The Atlanta Hawks get a chance to avenge one of their most lopsided losses of the season when they visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
The game is a rematch of a 127-88 Grizzlies romp at Atlanta on Monday, a game in which the highly anticipated first meeting between young standout guards Ja Morant and Trae Young fizzled miserably.
Morant wasn’t asked to do a whole lot. He had 13 points in 24 minutes and was complemented by eight teammates scoring in double figures as the Grizzlies matched their largest winning margin of the season.
Young got the better of the individual battle against Morant with 19 points in 29 minutes, but his 5-for-17 performance from the field was typical of the Hawks’ shooting woes on a night when they finished at 32.3 percent and ran up their third-largest margin of defeat this season.
Meanwhile, Memphis wound up shooting 50 percent from the floor.
In the end, Morant seemed humbled just to be on the same court as Young, already an All-Star starter, and came away impressed even if his rival hadn’t been at his best.
“He’s a special talent,” Morant said after the game. “I’m pretty sure everybody knows what he’s doing. Torching the league right now. It was one of those next-generation games.”
Both teams will be playing Saturday on the second night of back-to-backs, but Young might not be playing at all.
He sat out Atlanta’s 118-112 road loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday due to an illness. It’s a bit iffy if he’ll face the Grizzlies.
Meanwhile, Memphis’ three-game winning streak came to an end Friday night in Dallas, where the Grizzlies lost 121-96 to the Mavericks.
If there was a silver lining in the defeat, it was that the game became so one-sided in the second half, no Grizzlies starter was asked to play more than 32 minutes.
Morant was the guy who went 32. He totaled just 11 points.
At their best, Young vs. Morant ranks as a marquee matchup even in a game pitting two losing teams.
Young, the fifth pick of the 2018 draft, averaged 19.1 points last season while leading the Hawks to 29 wins, five more than they recorded the previous year.
The 21-year-old has raised his game significantly in Year 2, currently averaging 29.6 points per game.
However, the Hawks haven’t taken a similar stride forward. In fact, their current .297 winning percentage (19-45) is much closer to 2018 (.293) than last season (.354).
The Hawks’ highlight at Washington was that Cam Reddish, Atlanta’s lottery pick last June, went for a season-best 28 points.
Selected second overall by the Grizzlies last offseason, Morant has rookie numbers that are comparable with Young’s last year. He is averaging 17.6 points and seven assists.
The 20-year-old’s impact is being felt in the win column, where Memphis (31-32) needs just two more wins to equal last year’s total. The Grizzlies’ .492 winning percent is much improved over last season’s .402.
Young left the Atlanta arena Monday night looking forward to getting a rematch, because he understands the significance of the infrequent point guard duels. The Hawks and Grizzlies meet just twice a season.
“Obviously, the top point guards in our league have done great things for a long time,” he said after the game. “There’s a new wave coming through. And we both know that we could be the head of that new generation.”
–Field Level Media