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In his second season, Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant ejected for first time in career

Commercial Appeal Memphis logo Commercial Appeal Memphis 2/27/2021 Evan Barnes, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Feb 26, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dribbles in the first quarter as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and guard Paul George (13) defend at FedExForum. © Nelson Chenault, Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports Feb 26, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dribbles in the first quarter as Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and guard Paul George (13) defend at FedExForum.

How seriously did the Los Angeles Clippers take the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night? Clippers All-Star Kawhi Leonard spent more time guarding Ja Morant than he did Thursday.

Consider it respect from a superstar recognizing a young star's potential. But with Leonard unleashed, the Grizzlies couldn't muster the fight they brought beating the Clippers 24 hours earlier at FedEx Forum.

The Grizzlies lost 119-99 and were held under 100 points for the third time in four games. Morant's frustration - a combination of poor shooting and Clippers defenders - led to the second-year point guard ejected with 2:18 remaining in the game.

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It was his first career ejection and a sign of the Grizzlies' struggles returning a day after the high of one of their biggest wins this season.

Ja Morant had every reason to be upset

Morant had 20 points and five assists but got upset in the fourth quarter when he missed a fastbreak layup and wanted a foul. After the Clippers' Nicolas Batum made a 3-pointer on the next possession, Morant was still mad when the Grizzlies (14-15) called a timeout.

He yelled at a referee and promptly got two technical fouls leading to his dismissal. It was a reminder  from earlier this season when he pointed out he wanted more respect getting to the foul line.

Morant could be angry after shooting just five free throws. But he also could've been frustrated by Leonard and Patrick Beverley hounding him defensively. Morant shot just 7-for-20 from the field and 2-for-6 on 3-pointers.

3-point blues return

The Grizzlies shot 4-for-5 on 3-pointers in the first quarter. They were a dismal 5-23 the rest of the game.

Credit the Clippers (24-11) doing a better job keeping the Grizzlies out of the paint and forcing them to settle for jump shots. The nine 3-pointers were the fourth time in five games the Grizzlies have made fewer than 10 3-pointers in a game.

The Grizzlies' 3-point shooting defense also returned to its poor form. The Clippers shot 40% from 3-point range (14-35) as Leonard, Batum and Paul George made three each.

Poor first-half finish

The Grizzlies closed out the first half on a 10-2 run Thursday. It was the opposite Friday with the Clippers outscoring them 13-1 in the final 2:45 of the half.

Just like the Grizzlies used their first half run to pull away, so did the Clippers, who led by as many as 20 points. The Clippers held the Grizzlies to 54 paint points, compared to 72 points on Thursday, and out-rebounded them 47-37.

Leonard finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Jonas Valanciunas had 22 points and 11 rebounds while De'Anthony Melton added 16 points off the bench.

Up Next

The Grizzlies face the Houston Rockets on Sunday (7 p.m.) to start their final road trip of the first half of the season. The Rockets won the first meeting 115-103 at FedExForum on Feb. 4

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You can reach Evan Barnes on Twitter (@Evan_B) or by email at evan.barnes@commercialappeal.com

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: In his second season, Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant ejected for first time in career

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