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Ja Morant, with blurred vision, matches playoff career-high 47 points as Memphis Grizzlies even series with Golden State Warriors

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 concluded 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.”

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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 consecutive 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 stated 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.”

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New Orleans Saints’ Tre’Quan Smith is latest wide receiver to land on injured reserve

The New Orleans Saints are even thinner at wide receiver after placing Tre’Quan Smith on injured reserve with an ankle injury he sustained in Sunday’s 32-29 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Smith, who is a standout blocker in addition to his pass-catching role, will have to miss at least three matches, including the Saints’ playoff opener.

Saints receivers Michael Thomas (ankle) and Deonte Harris (neck) are already on IR for the remainder of the regular season — though coach Sean Payton stated the goal is for Thomas to be as close to 100% as possible for the start of the playoffs.

“I just felt with Mike it was real clear,” Payton said. “Man, he was grinding and productive and catching eight balls, nine balls. But it wasn’t gonna get better until football stopped, just by the nature of the ankle sprain. And so look, if it was ‘win this one, you get in or not,’ then I think our approach would have been much different. But we’ve got a pretty good feel that he can be closer to his 100% — and I don’t know if it’s exactly his 100% — but closer to full speed. And that’s a tremendous asset for us. And in fairness to him right now, we’ve got a little bit of that luxury.”

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The Saints (10-4) have clinched a playoff spot.

And they can clinch their fourth straight NFC South title with one more win or a loss by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) over the final two weeks. The Saints still have an outside shot at the NFC’s No. 1 seed, but they need help from other teams.

New Orleans has lost two consecutive games, and the lack of receiver depth was noticeable in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City. Drew Brees started 0-for-6 passing for the first time in his career before he tried to rally the Saints back with three touchdown passes.

On a positive note, the Saints activated undrafted rookie receiver Marquez Callaway off the IR list in time for Friday’s game versus the Minnesota Vikings. Callaway caught eight passes for 75 yards in a game earlier this season when the Saints’ receiver position was similarly thinned out. New Orleans’ active receivers for Friday will be Emmanuel Sanders, Callaway, Austin Carr, Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Juwan Johnson.

Smith, a third-round draft pick from Central Florida, set career highs in his third NFL season with 34 catches and 448 yards before sustaining the ankle injury Sunday. He had four touchdown catches — one shy of the five he had in each of his first two seasons.

The Saints also ruled out starting free safety Marcus Williams (ankle) and part-time starting guard Nick Easton (concussion). Guard Andrus Peat (ankle), defensive end Trey Hendrickson (neck) and defensive tackle Malcom Brown (calf) are questionable.

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