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Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant 'unleashes his talents' against Houston Rockets

Morant leads the Grizzlies to sixth straight victory with another starring role

Cameron Hogwood

Wednesday 15 January 2020 09:30, UK

Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against the Houston Rockets on January 14, 2020 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. 1:20
Ja Morant posted 26 points, five rebounds and eight assists in the Memphis Grizzlies' win over the Houston Rockets

Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant was central to another blistering performance on Tuesday night as he inspired his team to a 121-110 victory over the Houston Rockets.

The 20-year-old rookie racked up 26 points on 10-of-11, along with eight assists, as the Grizzlies stretched their winning streak to six games.

Such was his influence on the night that head coach Taylor Jenkins shifted from a familiar routine of substituting Morant in the second half, instead keeping him on the court for the entire fourth quarter.

Jenkins said afterwards: "Ja is the ultimate competitor, he understands when he's in and out of the game. Obviously we made the call to roll with him, he was making a huge impact not just on the offensive end but defensively, executing solid coverages.

Jaren Jackson Jr. #13 of the Memphis Grizzlies dunks the ball against the Houston Rockets on January 14, 2020 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. 2:54
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"He's a confident guy. He loves the game of basketball, he loves to go out there and compete. If he's adding a little extra flair hopefully it's leading to good things more often than not.

"He just goes out there and has fun.

"In Ja's case he just goes out there and plays his game. That's been our mentality, let him unleash his talents, his competitiveness, his unselfishness."

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Morant became just the fourth rookie in NBA history to have over 25 points and over five assists while shooting over 90 per cent from the field.

A highlight arrived in the second quarter when Morant produced a fake backwards pass while waiting for support in a one-on-one match-up, before eventually teeing up Jaren Jackson Jr for an emphatic finish.

Jackson paid tribute to his team-mate as a tone-setter for the explosive and high-intensity approach that has seen Memphis emerge as one of the most exciting teams to watch.

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"For him the game is going in slow-mo," said Jackson. "So when we're running with him we're really good and when he's pushing the ball he's telling us to run and that's the pace we want to play. It's exciting basketball.

"Playing hard is all we know. At the end of the game, in terms of pace we can sustain it. It's just a matter of habit because if you're doing it at both ends you're just in a rhythm of playing hard and going fast."

Jackson himself contributed 15 points on the night
Image: Jaren Jackson contributed 15 points on the night

Dillon Brooks chipped in with 24 points alongside 19 from Jonas Valanciunas for Memphis in a reflection of the options at Jenkins' disposal.

Harden threatened for Houston with a game-high 41 points, however he missed 14 of 19 three-point attempts on the night.

Jenkins added: "Day one of training camp we talked about what our philosophy was going to be. We've got to be an aggressive and disciplined team, and we've got to be an unselfish team.

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"We try and keep it simple for these guys and let them go out and play. Our depth has really helped us.

"We've got this young core and vets in here and it's taken some time to get comfortable with each other and the system."

The Grizzlies are next in action at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

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