On Sunday, two title chances almost fell apart when NBA playoff stars Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee and Ja Morant of Memphis both went down with season-ending injuries in the first games of their respective series losses.
The top-seeded host Bucks, who lost their Greek star in the first quarter, dropped 130-117 to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat, while the Los Angeles Lakers took advantage of Morant’s absence late in the fourth quarter for a late charge that secured a 128-112 victory at Memphis.
Losses in the first game of the best-of-seven opening round at home increased concerns about the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Morant, two of the NBA’s most entertaining talents.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to an NBA-best 58-24 record with an average of 31.1 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, while Morant led the Grizzlies with an average of 26.2 points and a 51-31 record.
Midway in the fourth quarter, Morant injured his already sore right hand while trying to cushion a hard landing after contact while driving to the hoop.
The blow was absorbed by Morant’s taped right hand. After scoring 18 points, Morant got up and sprinted to the locker room, where he grabbed his injured hand and yelled.
Los Angeles Clippers defeat Phoenix Suns
The Los Angeles Clippers won the first game of the series 115-110 in Phoenix thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter explosion by Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 38 points.
Russell Westbrook finished with nine points, ten rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks, the greatest of which came in the waning seconds against Devin Booker to help secure the win.
Kevin Durant’s first loss with the Suns came despite his first triple-double (27 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds).
Paul George, a forward with the Clippers, has a damaged right knee and is doubtful to return until at least the second round.
During the Lakers’ final 30-11 run, Japanese reserve Rui Hachimura tied an NBA playoff record for scoring by a bench player with 29 points.
Desmond Bane of the Memphis Grizzlies remarked, “It was arguably the finest game he has had in his career” in reference to Hachimura. Let’s give him until Wednesday to try it again.
As Memphis started the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 101-98 lead, Lakers rookie Austin Reaves responded with 14 of his team’s 23 points.
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis scored 22 points, grabbed 12 boards, and blocked seven shots. LeBron James added 21 points, 11 boards, and five dimes, and D’Angelo Russell chipped in 19 points and a game-high seven assists.
For the first time since the 1988 playoffs, four different Lakers scored in double figures.
Jamal Murray scored 24 points and dished out eight assists as the top-seeded Denver Nuggets routed the Minnesota Timberwolves 109-80 in their season opener.
Denver’s Michael Porter Jr. scored 18 points, and Anthony Edwards scored 18 for Minnesota.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who missed more than half the season with a sore calf, shot poorly for the first 12 of his Timberwolves’ shots but eventually scored 11 points.
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