Grizzlies, minus Ja Morant, down Lakers to level series – rezal404
The Memphis Grizzlies shook off the absence of star guard Ja Morant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 103-93 on Wednesday and knot their NBA Western Conference playoff series at one game apiece.
Xavier Tillman scored 22 points and pulled down 18 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies, who led by as many as 20 points in a bruising battle that saw Lakers center Anthony Davis suffer a small cut on his right eyelid and LeBron James drawn into a verbal back and forth with Dillon Brooks.
With All-Star point guard Morant ruled out with a bruised right hand, the Grizzlies clamped down defensively, Tillman saying their message to Morant was “we’ve got his back, and we’re going to hold it down for him.”
Tillman keyed Memphis’s quick start, connecting on his first six shots and finishing 10-of-13 from the floor.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 16 points on the way to a 59-44 halftime lead as the harried Lakers failed to find a way to get their offense firing.
Davis blocked five shots in the first half goal connected on just one of nine shot attempts. He finished with 13 points on four-of-14 shooting.
James led all scorers with 28 points and Japan’s Rui Hachimura added 20 to become the first Laker to score 20 points off the bench in back-to-back playoff games since Magic Johnson in 1996.
But unlike in game one, there would be no late resurgence for the Lakers, the Grizzlies absorbing the Lakers’ second-half push.
Jaren Jackson Jr., the newly named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, scored 18 points, Desmond Bane added 17 and Brooks chipped in 12. Tyus Jones, starting in place of Morant, added 10 and eight assists.
After the Grizzlies pushed their lead to 20 points early in the third quarter, the Lakers began to push back.
Two baskets and two free throws from James launched a 17-3 Lakers scoring run that sliced the deficit to six points, but that’s as close as they would get the rest of the way.
Now, Tillman said, the Grizzlies will summon a “road warrior mentality” for game three of the best-of-seven series in Los Angeles on Saturday.
The 2022-23 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Jaren Jackson Jr!#KiaDPOY | @Kia pic.twitter.com/iLTWpSSfEq
— NBA (@NBA) April 20, 2023
Antetokounmpo ruled out
Elsewhere the Milwaukee Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo as they tried to claw back a victory against the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, suffered a lower back contusion in the first quarter of the Eastern Conference top seeds’ 130-117 loss in game one on Sunday.
The Bucks, the top seeds in the East and owners of the best regular-season record in the league, had hoped he would be fit to return but he was ruled out less than two hours before tip-off.
“He’s continued to improve,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. “But organizationally, talking and working with him and the sports performance group, a decision was made. Hey’s out.”
Two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, sought to extend their series lead over Minnesota when they hosted the Timberwolves in game two of their Western Conference clash.
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