Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant made his season debut against the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday a memorable one after returning from a 25-game suspension.
Morant capped off a 34-point performance with a clutch game-winner at the buzzer to complete a 24-point comeback. He added six rebounds and eight assists on the night.
Morant’s clutch fourth-quarter play handed the Grizzlies a late lead for the first time since early in the second quarter. He was a main contributor to Memphis’ 62 points in the paint, including the final bucket.
On the last play of the game, Morant suggested that Jaren Jackson Jr. get a post-up for the potential game-winning shot. But Desmond Bane had other plans.
“He told me, ‘F— no, you get the ball,'” Morant said, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “So at that point, I pretty much just had to lock in and go deliver. And I did.”
“That was crazy,” said Jackson. “I’m glad I was a part of it. I’m glad I was in the game to witness it.”
The Grizzlies also got major contributions from their two leading scorers this season, with Jackson scoring 24 and Bane adding 21.
“I had a lot of time to learn myself, a lot of hard days where I went through it,” Morant told TNT’s Stephanie Ready postgame. “Basketball is my life, what I love, therapeutic for me, and I’m just excited to be back.”
Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram led the charge for New Orleans, dropping 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting.
The league suspended Morant in June after he posed with a firearm in a car during a livestreamed video in May. The 24-year-old was previously suspended eight games for displaying a firearm in another livestream while intoxicated.
The Grizzlies compiled a 6-19 record in Morant’s absence and had lost five games in a row heading into Tuesday’s contest in New Orleans.
Memphis earned the West’s No. 2 seed in back-to-back seasons with Morant leading the way but is tied for the league’s fourth-worst record this year.
Morant averaged 26.2 points per game last season, along with a career-high 8.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds. He’s been named an All-Star in each of the last two campaigns.