LOS ANGELES — Former Crestwood High School standout Ja Morant led the Memphis Grizzlies with 22 points on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough to lead them to a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Luke Kennard scored a season-high 28 points as the short-handed Clippers rallied from an 18-point, first-quarter deficit to beat Memphis 117-105.
Morant connected on nine of 15 shots from the floor, including going 4-for-6 from behind the 3-point line. Interestingly, Morant, a 73% free throw shooter entering the game, missed all four of his attempts.
Morant finished with six rebounds, four assists and one steal.
Marcus Morris added 25 points and Terance Mann had 19 points in helping the Clippers win their third in a row and 10th in 11 games despite being without starters Kawhi Leonard (sore foot), Paul George and Reggie Jackson, who both rested.
"It just comes down to heart, wanting to compete for 48 minutes," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. "We don't want to make excuses. A lot of teams are down players and finding ways to compete. That's what we want to do."
Jaren Jackson Jr. made his season debut for the Grizzlies, with 15 points and eight rebounds to go with five fouls off the bench. He'd been out since August after having surgery on his left meniscus and missing the first 56 games.
"When I checked in, I couldn't help but laugh a little bit," Jackson said. "Just being out there in general was the win for me. While I was out there, I was just having fun."
After being dominated in the first half, the Clippers took their first lead with about three minutes left in the third, when they hit 12 of 17 free throws. Kennard scored 10 points, including six in a row, and Mann dunked off a pass from Yogi Ferrell to send them into the fourth leading 87-82.
"I saw T-Mann pointing his finger and I just threw it up over the rim," Ferrell said.
The Grizzlies got to 90-89 early in the fourth, but the Clippers pulled away down the stretch. They got consecutive baskets by Ferrell, newly signed to a 10-day contract, and two-way player Amir Coffey, who made his first start. Kennard hit his sixth 3-pointer, tying his career high.
"We lost our pace there in the second half," Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. "We were fouling too much and they were scoring."
It was the exact opposite in the first half.
The Grizzlies came out firing, shooting 70% and building an 18-point lead in the first quarter. They cooled off to 56% in the second, when the Clippers reduced their deficit to 62-53 at halftime.
Jackson came off the bench and hit a 3-pointer midway through the first. His one-handed jam in the second drew shouts from his bench mates.
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