Ja Morant’s late layup lifts Grizzlies past Heat

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE (AP) – Ja Morant dribbled the length of the court for a tiebreaking layup with 1.2 seconds left and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Miami Heat 89-85 on Wednesday night to end a three-game skid.

Memphis’ Kyle Anderson intercepted the inbound pass after Morant’s basket, was fouled and made two free throws to end Miami’s winning streak at five.

The go-ahead bucket was similar to five days earlier when Morant’s closing drive against Denver was thwarted at the rim by centre Nikola Jokic, leading to a Grizzlies loss.

This time, the result was different.

“Go get a bucket,” Morant said when asked about the play. “The same mindset I had against the Nuggets. I was happy I was able to make the shot for us and hang on to the win.”

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant gestures after scoring the game winning shot in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in Memphis, Tennessee. PHOTO: AP

“He’s special,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Him going in and scoring that bucket, going fullcourt with no timeouts left, speaks volumes to his ability and what he is able to do in clutch time.”

Morant, Anderson and De’Anthony Melton each scored 13 points, and Melton also had 10 rebounds and six assists.

Jimmy Butler was questionable to play after twisting his left ankle late in Tuesday’s win over Cleveland but led the Heat with 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting — among the few decent efforts in a poor-shooting game. Bam Adebayo scored 15 points and Duncan Robinson finished with 13.

The Heat struggled to score through much of the night, playing their fifth game in seven days.

“I am encouraged by our competitive spirit, playing a game in the mud,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Possession game, down the stretch, everything did matter.”

Memphis was able to create some buffer late in the third quarter with 17 consecutive points and led 72-63 entering the fourth.

Tyler Herro and Butler helped Miami tie it at 83 with 1:12 remaining. The score was tied again at 85 after a pair of free throws by Goran Dragic, setting the stage for Morant’s layup off an inbound pass.

Morant got around Butler and got the shot off as Dragic came over to try and contest the attempt.