Last night was a movie.
To be quite honest, I haven’t felt anything like last night in the Grindhouse in so long. Maybe Game 4 of the 2017 playoffs when Marc Gasol hit that game-winner? Maybe the Warriors series?
Last night was different, though.
For a Sunday afternoon early season game, there was a different vibe. The close game generated a playoff atmosphere, but it just felt unique. When watching this game, the thrill of a close contest also brought a thrill of hope — hope for a future so bright.
Mostly because of Ja Morant.
Ja Morant scored 30 points and dished out 9 assists, joining Isiah Thomas and Trae Young as the only players to have a 30-point, 9-assist game within their first 3 games. Those stats alone generate star buzz, and rightfully so. That’s an impressive stat-line for anyone, yet alone a rookie point guard in this third career game.
How Ja got there though, and the attitude and confidence along with it, presented the aura of a star, which allowed for him to shine bright.
Morant’s thunderous transition dunk in the first half drew a roar in the crowd, as it was the first time he’s taken off in front of the home fans. He also did a spectacular job finishing at the rim, even adding a little bit of finesse and “jelly” — as the kids say — to his layups. He did an excellent job of picking his spots on the floor in the in-between game, an area he struggled in last game.
He also played with a moxie that’s not really found in most, if any, rookies. With a few passing buckets, you can see Ja Morant jaw a little bit with the Nets. After a hard foul by Taurean Prince, he got a little feisty, and Jae Crowder had to calm him down a bit. He even pulled a Dame at the end of the game and waved “bye” to the bench as Brooklyn walked off the court.
Ja Morant waving goodbye after taking down the Nets. pic.twitter.com/qCX1SAay8x— Chris Kern (@chriskern11) October 28, 2019
Ja Morant’s star potential really shined in the fourth quarter where he absolutely took over the game. The Grizzlies were already at a bit of a disadvantage, as Jaren Jackson Jr. got in foul trouble, and Jonas Valanciunas is still on a minutes restriction. Morant rose to the occasion and took his game to another level. He got the rim pretty much at a will and had the Nets at the palm of his hands. In addition, his fearlessness guarding and blocking Kyrie Irving at the end of the game was savvy, as he also managed to maintain good position to avoid any rookie fouls.
Ja Morant produced one of the most memorable nights in the franchise’s regular season history. Anyone in that arena witnessed and admired a young player flashing the potential for greatness. In the process, he never backed down and put the team on his back.
There will be more nights like this, as there will be nights like the Chicago Bulls game as well.
Regardless, Ja Morant showed that he’s fearless and that he’s built for these moments.