CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Ja Morant’s winning layup left therookie flexing and shouting at the crowd and sent father Tee racing down thesideline while pumping his knees high in the air, filled with excitement overhis son’s big moment.
Yep, Morant’s homecoming game went about as well as he couldhave hoped.
With his parents sitting courtside and nearly 100 friends inthe stands, Morant scored on a driving left-handed layup with 0.7 seconds leftto give the Memphis Grizzlies 119-117 victory over the Charlotte Hornets onWednesday night. The South Carolina native had his first double-double with 23points and 11 assists to help the Grizzlies win consecutive games for the firsttime this season.
“It definitely felt good,” Morant said. “Coach called theplay, they switched and I just attacked.”
Morant got a chuckle at his father’s reaction, but wasn’tsurprised.
“That just shows how much he loves the game and how excitedhe was,” Morant said. “I looked and he was already at half court. I was like,‘Bro, your seat is down on the baseline.’ But that’s just him. He’s alwayshype.”
The Hornets battled back from 10 down in the fourth quarterto tie it on a 3-pointer by Devonte Graham from the top of the key with 22.7seconds left. But after a timeout, Morant got a screen near the top of the keyand drove left against Cody Martin and somehow got the layup to fall betweenthree Hornets, including 7-foot center Cody Zeller.
“I was just trying to contest it,” Zeller said. “He made atough shot.”
Morant wouldn’t repeat what he said to the crowd.
“I’d rather not say,” he said with a smile.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said the goal was to haveMorant make a play coming out of the timeout.
“Try to put Ja in a position where he could attackone-on-one to score, maybe play make for someone else and then have BrandonClarke go crash the offensive boards,” Jenkins said.
Jonas Valanciunas was one of the beneficiaries of Morant’spasses, finishing with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Marko Guduric had 17 points.
Terry Rozier tied a career high with 33 points on seven3-points for the Hornets, who have lost four straight games. Graham, whoentered the game leading the team in points and assists, had 19 points in hisfirst start of the season.
The Hornets led by 12 in the third quarter before theGrizzlies went on a 22-5 run led by Morant.
Grizzlies: Grayson Allen, who starred at Duke a couple ofhours away, did not play because of left ankle soreness.
Hornets: Were outrebounded 45-35. … Dwayne Bacon sat outwith knee soreness. … The Hornets have trailed by double digits in every gamethis season.
MORANT VS. CONLEY
Morant will face Mike Conley on Friday night, the player theGrizzlies traded away to make room for him. The rookie said the matchup is notpersonal.
‘I’m looking forward to playing the Utah Jazz,” Conley said.“It’s a team game. I’m not singling nobody out. I’m just going to go out and dowhatever I can with my teammates and come out with a win.”
DON’T LET UP
Rozier said his goal is to cut down on his turnovers. He andGraham combined for 10 of Charlotte’s 22 turnovers.
“We need to really worry about my turnovers and get betteron the defensive end and control that,” Rozier said. “I’ll be fine, me andcoach communicate just about every day so we are going to get on the same pageand we’re growing together and that’s what it’s about.”
Grizzlies: Host Utah on Friday night.
Hornets: Host Detroit on Friday night.