Memphis Grizzlies lose Ja Morant to knee injury in 132-100 loss to Atlanta Hawks

Evan Barnes
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant left Friday's game with 3:12 left in the first quarter after appearing to briefly collide with Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins. He was helped to the locker room at FedEx Forum and was ruled out with a left knee injury.

The injury had a direct impact on the game for the Grizzlies in a 132-100 loss. But the focus was on Morant, who returned to the bench in the third quarter in a black hoodie with a visible limp. 

More:How a 90-minute team meeting got Memphis Grizzlies to refocus

More:Grizzlies' Ja Morant gets first Nike commercial, which also spotlights Memphis

Morant's injury becomes main focus

Morant appeared to hit his right knee against Collins but instead he couldn't put pressure on his left knee. FedExForum fell silent as Morant put his arms on assistant coach Darko Rajakovic to be helped to the locker room.

After preliminary imaging, the Grizzlies stated Morant suffered a sprained left knee. No further information was added and Morant will have additional tests to determine a timeline

It might not be the worst news but the Grizzlies (9-10)  will be without their leader and brightest star, who is averaging 25.3 points, 7.1 assists and 5.8 rebounds in a breakthrough season.

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) goes up for a shot during their game at FedExForum on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

"Anytime you see that it obviously takes the wind out of your sails," Jones said. "You try to rally together but everyone knows how big that situation or deal was."

Grizzlies go flat 

The Grizzlies were already in a tough spot against a red-hot Hawks (11-9) team but Morant's injury didn't help. They scored 48 points in the first half and were outscored 43-18 in the third quarter

Jenkins lifted his starters to open the fourth with his team down by 39 points. The Hawks did the same with Trae Young capping his 31-point, 10-assist night with a 3-pointer just before the third quarter buzzer.

Atlanta extended its winning streak to seven games as the Grizzlies lost for the sixth time by more than 20 points.

Memphis Grizzlies center Steven Adams (4) reaches for a loose ball lays during their game at FedExForum on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

Defense still missing

Whether or not Morant is out for an extended period of time, the Grizzlies showed one of their best crowds of the season how their defense is ranked the NBA's worst.

The Hawks were 13-of-27 on 3-pointers on their way to a season-high in points. Young shot 12-for-16 and Clint Capela dominated the interior with 23 points and 17 rebounds.

The Hawks led by as much as 40 points and yet this wasn't the Grizzlies' worst loss of the season. Losing by 43 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves last Saturday was worse but with Morant's injury, this one stings even more.

Bright spots?

There wasn't much to enjoy on the court. Jackson had 14 points and Dillon Brooks added 12 points but combined to shoot 9-for-30 from the field.

John Konchar, who did not play in the first half, had a team-high 17 points as he played the entire fourth quarter. 

Jackson and Brooks will have to carry the offense even more with Morant out. Same goes to Desmond Bane, who had just nine points Friday.

What's next

When Morant missed eight games last season with ankle injury, the Grizzlies relied on their defense to keep them afloat and went 4-4 in games he missed. 

Now they face a task of replacing Morant's offense and still fixing a porous defense. But postgame, the Grizzlies were less worried about that reality and more concerned with how serious his injury is.

Morant might miss weeks instead of months yet his teammates will have to rally for him and for themselves as well.

"He brings a lot to the game, he brings a lot to our team, to people who are riding for him," Jackson said. "For him, that's our brother, I don't want to see anybody hurting. I don't want to see that."

Next up

The Grizzlies host the Sacramento Kings Sunday (5 p.m., Bally Sports Southeast). It'll be the first meeting of the season between the teams. 

Memphis was 3-0 against the Kings last season.

Want to stay informed on the latest Memphis sports news? A Commercial Appeal subscription gets you unlimited access to the best inside information and updates on local sports, and the ability to tap into sports news from throughout the USA TODAY Network's 109 local sites.

You can reach Evan Barnes on Twitter (@Evan_B) or by email at evan.barnes@commercialappeal.com