Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Grizzlies' point guard Ja Morant "plays like a five-year All-Star" after the Memphis rookie erupted for his first career triple-double.
Morant had 27 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds as the Grizzlies shook off their three-point woes in a 106-99 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.
"That guy is young, but he plays like a five-year All-Star," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Morant. "He just controls the game. He is a problem."
The Grizzlies believe their resilience helps them overcome rough shooting nights like the one they had on Sunday. Having Morant helps, too.
Memphis remained eighth in the Western Conference while improving to 27-26. That's one victory more than some oddsmakers projected the Grizzlies to earn all season.
"I feel like we all here just have a chip on our shoulder," said Morant, the overwhelming favourite in the Rookie of the Year race. "Like I said before, they had us picked to win 26 games this year. That's a chip right there, and we just passed that tonight. But the chip won't leave."
Morant scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter for Memphis, who closed the game on a 22-8 run after trailing for most of the second half.
Kyle Anderson added 16 points and Jaren Jackson Jr had 14 to go with 11 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who won despite shooting 5-of-32 from beyond the arc.
"It took some gutsy stuff out there," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. "This is, I like to think, kind of a defining moment for our guys having to kind of fight through one of the toughest offensive nights for us."
Bradley Beal scored 26 points for Washington, who led by as many as 12 early but shot 4-of-26 in the fourth quarter. Rui Hachimura had 12 points and 11 assists as the Wizards dropped three games behind Orlando for the final playoff spot in the East.
"Sometimes we come down and we can't get stops, and we can't make shots either," Beal said afterwards. "So it's like, something has got to give."
Morant was the instigator throughout the Grizzlies' late run. He found Anderson underneath for a lay-up to tie it at 93 with 5:33 remaining before hitting two free throws to give Memphis their first lead of the half 26 seconds later.
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Brandon Clarke's three-pointer on his only attempt behind the arc stretched the lead to five before Morant found Anderson inside again to make it 102-95.
Morant's three-pointer from the right elbow made it 105-96 with 44 seconds remaining, sending much of the Washington crowd to the exits.
Click the video at the top of the page to watch Morant notch his first career triple-double