Grizzlies star Ja Morant admitted Saturday that he hasn’t fully recovered from the right knee soreness that forced him to miss nine games late in the season, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Morant returned for one game at the end of the regular season, then went straight into the playoffs. He has worn a bandage on the knee in each game since he has been back.
Memphis may need the best version of Morant to escape a tight series with the Timberwolves that is now tied at 2-2. He averaged 27.4 points per game during the regular season, but Minnesota has limited him to 20.5 PPG through the first four games of the first round, using multiple defenders to block his path to the basket.
“I can be honest right now,” Morant said. “I’m not Ja right now. I’m not playing above the rim. Most of the times when I go to the rack, I’m getting bumps. I just got to worry about finishing the bucket instead of worrying about the guys with stripes on.”
There’s more on the Grizzlies:
- Coach Taylor Jenkins didn’t hold back his criticism of the officials after Saturday’s loss, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. The Wolves shot 40 free throws as all five Memphis starters collected at least four fouls. “I’ve never seen a more inconsistent, arrogant officiated game,” Jenkins said. “So, I’ll take whatever hit is coming my way, protect our guys. We know we’ve gotta get better. But from the get-go, it was foul, foul, foul, foul, foul. Inconsistency. There was actually one play where a foul whistle was blown before contact was even made. It’s embarrassing.”
- The Grizzlies’ problems go far beyond the officiating, according to Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Among them is a disappointing performance from Jaren Jackson Jr., who is misfiring from three-point range and hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in any game this series. “He still has a bunch of time to come out and play well,” Brandon Clarke said. “Jaren knows the player that he is. We all know who he is.”
- Nekias Duncan of Basketball News looks at the challenges that the Morant-Clarke pick-and-roll creates for Minnesota’s defense.