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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Grizzlies sink Lakers, Bucks scorch Heat to tie series

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The Memphis Grizzlies shook off the absence of star guard Ja Morant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 103-93 on Wednesday and tie their Western Conference playoff series, as the Milwaukee Bucks thrashed Miami to square their Eastern Conference series.

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.”

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 but 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 from 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.

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 Grizzlies’ Brooks made no apology for trash-talking James.

“I don’t care — he’s old,” Brooks said of the 38-year-old James. “I poke bears.”

– No Giannis, no problem –

The Milwaukee Bucks barely noticed the injury absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo as they crushed the Miami Heat 138-122 to level their series at one game apiece.

With the talismanic Antetokounmpo missing after suffering a lower-back contusion in Sunday’s game-one defeat, the top-seeded Bucks delivered a balanced offensive effort to overwhelm Miami.

The Bucks led from early in the first quarter and never looked back, sprinting out of reach after outscoring Miami 45-27 in the second quarter to lead by a whopping 81-55 at half-time.

Milwaukee kept the scoring up in the third quarter, extending their lead to 36 points at one stage to make victory a formality.

Brook Lopez led the way for Milwaukee with 25 points while Jrue Holiday added 24 points as no fewer than seven Bucks players finished in double figures.

“All season long guys have been in and out of the line-up, different guys have been stepping up and having those moments,” said the Bucks’ Bobby Portis, who finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.

“Playoffs is all about moments, and we’ve got guys capable of having those moments. We’ve just got to keep it rolling,” Portis added.

Milwaukee did severe damage from outside the arc, shooting an astounding 25-of-49 from three-point range to tie an NBA playoff record.

Jimmy Butler led the Miami scorers with 25 points while Bam Adebayo finished with 18.

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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