson Jr.
Pelicans Blow Another 4th Quarter Lead
It was another disappointing loss for New Orleans, who blew a double-digit 4th quarter lead for the second straight game against Memphis. The Pelicans led by as many as 14 and were up 106-100 with just over 2 minutes to go before falling apart down the stretch again.
“It’s frustrating, for sure, blowing two leads late against the same team,” Pelicans forward Herbert Jones said. “We have to look at ourselves and correct it.”
Ingram echoed those sentiments, saying the Pelicans needed to do better execution late in games. New Orleans is now just 1-4 this season in games decided by 5 points or less.
Morant Electrifies in Return from Injury
After missing the previous three games with an ankle injury, Morant returned in dynamic fashion. His highlight reel included several ankle-breaking crossovers, thunderous dunks, and clutch shots with the game on the line.
The third-year guard had the Memphis crowd on their feet every time he touched the ball. His infectious energy seemed to lift the Grizzlies, who are now 4-0 this season when Morant plays.
“Man is cold-blooded,” Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr said about Morant. “He lives for these moments and he shows it.”
Morant is averaging 28 points and 8 assists per game this season, further cementing himself as one of the most entertaining players in the NBA.
The Grizzlies and Pelicans don’t meet again until March 8th in New Orleans. By then, Memphis hopes to have solved their rebounding issues that have plagued them recently during their star player’s absence.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, will look to put this heartbreaking stretch behind them and focus on finishing games stronger. They have another tough matchup looming against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
With only a half game separating Memphis and New Orleans in the Western Conference standings, their next meeting could have major playoff implications in the hotly contested Southwest division.
Both teams continue to deal with injury issues.
The Pelicans played without key rotation players Larry Nance Jr (shoulder) and Dyson Daniels (ankle) in the loss. Cody Zeller is also questionable for their next game.
For the Grizzlies, Danny Green remains out recovering from a torn ACL while rookie Jake LaRavia was placed in concussion protocol after taking a scary fall against Milwaukee last week.
Getting fully healthy will be crucial for both squads heading towards the All Star break next month.
Zion and Morant Compete in Thrilling Big Man Battle
Tuesday’s game featured a heavyweight bout between Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, two of the NBA’s most athletic and skilled players. Their contrasting styles and big personalities electrified the crowd all night.
While Morant overwhelmed defenders with lightning quickness and acrobatic finishes, the 6’7″ 284 lb Zion used his massive frame and power to bulldoze to the rim.
“I don’t back down from nobody, no matter how big or small,” Zion said after scoring multiple buckets against the smaller Morant.
The duo went shot for shot during crunch time and guarded each other on several pivotal possessions late in the game. Williamson ultimately got the better of Morant scoring inside down low while forcing Ja into some tough contested shots.
But Morant still found ways to slice apart the Pelican’s defense with surgical precision and unmatched flash.
“He’s one of those transcending players that is must watch T.V.” Pelicans coach Willie Green said about Morant’s star power.
Interactive Zone Defense Struggles
|Points in Paint
|2nd Chance Points
|Fast Break Points
|First 3 Quarters
|4th Quarter + OT
The Pelicans played their standard versatile zone defense to start, wreaking havoc by clogging driving lanes and forcing turnovers. But the Grizzlies adjusted after halftime, spacing the floor better and moving the ball effectively to find holes in the zone.
This strategic chess match ultimately swung the game, as Memphis began generating better looks late by attacking from the perimeter instead of recklessly driving inside. New Orleans will need to counter those adjustments heading into their next meeting.
Referees in the Spotlight
Questionable calls impacted the game’s outcome down the stretch for the second straight matchup between these teams.
A foul was called on Herb Jones guarding Morant with just seconds left and the score tied at 108. Replays showed little to no contact. Morant hit 2 free throws to force overtime.
Earlier in the 4th, coach Willie Green received a rare technical arguing an offensive foul on Williamson. Replays showed Zion was slapped on the arm by Jackson but the whistle went against New Orleans instead.
These potentially pivotal calls and non-calls influenced the razor thin final margin. Referees have been increasingly under fire this season and will remain in the spotlight after this hair-pulling loss for the Pelicans.
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