The Memphis Grizzlies are the second-best team in the Western Conference through the first 16 games of the season, but lost another starter to an injury when All-Star points guard Ja Morant suffered a left ankle injury on Friday evening.
Morant avoided a serious injury in a victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder. An MRI and further testing on Saturday revealed a Grade 1 ankle sprain, and the Grizzlies listed Morant as week-to-week on their injury report.
It’s been a rough stretch for the Grizzlies, who also lost starting shooting guard Desmond Bane earlier in the week to sprained toe. Bane will miss two to three weeks with his toe injury, but with Morant also out, the Grizzlies lost their starting backcourt for at least a week.
The Grizzlies have five more games this month. They hit the road for a single game against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, before they host two games this week against the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans. Then they return to the Big Apple to play the New York Knicks next Sunday, before meeting the Minnesota Timberwolves on the last day of November.
High-Flying Ja Morant Grounded
Morant leads the Grizzlies with 28.6 points, 7.1 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game. He is ranked #10 in the NBA with a 25.57 PER rating.
Morant’s ankle injury occurred late in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 19 points and added 11 assists and seven rebounds before he got tripped up by Lu Dort from the Thunder. Morant needed assistance off the court and to the locker room.
Without Morant down the stretch, the Grizzlies held off the Thunder to snap a two-game losing streak. They also improved to 6-1 at home in Memphis this season. With a 10-6 overall record, the Grizzlies are the second-best team in the Western Conference behind the surprising Utah Jazz at 12-6. They are among five other teams with at least 10 wins this season.
The Grizzlies are +1700 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, according to DraftKings’ futures board. The Grizzlies are +750 odds to win the Western Conference, and fourth board behind the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, and Phoenix Suns even though they have a better record than all three of those teams.
The Southwest Division is still a close three-team race. The Grizzlies are favorites to win the division at +140 odds, but the Dallas Mavericks are close behind at +170, and the New Orleans Pelicans are lurking at +210.
Ja Morant was helped off the floor after an apparent injury to his ankle. pic.twitter.com/9b5a6w5LXh
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) November 19, 2022
Tyus Jones the Next Man Up
Power forward Jaren Jackson, Jr. missed the start of the season while recovering from right foot surgery. He returned just as the Grizzlies lost Bane and Morant to injuries.
Jackson looked rusty in his first game back, but looked like his old self against the Thunder with 25 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. The Grizzlies will need Jackson to keep stuff the stat sheet and pick up the scoring slack without Morant.
Expect swingman Dillon Brooks (15.8 ppg) to also become the main focal point off the offense with their starting backcourt sidelined for the next few games.
Tyus Jones, a veteran backup point guard from Duke, will start in place of Morant. Jones averages a career-high 10.6 points and 3.9 assists per game while leading the Grizzlies’ second unit. He’s shooting 45%from the floor, but just 33% from deep.
Head coach Tyler Jenkins inserted backup shooting guard John Kochar into the starting lineup when Bane went down earlier in the week. Kochar scored 19 points in a victory against the Thunder while shooting 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Kochar could also fill in at point guard if they need him.
Rookie Kenny Chandler, a second-round pick from Tennessee, could see an uptick in playing time. Chandler, the third-string point guard, averages 2.3 points and 2.0 assists per game in limited action.
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