Ja Morant's gravity-defying playstyle leaves fans in awe night in and night out. But what the 22-year-old did against the Lakers Sunday took it to next level. During his latest episode of The Old Man and The Three, JJ Redick couldn't resist talking about it.
Morant's highlight plays vs. Lakers
With just under seven minutes left in the first quarter, after committing a turnover on one end, the Grizzlies star chased down Lakers' point guard Avery Bradley and skied for a two-handed block of the year frontrunner. Ja hit his elbow on the backboard but managed to pick up the ball to lead Memphis' fastbreak, striking a chord with the entire Crypto.com Arena.
At the start of the third quarter, Morant did it again, this time with a dunk. He threw down an electrifying alley-oop, worthy of a slam dunk contest, to put his team up 17. The Grizzlies went on to beat the Lakers 127-119 for a franchise-record ninth straight win, 28th overall, which puts them as the fourth seed in the Western Conference 42 games into the season.
"Two of the most athletic plays ever"
Morant's highlights against the Lakers, most notably the block, sparked reactions from the entire NBA community. The consensual feeling was that Ja's swat on Bradley is up there with the best plays of the year, certainly on the defensive end. But JJ Redick took it a step further.
Ja Morant's block and then dunk are two of the most athletic plays I've ever seen a 6-1 player make. The block certainly was just incredible. It was actually mind-blowing. It didn't seem real when I was watching it.
JJ Redick, The Old Men and The Three
Morant's plays tend to have such an effect. That's mostly the case when he's attacking the rim. But his block against the Lakers proves Ja's unmatched athleticism can be utilized on both ends of the floor. And the outcome is always the same -- his name on top of NBA's Top 10 lists.
But three years into his NBA run, it's clear Morant is much more than a human highlight reel. This season alone, he's averaging 24.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.7 assists on 49% from the floor. More importantly, his numbers translate to wins, turning the Grizzlies from a group that strayed into last year's playoffs to a serious contender for home-court advantage come this year's postseason.
"That team is so impressive to me," Redick said. "It goes back to guys starring in their roles. They just dismantled the Lakers, a top-heavy talent team, but the Grizzlies are another team where everyone understands their role and they star in it."
What is the ceiling for the Grizzlies this season? It's hard to say, but a better playoff performance than last year's five-game first-round loss to the Jazz might be a guarantee. As far as Ja's concerned, Kendrick Perkins said his ceiling is Jordan-esque. Whether you agree with Perk or not, there's no denying the two at least have something in common, and that's their athletic ability.
So at least one moment from Ja's three-year NBA career was Jordan-esque. The rest of it -- we can't wait to see.