Ja Morant returns to help Grizzlies rout Pelicans, 141-114

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Ja Morant had 21 points and nine assists in his return from sore right knee, Dillon Brooks scored 23 points, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-114 on Saturday. New Orleans Pelicans to tie for the 2012 championship. Franchise-record 13 wins in a season at 56.

After missing nine games, Morant played nearly 27 minutes as the second-seeded Grizzlies reassembled their starting lineup in preparation for the postseason. They will close out the regular season at home against Boston on Sunday night.

Morant hadn’t played since he was injured in a loss at Atlanta on March 18.

“Being there with my team is something I’ve been looking forward to since March 19,” Morant said, referring to the day after his injury. “I was finally able to do that. Excited to be out there. He had a lot of fun. Just getting ready for this stretch that we’re about to continue into the playoffs.”

Brandon Clarke added 20 points for Memphis, making all 10 of his field goal attempts. Ziaire Williams had 19 points and Desmond Bane had 18. Bane was 6-for-7 on the night, including all four of his 3-point attempts. The Grizzlies shot over 60% during the three quarters. They snapped a two-game losing streak.

CJ McCollum led New Orleans with 16 points but was 6-for-17 from the field. Willy Hernangomez added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Jaxson Hayes had 13 points.

“It was a tough night. Hard night for CJ. Hard night for me. Tough night for our group,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said.

“It looked like they were more ready than used,” Hayes added. “They came out aggressive. He got on us and just put pressure on us the whole game. It was hard to get anything going.”

Trying to secure the ninth seed for the play-in tournament, the Pelicans played without leading scorer Brandon Ingram. He has missed his second straight game due to a hamstring strain.

Memphis dominated in the middle stages. By the final point of the third quarter, the lead had reached 39, and Memphis was shooting 64% overall and 60% from 3-point range, hitting 15 of 25 from distance. Memphis scored a franchise-record 55 points in the third quarter, giving the Grizzlies a 119-80 lead heading into the fourth.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) drives the ball under the basket during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Memphis was 20-for-26 in the third, shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range and dishing out 16 assists in the period alone. Pelican trainer. Green said the third quarter was a bad sign, but more of a continuation of New Orleans’ struggles throughout the night.

“The whole game we could have been better,” Green said. “The third quarter was by far the worst.”

For Memphis, which didn’t play well in last Thursday’s loss to Denver, the performance was a return to the style the Grizzlies had before their two-game losing streak. And with a full complement of entrees.

“All we have to do is pay attention to the details, get to know the players’ staff and put in the effort,” Brooks said.

WELL DILLON THE VILLAIN

Brooks, who has been known to talk to umpires and opponents while playing his physical style of defense, seemed to play a little looser Saturday night, even smiling at times, particularly after the Grizzlies built an insurmountable lead. “I’m trying to smile more so I don’t get too upset and (officers) start bugging me,” Brook said.

TIPS

Pelicans: Started 0-for-7 from outside the arc. … G Devonte ‘Graham didn’t grab a rebound and still needs one for 600 of his career. … Trey Murphy III, who leads rookies in 3-point shooting percentage at 38.4%, was 1-for-3 from outside the arc. … C Jonas Valanciunas, who was in foul trouble most of the game, was limited to six minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing just one rebound. … McCollum, who was 2-for-11 midway through the third, had 10 points in the period.

Grizzlies: Entered the game second in scoring at 115.4 per game. The franchise has never finished in the top 5 in scoring. … They are 30-0 when they reach 120 points. … While setting the franchise record for points in a quarter with 55 in the third, Memphis also set franchise records for single-period field goals (20) and assists (16).

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Pelicans: Host Golden State on Sunday night.

Grizzlies: Host Boston on Sunday night.

More AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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