MEMPHIS, Tenn. — All Ja Morant needed was one good eye to match his playoff career-high of 47 points and even the Memphis Grizzlies’ series with the Golden State Warriors.
Playing with blurred vision in his left eye after being poked in the third quarter, Morant scored the Grizzlies’ final 15 points to lift them to a 106-101 win in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series at FedEx Forum.
Morant finished with a spectacular 47 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds to help Memphis avoid falling behind 0-2 in this best-of-seven series.
He joined LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the only players with multiple 45-point games in the playoffs before turning 23 years old, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
And he did so after leaving the game at the end of the third quarter complaining, « I can’t see. »
« I still can’t [see], » Morant said when asked about his vision. « I can see on the middle. I can’t see on the outside. I got punched trying to get the rebound. »
Morant added: « I got another good eye over here — 20-20 vision right here. Thank God for my right eye. »
The Grizzlies trailed 97-93 with 3:50 remaining when Morant was in the midst of his fourth-quarter takeover. With starter Dillon Brooks ejected in the opening minutes due to a flagrant 2 foul on Gary Payton II, and Jaren Jackson Jr. having fouled out with 3:59 left, Morant scored on a second straight driving layup.
He then buried a 26-foot 3 and a 7-foot floater. Morant also drew a foul on Draymond Green as the two were chasing after a rebound that Green grabbed, but officials called a foul when he bumped into Morant with 49.8 seconds left. Morant made two free throws and then sank another driving floater to push the Grizzlies up 104-101 with 30.7 seconds left.
« I feel like I’ve just watched him transform into a true closer, » power forward Xavier Tillman said.
Morant sealed the game from the free throw line to even it up.
« Definitely big time, » Morant said of where this game ranks for him. « I felt like this was a must-win game for us. For me, I was frustrated with myself missing that layup in Game 1. »
Morant, whose career high is 52 points, was frustrated after missing a driving scoop layup over Klay Thompson and a trailing Payton at the end of Game 1’s 117-116 loss to Golden State.
Morant said Warriors star Stephen Curry told him and Jackson after that loss that « it is going to be a battle. We are going to have some fun. »
As streamers fell from the ceiling after the buzzer on Tuesday night, Morant walked by Curry. He had returned the favor and told Curry, « We are going to have some fun. »
« I was able to return that message tonight, » Morant said.
« …I am having a lot of fun. »