SportsWilliam J. Ford

Morant’s Triple-Double Leads Memphis in Comeback Win over Wizards

Memphis Grizzlies rookie phenom Ja Morant notched his first career triple-double Sunday, scoring 10 fourth-quarter points to give the Memphis a 106-99 road win over the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards led for most of the second half, but Morant took over late, scoring or assisting on all of the Grizzlies’ points during an 11-4 run to finish the game, including a dagger 3-pointer with 44.3 seconds left to give Memphis a nine-point edge.

He then grabbed the last rebound of the game to record the triple-double of 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

“A lot of credit goes to my teammates. Without them, I would not be able to have that triple-double,” Morant said. “[My teammates] played a big part in the assist column, boxing their man out and I was just getting long rebounds. It is definitely a special moment, a special night. I am thankful for it.”

Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas, who Memphis (27-26) acquired from the Toronto Raptors last year, pulled down 18 of the team’s 62 rebounds. He also scored eight points and blocked two shots.

As for Morant, the Wizards defense did enough to contain him in the first three quarters. But couldn’t control him in the final stanza where he also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists.

“He didn’t really start to get going [and] making plays until late in the fourth [quarter],” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who led the team with 26 points on 10-for-26 shooting. “He wasn’t killing us too bad. Late down the stretch, he was able to manipulate the game the way he wanted to.”

Besides playing consistent defense throughout the game, Beal said the team could screen and run more sets for sharpshooter Davis Bertans, who will be in the 3-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend this month in Chicago. Bertans scored 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting off the bench, including 3-for-8 from the beyond the arc.

“We got to give DB the ball more,” Beal said. “I was cognizant of it tonight. Sometimes we go away from him. We need him in every aspect of the game.”

Washington (18-33), one of the top four scoring teams in the NBA, scored less than 100 points for only the third time all season. In the other two games, Washington defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics.

In a rare sighting, the Wizards went 4-for-26 from the floor in the fourth quarter.

Both point guards — Ish Smith and Shabazz Napier — scored a combined 10 points and 11 assists.

Napier went 0-for-7 from the floor, including 0-for-5 from the 3-point line. He scored all six of his points from the free-throw line. Smith scored four points and went 2-of-8 from the floor.

“I’m mad at myself because it was a game about who was going to impose their will and their pace,” Smith said. “Memphis did a good job of that. We were up 12 at one time. We got to close that one out. We’re going to get better.”

Before the All-Star break begins Friday, the Wizards will play a back-to-back set, hosting the Chicago Bulls (19-35) on Tuesday at Capital One Arena before traveling north to face the New York Knicks (17-37) on Wednesday.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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