Ja Morant on Rudy Gobert Block: I’m Not Afraid... I Was Right Back Inside the Paint

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 26: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz blocks Ja Morant #12 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the game during Round 1, Game 2 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2021 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant was undeterred by a highlight-reel block from Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert during Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday.

During the second quarter of an eventual 141-129 win for the Jazz, Gobert rejected Morant, who was rising up for what he hoped to be an emphatic dunk:


😳 RIM PROTECTOR RUDY GOBERT! 😳 #NBAPlayoffs on TNT pic.twitter.com/PL9K4Wl3p4

Morant said the following after the game: "I'm not afraid. That's his job: to protect the rim. My job when I'm attacking the rim is to go finish. So obviously, he got a good block. But as you [saw] throughout the game, I was right back inside the paint."

Although Morant enjoyed a star-making performance with 47 points, the top-seeded Jazz still managed to knot the series at 1-1.

Morant clearly didn't go into a shell after the reverse posterization, as he continued to attack and kept the Grizzlies in the game throughout.

All told, Ja made 15 of the 26 shots he attempted and got to the free-throw line a remarkable 20 times, making 15 of them.

Jazz head coach Quin Snyder was among those who marveled at what Morant accomplished Wednesday, saying: "He doesn't quit. He embraces being down 20. For him to be as good as he is at this age is special. He's going to get better and better."

Morant is in his second NBA season and first playoff run. His 73 points in his first two career playoff games are the second-most in NBA history behind only Hall of Famer George Mikan, who totaled 75 points in his first two postseason contests in 1949.

However, that wasn't enough to push the Grizzlies to a 2-0 series lead, as the Jazz were much improved in Game 2 thanks to the return of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who missed Game 1 with an ankle injury.

Mitchell scored a team-high 25 points, while Gobert pitched in 21 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three assists and was arguably Utah's best player. Mike Conley added 20 points and 15 assists.

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year's block on Morant is the play everyone is talking about, but Gobert was a force throughout the game, and he may be the biggest key to Utah winning the series and going on a deep playoff run.

As for the Grizzlies, head coach Taylor Jenkins will need more out of his depth players if Memphis is going to pull off the first-round upset. The Grizzlies' bench scored only 14 points, a big reason why Morant's 47-point effort was squandered.

Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.