For the third time this season, the NBA stage was set for a Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans showdown, and once again, it was Ja Morant who stole the spotlight. In a dazzling display of athleticism and skill, Morant led the Grizzlies to a 123-118 victory, solidifying their grip on the second seed in the Western Conference and extending their dominance over their divisional rivals.
From the opening tip, Morant was a blur of electrifying energy. He carved through the Pelicans’ defense with dazzling drives, finishing with impossible layups and contorting his body for circus-shot fadeaways. His 38 points and 10 assists were a testament to his complete control of the offense, orchestrating plays and leaving defenders flummoxed in his wake. One particularly awe-inspiring moment came in the third quarter when Morant, seemingly defying gravity, soared for a two-handed alley-oop slam over Jonas Valanciunas, electrifying the FedExForum crowd.
But Morant wasn’t a one-man show. Desmond Bane chipped in 25 points, showcasing his sharpshooting prowess from beyond the arc. Dillon Brooks added 18 points and provided tenacious defense on Brandon Ingram, limiting the Pelicans’ star to a pedestrian 22 points. The Grizzlies’ relentless hustle and defensive rotations frustrated the Pelicans’ offense, forcing turnovers and keeping them off balance.
Pelicans Grit Their Teeth:
The Pelicans, however, refused to crumble. Ingram, despite Brooks’ close attention, found ways to score, driving strong to the basket and hitting key jump shots. Zion Williamson, battling foul trouble but still a force, bullied his way to 28 points and 12 rebounds. CJ McCollum added 24 points, his silky smooth three-pointers keeping the Pelicans within striking distance.
The fourth quarter turned into a tense battle of wills. Every time the Pelicans threatened to close the gap, Morant would respond with a dazzling play, either weaving through defenders for a layup or finding an open teammate for a critical three. Brandon Clarke’s thunderous dunk put the Grizzlies up by eight with under a minute remaining, sealing the Pelicans’ fate.
Implications and Beyond:
This victory extends the Grizzlies’ winning streak to six games and further cements their status as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference. Their smothering defense and offensive firepower seem almost unstoppable at times, with Morant emerging as the league’s most captivating young star.
For the Pelicans, the loss stings, but it also highlights areas for improvement. Their reliance on Ingram and Williamson can be exploited, and their defense needs to find ways to slow down Morant’s electric drives.
Beyond the statistics, this game will be remembered for Morant’s mesmerizing performance. His gravity-defying alley-oop and his sheer control of the game cemented his place among the league’s elite. The Grizzlies’ relentless energy and the back-and-forth fourth-quarter theatrics provided a spectacle worthy of the holiday season.
The Grizzlies continue their march towards the top of the West, while the Pelicans fight to solidify their playoff spot. Their rivalry, now fueled by three thrilling encounters, promises more captivating chapters in the coming months. One thing is certain: when these two teams meet, basketball magic unfolds.