Morant has 17 career-high assists, Grizzlies beat Raptors
TORONTO (AP) – Ja Morant had 17 career-high assists and scored 19 points and the Memphis Grizzlies won for the first time in three games, beating the struggling Toronto Raptors 119- 106 on Thursday night.
Dillon Brooks scored 25 points, Desmond Bane had 16 points before the foul and Steven Adams had 14 points and 17 rebounds. Memphis recorded a top 37 assists of the season and won their third straight north of the border after losing their previous seven trips to Canada.
“It was impressive,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said of Morant’s 17 assists. “A lot of credit to Ja. It just set a tone for us. His unselfishness, we talk about it all the time.”
Pascal Siakam had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto before fouling, extending his career best streak of 25 or more points to six. Gary Trent Jr. scored 20 points and OG Anunoby had 16 points as Toronto’s home defeat streak reached 5 points. The Raptors lost 8/10 overall.
“That’s unacceptable given the effort we’ve put in,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “We have to stay focused and connected with each other and seriously play hard.”
The Grizzlies came in with a 4/5 loss, but beat Toronto by overtaking the Raptors by 70-50 on points across the board.
“If we click like this, a lot of teams can’t beat us,” Brooks said.
Morant shot 9 to 19 and had a spectacular pitch in the first game of his career in Toronto. He missed last season’s road game against the Raptors because of a sprained left knee, while the previous two games were played outside of Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Cheered on during the pre-match intro, Morant drew the jaws and cheers of the crowd with his only shot in the second half, using a fake pump shot to evade Anunoby at 3 points before dashing out to the belt to perform a two-handed swing.
Brooks said of the welcome Morant received from the Toronto fans: “I think they saw what was on the internet about him flying around, darting at boys, performing. “They were ready to watch and he did not disappoint.”
Morant hit its support mark by gaining seven points in the third quarter.
“He could have three, four people following and find us in three seconds, find us for dumping,” Brooks said. “He’s a one-of-a-kind talent in a generation.”
Siakam and the Nurse committed a technical foul after Siakam shoved Brooks after a defensive foul by Brooks late in the fourth half.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was unavailable because of constant pain in his lower back, the very injury that saw him out in the home loss to the Clippers on Tuesday night.
Grizzlies: Adams had eight rebounds in the first quarter. … Brooks was born and raised in nearby Mississauga. … Morant has four previous peaks of 14 assists, most recently on November 27 in New York.
Raptors: Anunoby, Siakam, Barnes, Juancho Hernangomez and rookie Christian Koloko start, Toronto’s other 18th lineup in 35 games. … Shoot 6 to 20 in the second quarter. … After the game, Toronto dropped F Justin Champagne.
SHARE MORE, WIN MORE
Memphis are 13-1 this season, scoring more assists than their opponents.
BAD START, BETTER END
Toronto’s Scottie Barnes missed the first seven shots and failed to score in the first half but made seven of his last 11 attempts. He finished with 14 points and 10 bounces.
“Had to be more aggressive from the start,” Nurse said.
Grizzlies: Host New Orleans on Saturday night.
Raptors: Host Phoenix on Friday night.
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