MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant returned to action Saturday night against the New Orleans Pelicans after missing nine games with right knee pain.
The point guard, the team leader with 27.6 points per game, was announced in the starting lineup shortly before the game. Morant’s return gives Memphis an opportunity to play their starters together ahead of the playoffs.
Memphis holds the second seed in the Western Conference.
Morant, who was listed as questionable in the pregame injury report, hadn’t played since suffering a knee injury March 18 in Atlanta. During that span, the Grizzlies were 7-2, with losses coming in the last two games at Utah and Denver.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said before it was even determined whether Morant would play against New Orleans that no decision had been made regarding Morant’s status for the season finale against Boston on Sunday. .
When asked if Morant would be subject to a minutes restriction against New Orleans, Jenkins replied, “He might not play his playoff minutes. We will be smart. Obviously, we want him to have the best possible journey with the group he plays with.
Morant, who was named an All-Star starter for the first time this season, also averages 6.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds and was a key catalyst in the Grizzlies’ rise near the top of the NBA this season. He also leads the league in points in the paint at 16.8 points, the only top-10 guard in the category mostly dominated by centers and forwards.
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