Ja Morant, Grizzlies flying high ahead of trip to improving Magic

Ja Morant and the Southwest Division-leading Memphis Grizzlies will conclude a three-game road trip on Saturday evening when they face the Orlando Magic for the first time this season.

The Grizzlies, who have been without second-leading scorer Dillon Brooks (ankle) since early January, are looking for their fifth win in six games. Memphis last played Wednesday when it defeated the host New York Knicks 120-108 behind 26 points and 10 rebounds from Jaren Jackson Jr.

Morant missed 18 shots, including 0-of-6 shooting from 3-point range, to end his streak of seven consecutive games with 30-plus points. But the playmaker, who was voted one of the starters from the Western Conference for the upcoming All-Star Game, still contributed 23 points and nine assists to the Grizzlies’ 17th road win of the season.

Ziaire Williams scored a career-high 21 points and Steven Adams grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for Memphis, which led the Knicks 92-79 after three quarters. De’Anthony Melton (14 points) and Desmond Bane (13 points) each hit four 3-pointers as the Grizzlies shot 41 percent (16 of 39) as a team from beyond the arc.

Morant, who joined Marc Gasol as the only Grizzlies voted All-Star starters, was the league’s sixth-leading scorer, heading into play Friday, at 26.3 points per game. Meanwhile, Memphis maintains a strong hold on third place in the Western Conference standings behind Phoenix and Golden State.

«We’ve got a chance to win a lot of ball games every single night, because of the great growth we’ve shown individually and as a team,» Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said. «Obviously, the Knicks are an extremely hard team to play against with their physicality. We struggled with that in the first half.»

Orlando continues to make strides after becoming the NBA’s first team to lose 40 games this season.

The Magic are 3-1 since a nine-point home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 26 marked their 40th defeat. Orlando has also won four of its last six games while averaging an impressive 29.3 assists.

Orlando overcame a 17-point second-half deficit to beat host Indiana 119-118 on Wednesday, earning the Magic a back-to-back road split that began with a 126-115 loss at Chicago, as the Bulls netted the final 11 points.

The Magic turned the tables on Indiana, outscoring the Pacers 55-37 during the final 18:36 of the game.

Indiana native Gary Harris made six 3-pointers and scored a team-high 22 points against the Pacers. Wendell Carter Jr. added 19 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for his 21st double-double of the season and Rising Stars selectee Franz Wagner had 17 points, including a three-point play with 77 seconds left to give the Magic the lead for good.

«We feel like we can compete with anybody and it’s been fun playing with these guys just learning how to win,» Harris said. «We’ve been in a lot of games, a lot of close games, we’ve been down a lot. But for us it’s always to keep fighting, always giving us a chance to win in the last three minutes of the game.»

Six of Orlando’s 12 victories this season were a result of a double-digit comeback. The previous season-high deficit of 16 points came against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 1.

–Field Level Media

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