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Report Card: Ja Morant’s Return Squashed by Thunder

Back-to-back rough nights for the Grizzlies.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

A day that seemed to be a roller coaster of emotions for Memphis Grizzlies fans and even teammates of Ja Morant ended in the worse possible way. From getting the injury report and seeing Morant would be questionable, and Morant’s tweet hinting his return.

Then, the anticipation as the day carried on towards a 7:00 Grizzlies tip. You could feel the energy inside FedExForum heading in to what many thought would be a Grizzlies bounce back win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Once the ball was tipped at FedExForum, the Grizzlies were riding a wave that was Ja Morant throughout the first quarter. The Grizzlies even led by as much as 16 in the first half, but then...they let up.

The Grizzlies let off the gas pedal, and after leading the Thunder by double-digits in the first half, Memphis trailed by as much as 10 to OKC in the third quarter. While many will look to individuals to blame for the Grizzlies collapse, this was on the team as a whole.

With that being said, let’s get to the grades...

Ja Morant - 16 points (6/12 FG, 1/1 3PT), 6 rebounds, 8 assists in 28 minutes

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The long awaited return of Ja Morant took place on Monday night at FedExForum. With so much hype surrounding his return, I don’t even think a superstar of Morant’s caliber could’ve answered the call. Instead, Morant eased back into the Grizzlies rotations. In the starting lineup, Morant immediately captured the crowd at FedExForum’s attention.

Hitting guys on the break in the first half, and orchestrating the offense just like he did before the injury. Just like any athlete though, conditioning and returning to normal takes time, and you could see Morant at that stage throughout the game.

Morant wore down throughout his 28 minutes of floor time, but that doesn’t take anything away from his return to the floor for the Grizzlies. Overall, Morant played a solid first game back since missing over three weeks with a knee sprain and COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Morant will get better day by day.

GRADE - B+

DESMOND BANE - 25 points (10/20 FG, 5/9 3PT), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 36 minutes

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Following a rough shooting night by Desmond Bane Sunday night against Portland, it was nice to see Bane confidently shooting the rock last night against Oklahoma City. That’s what separates a lot of guys that are progressing in the NBA, especially a sharpshooter of Bane’s caliber. How do you respond?

Bane responded well, and seemed to be in the right spot for Memphis on the offensive end of the floor all night. Hitting some big three-pointers in the second half for Memphis, Bane was a bright spot for the Grizzlies in their devastating collapse to the Thunder. Overall, Bane did his job on Monday night.

GRADE - A

QUICK GRADES

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Grizzlies effort level is to be questioned. Following a great start to the game, Memphis’ motor ran out of gas. Not all at once, but it was as if the Grizzlies put the car in cruise. As the Thunder clawed their way back into the game towards the end of the first half, Memphis continued in cruise control. It felt like Memphis didn’t score for about five plus minutes in the middle of the second quarter allowing a team that was down big to get renewed life. GRADE - F
  • Back-to-back bad bench production games. The Grizzlies bench was just awful to watch on Monday night. Memphis’ bench was outscored by the Thunder’s bench unit 37-21. Obviously injuries are hurting the Grizzlies, but against a Thunder team that Memphis handled easily a few weeks ago, it isn’t a great look. GRADE - D

The Grizzlies will be back in action on Thursday night as they travel to the Chase Center to take on the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.

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