NBA

Grizzlies spoil Draymond Green's return

By Sports Desk January 16, 2024

The Memphis Grizzlies got career-best scoring performances from Vince Williams Jr. and GG Jackson to overcome a slew of injured players and spoil Draymond Green's return to the Golden State Warriors' lineup in Monday's 116-107 win.

Williams amassed 24 points and seven rebounds and Jackson contributed 23 points off the bench on a night Memphis was without three of its top four scorers for the season in Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart.

Both players recorded eight fourth-quarter points as the Grizzlies pulled away late to halt a two-game losing streak and hand the reeling Warriors an eighth loss in 11 games.

Green had seven points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes in his first appearance in just over a month. The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year had just completed serving an indefinite NBA suspension for striking Phoenix Suns centre Jusuf Nurkic in the face on Dec. 12.

The Warriors owned a 91-90 lead following Stephen Curry's go-ahead 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, but Memphis responded with a 16-5 run to break the game open. 

Jackson, who finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range, had two triples during the surge, which Luke Kennard capped with a 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a 106-96 advantage with 7:20 left.

Golden State never got closer than seven points behind the rest of the way.

Curry led the Warriors with 26 points and Jonathan Kuminga delivered 20 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

Mavericks down rival Pelicans behind big games from Irving, Hardaway

Kyrie Irving and Tim Hardaway Jr. each eclipsed the 40-point mark while rallying the Dallas Mavericks to a 125-120 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, a win that created a two-way tie atop the Southwest Division between the teams.

The Mavericks overcame a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter and another absence from superstar Luka Dončić to avenge Saturday’s 118-110 home loss to the Pelicans.

Irving and Hardaway more than made up for Doncic missing a third straight game with a sprained ankle. Irving scored 24 of his 42 points in the second half, while Hardaway had 11 of his season-high 41 points during a fourth quarter in which Dallas outscored New Orleans by a 33-21 margin.

The Pelicans held a 111-104 lead with seven minutes left before Dallas took control with a 17-4 run. Hardaway hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the pivotal spurt, the second of which gave the Mavericks a 112-111 edge with 4:16 remaining.

Jalen Green’s 3-pointer with 1:27 left to play extended Dallas’ advantage to 121-115, though New Orleans answered with five straight points to cut its deficit to one with 17.7 seconds remaining.

Irving then hit two free throws on the ensuing possession, and after the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram missed a potential game-tying 3-point attempt, Maxi Kleber made two foul shots to seal the win and pull Dallas even with New Orleans in the standings.

Zion Williamson led the Pelicans with 30 points and CJ McCollum had 23 in the loss, though Ingram went just 3 of 14 from the field while finishing with 12 points.

Jazz extend winning streak with rout of Pacers

Lauri Markkanen put up 32 points and 10 rebounds as the resurgent Utah Jazz continued their recent winning ways with a 132-105 rout of the short-handed Indiana Pacers.

The Jazz cruised to their sixth consecutive victory behind the hot shooting of Markkanen and Collin Sexton, who went 11 of 17 from the field while scoring a season-high 30 points to go along with five assists. Markkanen made 10 of 15 field goal attempts and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the foul line.

After getting off to a 7-16 start, Utah has won 15 of its last 19 games to move up to ninth place in the Western Conference.

The Pacers lost their second in a row while playing a fourth straight game without star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, out with a hamstring injury. Indiana was also without two other key contributors in guard Bruce Brown and 3-point specialist Aaron Nesmith due to injuries.

Indiana's depleted lineup proved to be no match, as the Jazz took a 33-26 lead after one quarter and increased it to 64-50 at half-time behind 17 points from Sexton and 15 from Markkanen.

Utah maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way, with its lead swelling to 29 points in the final stages.

Buddy Hield and Andrew Nembhard each had 14 points to lead Indiana.

 

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    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 points in just one half of action to lead seven Oklahoma City players in double figures as the Thunder clinched the Western Conference's No. 1 seed with a 135-86 rout of the depleted Dallas Mavericks in Sunday's regular-season finale.

    The Thunder, who missed the postseason in each of the previous three seasons, earned the conference's top spot for the first time since 2012-13 after winning a tiebreaker with the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets. Both teams finished with 57–25 records, but Oklahoma City won three of the four meetings between the clubs. 

    Oklahoma City rested most of its starting five for the entire second half after building an insurmountable 82-41 lead over Dallas, which held out stars Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving and two other starters with its playoff seed already known.

    The Mavericks were locked into the West's No. 5 seed and will face the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in the quarterfinals.

    Oklahoma City shot 60.7 per cent in the first quarter to own a 39-22 advantage after 12 minutes, then overwhelmed Dallas' makeshift lineup in the second to put the game already out of reach.

    The Thunder outscored the Mavericks by a 43-19 margin for the period, with reserve Aaron Wiggins leading the way with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

    Wiggins finished with 14 points and Chet Holmgren had 13 along with nine rebounds before also sitting out the second half.

    Brandon Williams paced Dallas with 22 points, while rookie Olivier Maxence-Prosper had 15 points and eight rebounds for the Mavericks.

     

    Suns thump Timberwolves to avoid play-in round

    In another of the West's pivotal games on the season's final day, the Phoenix Suns secured a spot in the quarterfinals with a 125-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves to set up a first-round clash between the teams.

    Phoenix's win coupled with New Orleans' 124-108 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday moved the Suns ahead of the Pelicans for the West's No. 6 seed. New Orleans will now host the Lakers once again on Tuesday in the play-in round.

    Minnesota entered the day tied with Oklahoma City and Denver for the West's top record, but fell to the No. 3 seed and will face the Suns in the best-of-seven quarterfinals.

    Phoenix set up the rematch behind a big performance from Bradley Beal, who made all six of his 3-point attempts while tallying 36 points. The Suns also received 23 points and seven assists from Devin Booker and 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from Grayson Allen.

    Beal set the tone right from the start, as he dropped in 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter as Phoenix took a commanding 44-22 lead into the second.

    The Suns maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way, with Minnesota never getting its deficit under 10 points over the final three quarters.

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    Knicks outlast Bulls in overtime to secure East's No. 2 seed

    Jalen Brunson's 40 points and some big shots from his supporting cast catapulted the New York Knicks into the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed with a 120-119 overtime win over the Chicago Bulls.

    The Knicks leapfrogged the Milwaukee Bucks in the standings after rallying from an eight-point deficit with nine minutes left in regulation and then holding off Chicago during the final stages of overtime. Brunson added eight rebounds and seven assists, while Donte DiVincenzo recorded 25 points and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 13 points off the bench.

    Milwaukee finished one game back of New York following Sunday's 113-88 loss to Orlando, a result that enabled the Magic to avoid the play-in round. The Bucks would have won the tiebreaker with the Knicks had the teams ended with identical records.

    New York appeared on the verge of defeat when down 90-82 early in the fourth quarter, but the Knicks scored 14 of the game's next 20 points to draw even.

    A Bogdanovic 3-pointer with 6:48 left cut Chicago's lead to 94-93, and after DeMar DeRozan's jumper gave the Bulls some breathing room, DiVincenzo knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 96-96 with five minutes to go.

    Chicago took a 109-107 edge on Coby White's layup with 1:19 remaining in regulation, but Brunson answered with a short jumper on the ensuing possession and neither team could score in the final minute.

    After the Bulls' Alex Caruso opened overtime with a 3-pointer, New York scored seven straight points to own a 116-112 advantage with 2:27 left.

    Chicago, which entered the contest already locked into the play-in round as the East's No. 9 seed, continued to battle back before missing out on a chance to win at the end.

    Caruso's layup with 14.4 seconds on the clock brought the Bulls within 120-119 before DiVincenzo turned the ball over on the next possession. Chicago then got the ball to DeRozan, who couldn't get a short jumper to fall with 2.8 seconds left as the Knicks held on.

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    The Spurs have a 21-60 record on the season, and sit 14th in the Western Conference.

    Wembanyama has nevertheless enjoyed a fine rookie season in the NBA, having been selected as the No.1 overall pick in last year's Draft.

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    Wembanyama has played 71 times for the Spurs, who he helped to overcome the Denver Nuggets on Friday, finishing with 34 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

    After that game, the 20-year-old said: "As a growing team, a young team, it's big for us.

    "We're going to need these kind of wins in the future. We're going to need any win. But big-time wins against big teams, first seeds, we're going to need those in the future.

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    The New York Knicks are under no illusions as to the importance of securing home-court advantage for the Eastern Conference playoffs, with Friday's win over the Brooklyn Nets keeping them in the hunt for the second seed.

    The Knicks drew level with the Milwaukee Bucks at 49-32 with their 111-107 win at Madison Square Garden, boosting their chances of playing at the iconic venue through the postseason.

    Jalen Brunson put up 30 points and added 11 assists as the Knicks made it four straight victories, with Josh Hart adding 16 and Mitchell Robinson tacking on 15.

    The result saw New York secure a top-four seed, with the Bucks' subsequent 125-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder keeping their chances of finishing second in the East alive.

    With the Bucks possessing the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Knicks must beat the Chicago Bulls in their season finale on Sunday and hope Milwaukee lose on the road against the Orlando Magic. If both teams lose, the Cleveland Cavaliers could yet usurp them.

    Asked about the importance of playing at home, Hart said: "I heard the lights are really bright at MSG during that time, so it's really big for us."

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    With Giannis Antetokounmpo sidelined by a left calf injury and Damian Lillard missing out due to pain in his left adductor, the short-handed Bucks let the Knicks into the race with their loss at Paycom Center.

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 23 points and Chet Holmgren added 22 as the Thunder eased to victory, establishing a 17-point halftime lead which they never looked likely to surrender.

    Asked about Milwaukee's failure to wrap up second place, Bucks coach Doc Rivers said: "I don't have much of a reaction. We've got to run to the finish line.

    "The good news is, no matter what, we'll be at home for game one. That we do know."

    That result was also an important one in the race to top the Western Conference, with the Thunder now locked in a three-way tie with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets.

    It's in Oklahoma City's hands going into their season finale against the Dallas Mavericks, with Mark Daigneault's team edging the three-way tiebreaker.

    "I think the big exponential jumps come from small incremental steps," Daigneault said after Friday's game. "I talk all the time about stacking and we really are trying to live that out. 

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