NBA: Yes Morant is running for Dunk of the Year

What a show by Ja Morant! The Grizzlies star only needed three quarters against the Pacers to deliver pure spectacle again. The Sixers give up a comfortable lead before Joel Embiid saves his team with a game winner.

The Celtics turn the game in Charlotte thanks to Jayson Tatum and a strong second half, the Hawks backcourt leads Atlanta to victory in Toronto. And for the Wolves, several heroes shine from the second row.

Miami Heat (24-20) – Milwaukee Bucks (27-16) 111:95 (MATCH REPORT)

Charlotte Hornets (11-33) – Boston Celtics (32-12) 106:122 (BOXSCORE)

  • Things didn’t go according to plan for the Eastern Conference leaders. Jaylen Brown is known to be absent through injury, while Derrick White was forced out early after colliding with his head against Marcus Smart. Boston fell 16 points behind – but a strong second half kept their six-win streak alive.
  • The Hornets sunk almost 58 percent of their field attempts in the first half and sniffed the surprise. However, Boston started the comeback towards the end of the second quarter and then took complete control after the break. Thanks largely to Jayson Tatum, who scored 17 of his 33 points in the third half.
  • The quarter went to the Celts with 33:19, who had a double-digit lead over large parts of the final section, and success was no longer in danger. Tatum ended the game after a mixed start with 12/27 from the field, plus 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Al Horford collected 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, Malcolm Brogdon jumped into the breach from the second row after the absences with a season best of 30 points (11/17 FG). “It speaks to the depth of the team. We have a lot of good guys, everyone can take responsibility,” said Brogdon.
  • For the Hornets, LaMelo Ball put on a good game overall with 31 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds. However, the throw from a distance did not want to fall (1/8 three, a total of 11/27 FG), and he also accumulated 5 turnovers. Terry Rozier had 21 points while PJ Washington had 14. Charlotte has now lost seven of their last eight games.

Indiana Pacers (23-21) – Memphis Grizzlies (29-13) 112:130 (BOXSCORE)

  • This Ja Morant is simply a phenomenon. This chasedown block already brought a lot of top 10 potential with it, but a few minutes later the Grizzlies star topped this highlight himself: Drive to the basket, Morant took off, swung wide, gave Pacers big Jalen Smith a poster and sent the bank freaking out. The early bid for Dunk of the Year ended up being part of a 23-point, 10-assist performance in just 25 minutes en route to an easy win.
  • Memphis is now unbeaten in nine games, and no team currently has a longer winning streak. At the same time, the Grizzlies drew level with the Denver Nuggets, both now leading the Western Conference 29-13. Next to Morant, Desmond Bane was convincing (25, 5/11 threes in 29 minutes), Santi Aldama contributed 17 points from the bench.
  • In the fourth quarter, Morant had long since finished work. His dunk in the middle of the third quarter put the guests at +20, later the lead grew to 34 points. Memphis had laid the foundation for success in the second quarter with a 27:11 run when the guests had a double-digit lead for the first time. The Grizzlies hit 55.2 percent of their field attempts compared to Indiana’s 37 percent.
  • However, the hosts also had to do without Tyrese Haliburton (bruised elbow and knee, about two weeks out) and Myles Turner (back) due to injuries. Indiana didn’t stand a chance without two of the four top scorers. Chris Duarte scored the most points coming off the bench (25, 4/9 threes). Bennedict Mathurin got 16 points, Buddy Hield remained pale (5, 2/8 FG).

Toronto Raptors (19-24) – Atlanta Hawks (21-22) 103:114 (BOXSCORE)

  • After three wins in a row (season high!), the Raptors’ small flight of fancy is already over. The Hawks are trending up after their third win in four games, thanks largely to backcourt duo Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Young led his colors with 29 points and 9 assists, followed by Murray with 27 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
  • Both guards were in a good mood in the first quarter, in contrast to the home side. Toronto missed 12 of their first 13 shots, which Atlanta used to sprint out of the starting block with a 20-3 run. Atlanta shouldn’t give up the lead, even if things got exciting again in the fourth quarter.
  • Chris Boucher reduced the score to 100:107 a good three minutes before the end, but shortly afterwards Pascal fouled Siakam (15, 5/16 FG) and Young and Murray brought home the win with several free throws and an and-one. AJ Griffin also had 13 points off the bench, Onyeka Okongwu grabbed a double-double (10, 13 rebounds).
  • The bright spots for the Raptors were Scottie Barnes (27, 12 rebounds), Boucher (13) and Precious Achiuwa (14). However, far too little came from the Raptors backcourt. Fred VanVleet had a pitch-black evening (3, 1/9 FG), and Gary Trent Jr. (7, 2/7 FG) didn’t do much better either.

Minnesota Timberwolves (22-22) – Cleveland Cavaliers (27-17) 110:102 (BOXSCORE)

  • Speaking of trending upwards. The Wolves have emerged victorious six times in their last seven games, and they owed their success against the Cavs primarily to the strong bench. Although Anthony Edwards was Wolves’ top scorer with 26 points (plus 7 assists and 6 rebounds with 4 turnovers), the reserves dominated in the fourth quarter.
  • The game began with a brief hug between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in their first meeting since the upheaval in Utah last summer. However, the Stifle Tower was only able to play one half before being forced out with a groin problem. But Naz Reid and Luka Garza trumped.
  • After three relatively even quarters, the two Big Men dominated the final section. Reid shook the hall with several dunks, he ended up with 17 points and 7 rebounds. Garza scored 7 of his 9 points in the fourth quarter, which also featured Jaylen Nowell (16 overall). The section went to the Wolves with 33:22, the duel of the benches with a total of 56:27 to the home side.
  • Cleveland couldn’t keep up, because the starters didn’t find their rhythm either, especially Mitchell, who was ailing due to illness, remained pale (14, 6 assists, 5/16 FG and 2/9 three-pointers). Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley were the team’s top scorers with 19 points each, while Darius Garland scored 15 points. A nice scene happened midway through the first quarter when both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio were brought on by the Cavs. Both ex-Wolves were received with warm applause and sometimes standing ovations in their old homeland.

Utah Jazz (22-24) – Philadelphia 76ers (26-16) 117:118 (BOXSCORE)

  • The Sixers stars were there when Philly needed it most. The guests from the city of brotherly love were threatened with bitter bankruptcy despite a 20-point lead in the meantime. But in the final section, James Harden gave the Jazz 18 points and Joel Embiid finally had the last word in the back and forth in crunch time.
  • The Sixers dominated the first quarter (41-24) and seemed on course for an easy win against a decimated Jazz. The home side were without Lauri Markkanen, who was absent with a bruised hip. But Jordan Clarkson led the comeback with 38 points (16/29 FG), supported by Talen Horton-Tucker (20) or Walker Kessler (15, 12 rebounds, 7/7 FG).
  • The game was balanced again until the end. Although Harden was now on fire (4/6 threes in the fourth quarter), Utah was able to keep up thanks to Clarkson’s 17 points that run. In the final minute, the game finally turned into a thriller. 33 seconds before the end, Kessler gave his team the first lead of the evening with a tip-in. Harden and Clarkson each traded buckets, then The Beard served Embiid in the post. Center went for the buttery smooth stepback fadeaway jumper that put Philly back in the lead with 5 seconds left.
  • Clarkson got one last chance, but was doubled on the touchline and couldn’t get a good throw off. In the end, the Sixers celebrated their sixth win in eight games. Harden was the Sixers top scorer with 31 points (11/19 FG, plus 11 assists), Embiid followed with 30 points. Tyrese Maxey (21) and Shake Milton (17) also scored well.

Portland Trail Blazers (20-22) – Dallas Mavericks (24-20) 136:119 (MATCH REPORT)

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