A large crowd formed as Ja Morant warmed up. Spectators closely watched his every move, hoping the Memphis Grizzlies star would be cleared to play.
And Morant got a loud ovation when he was introduced to the starting lineup at FedExForum.
All eyes were on Morant, but in the end it was the star guard of the Sacramento Kings who stole the show. De’Aaron Fox got hot in the third quarter and started making midrange jumpers over seven footers and off-balance 3-pointers.
The Grizzlies had no answer. The Kings defeated the Grizzly Bears 113-109.
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The Grizzlies (10-8) made a push in the last two minutes and came within three points after trailing by double digits. With 1.7 seconds left, Morant was fouled on a 3-pointer with a chance to tie. He missed the first free throw, nullifying comeback chances.
The Kings (10-6) extended their winning streak to seven games.
Morant had 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Fox led the Kings with 32 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Here are some takeaways from Tuesday’s game.
Yes Morant returns
As of Monday, Morant was listed as doubtful to play against the Sacramento Kings. Morant said he woke up well Tuesday morning, and the Grizzlies announced he would be available about 30 minutes before the game. Morant’s return meant that the fans in attendance could see not only two of the NBA’s most explosive point guards in action, but also a fast-paced game between two of the NBA’s best offenses.
Years Jackson Jr. played his third game since returning from an off-season right foot procedure. He was the first Grizzlies player to check out in the first quarter, but Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said Jackson’s minutes go up after hovering around 25 minutes in his first two appearances.
Years looking into it
Jackson finds out that he’s hard to stop when he’s going downhill, and that’s a scary thought for opponents. The Grizzlies have seen glimpses of Jackson attacking smaller defenders in the past, only for him to follow that play by hoisting 3-pointers against similar mismatches. Jackson brought Kings rookie Keegan Murray and Harrison Barnes back into the paint and finished strong. Jackson finished with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting on a night when he made just one of five 3-pointers.
Attacking drought hurts grizzly bears
Both teams shot 51.1% in the first half, but that didn’t carry over into the third quarter. Neither shot well in the third, but the Kings built a 12-point lead after leading by five points at halftime due to Fox. He scored 13 points and made three 3-pointers. The Grizzlies only scored 17 points in the third quarter and shot 29.6%.
Morant checked into the game with over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter to help a struggling offensive unit. The Grizzlies trailed 12 at the time, but eventually trailed 104–101 with 1:15 left and a chance for a tie. Morant took a crossed dribble in a three-pointer, but missed the shot. Memphis fouled the king’s next possession.
The Grizzlies get two days off before returning to action at home against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. With Morant and Zion Williamson both back to health, chances are both players will be available to face each other for the first time since February 2021. The Pelicans won the first meeting this season.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Yes Morant returns from injury, Memphis Grizzlies lose to Kings