Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant threw down a massive dunk over 7-footer Jakob Poeltl, knocked down a buzzer-beater without touching the ground and then broke his own franchise record for points in a regular-season game just two days after setting it.
Morant scored 52 points on 22-of-30 shooting to help the Grizzlies beat the San Antonio Spurs 118-105 on Monday night.
The arena was still buzzing from Morant’s fast-break slam late in the second quarter when Steven Adams delivered a length-of-the-court pass to Morant, who caught the ball in midair and nailed a buzzer-beater from the left baseline for a 68-58 halftime lead.
Morant said that shot was “something I’ll probably never be able to do again.” But he added that if Adams is the quarterback from that type of throw, there’s a bit of wide receiver in Morant’s ability.
“I’m only a red zone guy,” Morant said. “Fade route. Jump ball.”
“It’s got to be the 50,” Morant said when asked what was most memorable, adding: “I’m thankful for my teammates, my coaches. They believe in me and have all the confidence in the world that I’ll make the right plays.”
Morant added 13 consecutive points during the fourth quarter to break the game open, following up a career-best 46 points in a win Saturday at Chicago that initially set the franchise record. He hit all four 3-point tries against the Spurs as Memphis won its second straight.
Morant’s performance was the first 50-point game in Grizzlies franchise history. His previous career-high was 47, set in the first round of the playoffs last season.
“He’s at the rim every night, but the way he put it together tonight, he was just in attack mode from the jump,” Grizzlies guard De’Anthony Melton said. “He got whatever he wanted, and it looked easy out there. It was just special to be out there and watch that.”
The win pulled the Grizzlies to just two games behind the Golden State Warriors in the loss column for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Spurs’ loss left coach Gregg Popovich one game short of tying Don Nelson for the most regular-season wins by an NBA coach.
“He’s a beautiful player,” Popovich said of Morant. “What else can you say about him? It’s not just that he’s athletic. Everybody says, ‘He’s athletic.’ Somebody says, ‘He’s a freak of nature,’ because he’s so fast. … But he makes decisions. He knows what is going on on the court.
“So, you combine that cerebral part of his game with his athleticism and you’ve got a special kid.”
The Grizzlies built the lead to 13 early in the fourth, their largest of the game at that point, but the Spurs were within 104-99 near the midway point of the fourth. That’s when Morant scored 13 straight.