With Ja Morant sidelined, Memphis Grizzlies win 128-101 over Sacramento Kings

Evan Barnes
Memphis Commercial Appeal

It was hard to tell what was more entertaining Sunday – the Memphis Grizzlies in transition or Tee Morant's friendly banter with Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield.

With Ja Morant sidelined by a sprained knee, the Grizzlies played more uptempo, getting out on fastbreaks. Across the team's bench, Morant's father, Tee, had fun trash talking Hield, something he's done with other players.

The mood was lighter than expected with Morant out, and it was what the Grizzlies needed without their leader. They kept things fast and loose, running away from the Kings for a 128-101 win at FedExForum.

Even Morant was relaxed eating snacks out of a styrofoam cup after the third quarter. Here's what we learned from the blowout performance.

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Desmond Bane at point guard?

Desmond Bane played point guard in summer league, but with Morant out for a "couple of weeks" per coach Taylor Jenkins, Bane will be the team's primary No. 2 ballhandler after Tyus Jones.

For one night, things worked. Bane often deferred to Jones but was comfortable initiating the offense with Jones on the bench. He also had no trouble getting his shot with 15 of his 18 points coming in the first half.

Time will tell how effective this is against a better defense. Jones had eight assists, but Bane passed his first test at point guard.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) handles the ball against Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Fastbreak and paint diet

The Kings might have one of the league's fastest players in De'Aaron Fox, but the Grizzlies (10-10) dominated in transition.

The Grizzlies had 17 fastbreak points and made the Kings look lost trying to keep up. They also dominated the paint with 72 points to the Kings' 36. Steven Adams had only three points but countered that with 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Perhaps the Kings (8-13) were tired from their triple-overtime win Friday against the Lakers. If so, the Grizzlies couldn't complain being the faster and more physical team.

Tee Morant vs. Buddy Hield

Ja Morant was in a yellow Nike tech jumpsuit staying engaged on the sidelines, whether yelling plays or giving advice at timeouts. But it was his father, Tee, providing just as much entertainment.

Starting in the second quarter, he started talking at Hield. It was hard to make out every word but every so often, he'd laugh and roll to his side at his latest barb. 

Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) drives against Memphis Grizzlies guard De'Anthony Melton (0) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

It kept going in the second half with Morant sending more words to Hield and Tristan Thompson. But it was all good fun compared to another fan near him who was ejected in the fourth quarter.

Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry asked one of the referees to remove the fan for inappropriate comments. The fan left, returned and then was removed again. It reminded that while friendly banter like what Morant did is fine, fans going too far can't and shouldn't be tolerated.

Sharing the scoring

The Grizzlies scored 76 first-half points. It wasn't surprising since they scored 71 in the first half on Wednesday but without Morant, they relied on balanced shooting and had 30 assists, only their second game with at least that many this season.

Dillon Brooks had 21 points, and in his first seven games back, he's had four 20-point games. Jaren Jackson had 17 points after scoring 13 in the third quarter. Brandon Clarke had 15 points off the bench, and De'Anthony Melton added 14. 

That's the balance the Grizzlies had when Morant missed eight games last year. More importantly, they were better on defense with a season-high 11 blocks. The Kings' 101 points was tied for the second-fewest allowed by the Grizzlies all season.

A strange week ends

The win caps a weird week for the Grizzlies. How else can you explain a come-from-behind win at Utah on Monday, a second half collapse, a 34-point blowout loss and a 27-point win in a six-day span.

"Honestly, I can't. We just got to find a way to be more consistent," Melton said. "There's a lot of games, we got 82 of them, so we got to understand consistency is important in the league."

After Sunday, the Grizzlies are 5-1 after losing by at least 20 points the previous game. It's hard to understand but perhaps part of this team's identity for now is watching them figure out what that identity is.

Next Up

The Grizzlies face the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., Bally Sports Southeast). It'll be their first trip to Canada since January 2019.

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