Grizzlies' Ja Morant continues impressive rookie season with game-winner over Hornets

Ja Morant was the No. 2 pick in the draft this summer, but heading into the season you wouldn't have known. All of the hype surrounding this year's rookie class had been funneled into Zion Williamson mania, and for good reason, to be fair. But the No. 1 overall pick went down with a knee injury, which has opened up the floor for the rest of the first-year players to show out.

Morant has taken advantage, getting off to a terrific start to his NBA career. Entering Wednesday night's slate of games, he was putting up 17.8 points and 5.2 assists per game, leading all rookies in both of those categories. Both of those numbers will go up after his performance against the Hornets, during which he dropped 23 points and 11 assists on 10-of-15 shooting. More importantly, though, he made the first game-winner of his career to lift the Grizzlies to a wild 119-117 win. 

Down by 12 late in the third quarter, the Grizzlies had not only fought their way back into the game, but taken control and built a double-digit lead themselves. After a Jaren Jackson Jr. 3-pointer with just over two minutes left, they led 115-105, and seemed to have sealed the game. The Hornets had other ideas, however, and ripped off a 10-2 run to tie things up at 117-117. 

Enter Ja.

As the final few seconds melted away, Morant took off for the paint, where he was met by three different Hornets. Somehow, he contorted his body in mid-air, and was able to scoop up a lefty layup underneath the outstretched arm of Cody Zeller. It went off the glass, bounced a few times on the rim, and fell through to give the Grizzlies the win.

These are exactly the kind of hyper-athletic plays that had people so excited about Morant both before the draft and entering the season. At times, his careening drives into the paint don't even seem safe, but that's what makes him so thrilling to watch, and so difficult to guard. 

Any game-winner is awesome, as the Grizzlies have already learned this season, but even more important than the win was Morant's willingness to take over in a big moment. Just a few weeks into his career, Morant is already showing he's ready to be the main man in Memphis. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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