Grizzlies’ Ja Morant (hand) to be game-time call for Game 2
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Grizzlies All-Star point guard Ja Morant will be a game-time decision for Wednesday’s Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers because of bruising in his right hand, coach Taylor Jenkins said Tuesday.
X-rays after the Grizzlies’ loss in Game 1 on Sunday were negative. An MRI on Monday revealed an aggravation of soft tissue bruising in Morant’s hand. The injury was originally suffered in Memphis’ April 7 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, but it was made worse when Morant used his right hand to break his fall after committing a charge against Lakers big man Anthony Davis in the fourth quarter Sunday.
Jenkins said that Morant did some shooting and dribbling with his right hand during Tuesday’s practice and that his “symptoms are slightly improving.”
“He’s progressing,” Jenkins said Tuesday. “He’s dribbling and shooting as much as he can. As I said, he’s got some pain he’s dealing with, so it’s kind of a tolerance thing. He’s got some stiffness in his hand that he’s kind of slowly getting through. We’ll see how he wakes up [Wednesday].”
Morant, who was not made available to the media, is officially listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game. He did not wear a wrap or any extra protection on his hand during Tuesday’s practice, and a Grizzlies staffer wrapped Morant’s hand with ice after practice. He playfully shot with his left hand while teammates went through their normal shooting routines.
Morant, who averaged 26.2 points and 8.1 assists per game during the regular season, did not return after aggravating the injury with 5:48 remaining in the fourth quarter Sunday. He said after the loss that he was in “a good bit of pain” and described his Game 2 availability as “in jeopardy.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said his team would continue to prepare for Game 2 as if Morant will be playing.
“We don’t try to assume anything or try to make any predictions,” Ham said. “We just make sure we cover Plan A, Plan B. Plan A, he plays; Plan B, what type of adjustments they’ll make. And obviously they have their lineups that they play with without him when he’s been hurt in the past. So the biggest thing for us is to more so focus on what we’re doing.”
It is the second consecutive postseason that Morant, who had 18 points, 2 assists and 6 turnovers in the loss to the Lakers, has been injured. A knee injury kept Morant out for the final three games of last season’s Western Conference semifinals against the Golden State Warriors, who won in six games.
The Grizzlies consider Tyus Jones to be the NBA’s best backup point guard and have had success with him filling in for Morant as a starter. Memphis is 32-13 with Jones in the starting lineup over the past two seasons, including 13-9 this season.
The Grizzlies went 6-3 in the nine games Morant missed in March, when he served an eight-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league, allowing them to maintain their grip on the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed despite their superstar’s absence. Jones averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 assists and only 1.3 turnovers per game during that stretch.
“Tyus has been phenomenal when he’s had to step into the starting role,” Jenkins said. “He’ll be prepared if Ja ends up being out for tomorrow. We’ve been down this road before.”
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.