NBA injury fears for Giannis, Morant as Lakers, Heat win
Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Memphis star guard Ja Morant suffered serious injuries that threatened to disrupt two title contenders on Sunday in NBA playoff series-opening defeats.
The Los Angeles Lakers took advantage of Morant’s absence late in the fourth quarter for a late surge that produced a 128-112 victory at Memphis while the top-seeded host Bucks, who lost their Greek star in the first quarter, fell 130-117 to the eighth-seeded Miami Heat.
But injury fears for Antetokounmpo and Morant, two of the NBA’s most electrifying stars, were amplified by upset home losses for their clubs in best-of-seven first round openers.
Antetokounmpo averaged 31.1 points and 11.8 rebounds a game this season for an NBA-best 58-24 Bucks squad while Morant averaged 26.2 points for a Grizzlies team that was 51-31.
Morant hurt his already-sore right hand midway into the fourth quarter trying to brace a hard landing after contact while driving to the basket.
Morant’s taped right hand took the impact. Morant rose and ran off to the locker room, grabbing his sore hand and screaming as he exited after scoring 18 points.
“I’m in a good bit of pain,” Morant said after the game, declaring his status was “in jeopardy” for game two on Wednesday. “Feels like it’s one thing after another.”
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said after the game that x-rays on Morant’s right hand were negative but he would likely be kept out of workouts, his status “one game at a time.”
At Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo went onto the floor in the first quarter after defensive contact on a move to the hoop and suffered a lower back bruise that ended his night with game two in Milwaukee on Wednesday.
“We’ll monitor him,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who added an x-ray came back “clear” on Antetokounmpo.
“We have to wait and see what the doctors say… you’ve got to take it day by day and see how he’s doing and how he feels.”
The Heat, among the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting teams this season, made 15-of-25 from beyond the arc at Milwaukee.
While the Bucks had gone 11-8 in games without Antetokounmpo this season, the Heat led by as many as 15 points with the big man gone.
Miami suffered its own injury setback when guard Tyler Herro broke his right hand diving for a loose ball in the second quarter. He’s expected to be out four to six weeks after averaging 20.1 points this season.
Jimmy Butler led Miami with 35 points and 11 assists. Gabe Vincent was 4-of-5 from 3-point range and Kevin Love was 4-of-7 on 3-pointers.
With Antetokounmpo scoring only eight points, Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 33 points.
Clippers defeat Suns
Kawhi Leonard scored 13 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Los Angeles Clippers to a 115-110 victory at Phoenix in their series opener.
Russell Westbrook had nine points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots, the biggest on Devin Booker in the final seconds to help seal victory.
Kevin Durant had 27 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds but suffered his first loss since joining the Suns from Brooklyn.
Clippers forward Paul George was out with a sprained right knee and is questionable for the playoffs.
Japan’s Rui Hachimura came off the Lakers bench to match an NBA record for reserve playoff scoring with 29 points in a closing 30-11 LA run.
“That’s probably the best game he has had in his career,”
“Let’s see if he can do it again on Wednesday.”Memphis’ Desmond Bane said of Hachimura.
Austin Reaves, making his playoff debut, scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter for the Lakers after Memphis opened the 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.
The top-seeded Denver Nuggets demolished the Minnesota Timberwolves 109-80 in their opener as Jamal Murray picked up 24 points and eight assists.
Michael Porter Jr. contributed 18 points for Denver while Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 18 points.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who is returning to form after sitting out more than half the season with a bad calf, miscued on 10 of his first 12 shots and finished with 11 points for the Timberwolves.