NBA: Lakers outlast Grizzlies in playoff series opener; Morant injured
LOS ANGELES – Japan’s Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score 29 points and the Los Angeles Lakers surged late Sunday to beat Memphis 128-112 in an NBA playoff series opener.
But the Grizzlies suffered their biggest blow when All-Star guard Ja Morant injured his right hand in a fall to the court midway into the fourth quarter and ran to the locker room, his future status uncertain.
The Lakers took a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference best-of-seven opening round series, which continues on Wednesday at Memphis.
Other playoff series openers set for later Sunday include the Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves at Denver Nuggets.
29 PTS, 6 REB, 5 3PM, 11/14 FG 🔥
Lakers take game 1 in Memphis. pic.twitter.com/kocNoHj1X1
— NBA (@NBA) April 16, 2023
Austin Reaves, making his playoff debut, scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers closed with a 30-11 run — scoring 15 consecutive points in one stretch — after Memphis opened the final period with an 11-2 run for a 101-98 lead.
Anthony Davis had 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocked shots for the Lakers while LeBron James contributed 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists and D’Angelo Russell added 19 points and a game-high seven assists.
It was the first time since 1988 the Lakers had four players with 20 or more points in a playoff game.
“(We were) just playing hard,” Reaves said. “We’ve got guys who have been in this position, LeBron, AD, big time players. Rui played hard.
“It was all about just closing the game. We were right there the whole game. It was a game of runs. We’ve got those guys to close games. It was a great team win.”
The most critical moment for Memphis came in the fourth quarter when Morant, his right hand already taped after a late-season injury, went high in the air driving to the basket and fell hand to the court on his right hand.
Morant rose from the hardwood, grabbed his sore hand and screamed as he ran to the locker room.
Jaren Jackson led the Grizzlies with 31 points while Desmond Bane added 22 and Morant scored 18 with six rebounds before leaving early.
Reaves, playing only about a two-hour drive from where he grew up in Arkansas, had family and friends watching his NBA playoff debut.
“This is what you play basketball for,” Reaves said. “To be able to for them in this arena is special. It’s playoff basketball. There’s nothing like it. Everybody plays every possession like it’s their last.”
ESPN reported Sunday that Clippers All-Star guard Paul George was likely to miss the entire Suns series with a sprained right knee.
The Suns are unbeaten in eight games with Kevin Durant in the lineup since obtaining him in a trade deadline deal with Brooklyn.
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