Ja Morant was a force of nature in the second half against Portland in the NBA’s play-in game, scoring 24 of his 35 points on the day, slashing into the paint, setting up teammates, and nearly willing Memphis to a win that would have forced a second play-in game.
He did it all with a fractured thumb.
Morant said it happened against Toronto in the seeding games and he played through it. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“For the past four games, since the Raptors game, I was out there playing with a fractured thumb,” Morant said Saturday.
There are no details on exactly what kind of fracture, but it was minor enough that the Grizzlies sent their young star out to play. (It may be an avulsion fracture, near a ligament in the thumb, that would heal quickly and have no long-term impact.)
The soon-to-be Rookie of the Year played against Portland with a black brace that wrapped around his right hand and protecting his thumb. That is his shooting hand. Morant shot 13-of-28 for the game, with just nine of those shots coming outside the paint (he hit four). Portland went under every pick, dropped its big man, and dared Morant to shoot jumpers, but in the second half Morant just used that space as a runway to gain momentum for his drives into the paint.
Morant was more upset about losing than his thumb.
“I can say I’m disappointed, definitely, with losing,” Morant said. “Nobody likes to lose. But I mean, the positive side, we know we were right there. Just were two games away [from the playoffs]. So, we know we just go back to work and just get ready for next season.”
A Morant that improves this offseason should scare the rest of the league.