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Memphis 135, Orlando 115: Morant dazzles, Magic defense falters against Grizzlies

Paint points were a plenty for Memphis in Orlando Saturday.

Memphis Grizzlies v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Paint points were a plenty for the Memphis Grizzlies in Orlando Saturday night, as they cruised to a 135-115 victory over the Orlando Magic. Led by Ja Morant, the Grizzlies outscored the Magic by 34 points in the paint (68-34).

“We did not do a very good job of that tonight,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley told reporters after the game when asked about his team’s ability to keep Memphis out of the paint. “He (Morant) was comfortable, he got to his spots on the floor where he needed to be. And again, us being physical and finding the basketball, we’ll have to do a much better job with that moving forward.”

Morant dazzled throughout the contest, scoring 33 points (14-21 FGA’s) to go along with 7 assists and 5 rebounds. Big man Jaren Jackson Jr. added 21 points and 6 rebounds.

The Grizzlies outrebounded the home team 62-38, including grabbing 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 23 second chance points.

Memphis took an early lead behind three offensive rebounds and four three-point field goals within the first five minutes of the contest. The Grizzlies dominated the Magic in the paint early, scoring 16 of the first 20 points scored in the paint (in the game).

Defensively, the Grizzlies were locked-in early, forcing the Magic to chuck long range attempts without working the ball in the paint (or side to side). Memphis finished the first quarter on a 15-2 run, opening up a double-digit lead.

Morant, who was questionable coming into the game with a sore foot, was fantastic from the opening tip. The first-time All-Star scored or assisted on 20 of the Grizzlies’ first 29 points in the opening period.

Turnovers were somewhat of a problem for the Magic in the first half, giving the ball away six times - which led to 11 Grizzlies points.

Led by Morant’s ability to get wherever he wanted to on the floor, Memphis dominated Orlando in the paint in the game’s first half, outscoring the Magic 38-16 in the painted area.

The Grizzlies extended their lead to 20 points following a Morant jumper off a beautiful crossover dribble from the left-wing late in the second quarter.

Memphis played a flawless offensive first half, dishing out 18 assists to just 2 turnovers, while shooting 57 percent from the floor (30-53 FGA’s).

17 of Cole Anthony’s 22 points in the game came in the first half, but the Magic still trailed the Grizzlies 76-56 heading into intermission.

The Magic were not any more successful solving Morant in the third quarter, as the former second overall pick from the 2019 NBA Draft continued to hurt Orlando in the painted area.

A Morant layup - plus the foul - put the Grizzlies up 26 points with 4:59 remaining the the third quarter, marking Memphis’ largest lead of the contest. Moments later, the Grizzlies electrified the Amway Center crowd as they converted a 3-on-1 fast-break, as a Morant steal led to a De’Anthony Melton dunk off a lob from Ziaire Williams to extend the visiting team’s lead to 30+ points.

“They were super comfortable against us,” Anthony told reporters after the game. “Super comfortable, they got whatever they wanted. They were having fun, it’s embarrassing.”

The Magic were able to knockdown 17 three-point field goals, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stay connected with the Grizzlies in the second half.

Somehow, Orlando was able to play even with Memphis in the second half (59-59), but the damage was already done early in this one.

“This is a game we have to remember for a long time, (potentially) even like five years down the line,” Anthony added. “It’s just like, they really (it was like) - they just ‘punking’ us. So just something we have to remember in the future, use it as motivation to get better as a team.”

Reserve guard Melton finished with a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes.

Rookies Jalen Suggs (5 for 12 FGA’s, 3 for 6 3PTA’s) and Franz Wagner (5 for 9 FGA’s, 3 for 5 3PTA’s) finished with 17 points and 15 points respectively.

“They did a lot of things that (were) physical, competing, and hitting,” Mosley added after the game about the Grizzlies. “Credit to them. They’re on a roll (Memphis), they’re playing well right now. Again, this is a little bump for us, but the great thing about the league is, you get to bounce right back tomorrow and figure out exactly what it is you need to fix.”

That opportunity will come in less than 24 hours, as the Magic are scheduled to host the Boston Celtics on the second night of a home back-to-back, game-time is set for 6:00 PM EST.