Ja Morant – Memphis Grizzlies have earned respect as “one of the best teams in the league”

Emerging superstar playmaker Ja Morant sliced ​​through the Golden State Warriors’ defense and finished with a left-handed layup despite a foul, making it a three-possession game with 28.9 seconds remaining, a dagger that sealed the 10th consecutive victory for the Memphis Grizzlies.

After Morant landed, he bowed in celebration and took a few steps into the crowd, where a young fan raised his right hand in hopes of getting a high-five. Instead, Morant looked down at the boy and barked out a few words, expressing offense that the child dared to wear a Warriors jersey at FedExForum on Tuesday night.

“He was disrespectful with this jersey,” Morant said after the Grizzlies’ 116-108 win. “Us Memphis. It looked like he wanted to cheer, but he had this jersey on. I apologize to him, but at that point my brother, take that jersey off and then dap me. find his information. I’ll send him one myself. “

Respect, or the lack of it, has been a frequent topic of discussion for Morant over the past year or so. He didn’t think the Grizzlies got their due last season, when Memphis finished 38-34 before winning two play-in games – the second on the road against the Warriors – to earn a playoff berth.

“I bet we have it now,” Morant said after his 29-point performance and eight assists in the win over the Warriors. “I bet you we have it now.”

The Grizzlies have worked their way into conversations about elite NBA teams by dominating for more than six weeks. Memphis won 20 of 24 games, a streak that began when Morant suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for 12 games, to move up to 29-14, putting the Grizzlies behind the Utah Jazz for the third place in the Western Conference standings.

“They’ve become one of the best teams in the league,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, praising the Grizzlies organization for “building this team from scratch over the past few years.”

Memphis’ last loss was on Dec. 23 against the Warriors in San Francisco. The Grizzlies’ 10-game franchise record – the longest active winning streak in the league – includes wins over the West’s top two teams (Phoenix Suns and Warriors). The Grizzlies also beat the two Las Vegas favorites for the preseason title – the Los Angeles Lakers (twice) and the Brooklyn Nets – during the streak.

“Number one, we’re one of the best teams in the league,” said Morant, 22, who is the youngest player to average at least 25 points per game in a double-digit winning streak in the league. NBA history, according to Elias Sports Research Bureau. “I feel like it’s number one. And number two, we show how deep our roster is. No matter what is thrown at us, we bounce back and win games. We have to keep rolling, keep playing together, keep fighting. “

The Grizzlies pounced on the Warriors in the first half, leading up to 18 points. Golden State, triggered by the energy of Gary Payton II, came back in force in the third quarter to take the lead. But Memphis closed the game in record time, getting 3 seconds off back-to-back possessions from backup playmaker Tyus Jones (17 points, six rebounds, eight assists) to push the cushion to nine points and get rid of two discs of Morant in the final minute to kill all hopes of the Warriors’ return.

“They are obviously fueled by everything Ja does and how explosive he is,” said Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, who netted a 27-point triple-double but scored just two points in the fourth quarter. . “They obviously had us last year in the play-in game and have had us twice this year, and we’ve had them once, so it’s a natural development of a team trying to get through that. next step.

“The great part is you talk about it now; you have to show it in the playoffs. We want to be there to try to do it. I know they want it too. Nobody is trying to win the verbal conversation properly now. who we are in January. “

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