WASHINGTON (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies believe their resilience helps them overcome rough shooting nights like last Sunday.
Having Ja Morant helps, too.
Morant had 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his first career triple-double, and the Grizzlies shook off their three-point woes in a 106-99 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Memphis remained eighth in the Western Conference while improving to 27-26. That’s one victory more than some sportsbooks projected the Grizzlies to earn all season.
“I feel like we all here just have a chip on our shoulder,” said Morant, who is now those same sportsbooks’ favourite in the NBA Rookie of the Year race. “Like I said before, they had us picked to win 26 games this year. That’s a chip right there, and we just passed that tonight. But the chip won’t leave.”
Morant scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter for Memphis, which closed the game on a 22-8 run after trailing for most of the second half.
Kyle Anderson added 16 points and Jaren Jackson Jr had 14 to go with 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who won despite shooting five of 32 from beyond the arc.
Jonas Valanciunas had 18 rebounds, part of a 62-50 edge the visitors held on the boards.
“It took some gutsy stuff out there,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “This is, I like to think, kind of a defining moment for our guys having to kind of fight through one of the toughest offensive nights for us.”
Bradley Beal scored 26 points for Washington, which led by as many as 12 early but shot four of 26 in the fourth quarter.
Rui Hachimura had 12 points and 11 assists as the Wizards dropped three games behind Orlando for the final playoff spot in the East.
Moritz Wagner had 19 points off the bench, while Davis Bertans added 15 on a night Washington shot nearly as bad as Memphis beyond the arc (seven of 33) and worse overall (34 of 101).
“Sometimes we come down and we can’t get stops, and we can’t make shots either,” Beal said afterward. “So it’s like, something’s got to give.”
Morant was the instigator throughout the Grizzlies’ late run. He found Anderson underneath for a layup to tie it at 93 with 5:33 remaining before hitting two free throws to give Memphis its first lead of the half 26 seconds later.
Clarke’s three-pointer on his only attempt behind the arc stretched the lead to five before Morant found Anderson inside again to make it 102-95.
Morant’s three from the right elbow with made it 105-96 with 44 seconds remaining, sending much of the Washington crowd to the exits.
“That guy is young, but he plays like a five-year All-Star,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Morant. “He just controls the game. … He’s a problem.”