Grizzlies roll past Bucks 119-106, reach West play-in round

Memphis Grizzlies guard De'Anthony Melton passes against Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez (11) and forward D.J. Wilson (5) during an NBA basketball game on Aug. 13, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
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Updated 14 August 2020

Grizzlies roll past Bucks 119-106, reach West play-in round

  • The Grizzlies (34-39) tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, but advances to the play-in round because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Phoenix

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: With their season on the line, Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant teamed up to make history and keep the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff hopes alive.
Valanciunas and Moranth had triple-doubles, Dillon Brooks scored 31 points and the Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks 119-106 on Thursday to wrap up a spot in the play-in tournament that will determine the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
This marked the first time in franchise history that two Grizzlies had triple-doubles in a game. The team effort helped the Grizzlies bounce back after losing six of their first seven games since the NBA returned from a 4 1/2-month layoff.
“I’m happy that we responded,” said Valanciunas, who had 26 points, 19 rebounds and 12 assists. “We showed character. We’re not going home. We’re going to fight until the last second.”
Dillon Brooks added 31 points as Memphis never trailed while capitalizing on the fact Milwaukee was missing Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning MVP was serving a one-game suspension after head-butting Moritz Wagner in a 126-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies (34-39) tied for ninth place in the Western Conference with Phoenix, which beat Dallas 128-102 on Thursday. Memphis advances to the play-in round because it owns the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Phoenix.
Memphis now faces Portland (35-39), which earned a spot in the play-in round by edging the Brooklyn Nets 134-133 on Thursday night.
As the No. 9 team, Memphis must beat Portland two straight times to advance to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
Memphis hasn’t been to the playoffs the last two years after making seven straight postseason appearances from 2011-17.
“It’s great to see in a meaningful game that our guys just stuck with it,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’re going to need that on Saturday — even more and more and better and better.”
Valanciunas earned the game ball after getting his first double-double in his 559th career NBA game. The 28-year-old Valanciunas’ previous career high in assists was five.
“I’m definitely going to keep that ball for a long time to show my kids that Daddy did it,” Valanciunas said.
Morant had 12 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
This marked the first time two teammates posted triple-doubles in the same game since Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler did it Dec. 10 in a 135-121 overtime victory over Atlanta. Valanciunas and Morant are the 12th pair of teammates to post triple-doubles in the same game, including the postseason.
Brook Lopez scored 19 to lead five Bucks in double figures. Frank Mason had 18, Donte DiVincenzo collected 17, Khris Middleton 14 and D.J. Wilson 12.
This game was meaningless for the Bucks, who already had clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for a second straight season. But it meant everything for the Grizzlies and Jenkins, who was an assistant on Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff last season and previously worked for him in Atlanta.
It was quickly apparent which of these two teams had the most incentive. Memphis led by as many as 23.
“You’d have to be head in the sand really deep to not understand everything that was at stake today,” Budenholzer said. “Taylor and his group have done such a great job this year. They earned it. They played well today. They were sharp. Guys really stepped up.”
TIP-INS
Bucks: Starting guard Wesley Matthews missed a second straight game with a sore right adductor. Budenholzer remains confident that Matthews will be ready for the playoffs. “We feel like everything’s in a reasonably good place,” Budenholzer said before the game. “Probably just smartest not to push it today, give him another day or two. We don’t expect it to linger or be a problem past today.”
Grizzlies: Morant ended the regular season averaging 17.8 points and 7.3 assists. The only rookies in NBA history to average at least 17 points and seven assists are Oscar Robertson (1960-61), Magic Johnson (1979-80), Isiah Thomas (1981-82), Damon Stoudamire (1995-96), Allen Iverson (1996-97) and Trae Young (2018-19). ... Valanciunas has collected at least 10 rebounds in seven straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. ... Memphis was the designated home team. Former Grizzlies Tony Allen and Zach Randolph were included among the team’s “virtual fans” in the arena.
MIDDLETON JUST SHY OF 50-40-90
Middleton shot 5 of 13 and was just shy of becoming the ninth NBA player to finish a season shooting at least 50% from the floor, 40% from 3-point range and 90% from the foul line. He ended up shooting 49.7% on field-goal attempts, 41.5% on 3-pointers and 91.6% on free throws.
UP NEXT
The Bucks will face the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs starting Tuesday. The Bucks swept four regular-season meetings with Orlando.
The Grizzlies move on to the West’s play-in tournament.
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Lakers beat Nuggets in Game 5 to reach NBA Finals

Updated 54 min 4 sec ago

Lakers beat Nuggets in Game 5 to reach NBA Finals

  • The Lakers will face either Miami or Boston in their 32nd NBA Finals appearance, most in league history

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: LeBron James is going to a 10th NBA Finals — and for the first time in a decade, so are the Los Angeles Lakers.
James punctuated his 27th postseason triple-double with a big fourth quarter, powering the Lakers to a 117-107 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals in five games.
James finished with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists to become the fourth player to reach 10 NBA Finals. It took him two seasons to make it with the Lakers, after falling short of the playoffs in an injury-plagued first season following eight consecutive trips with Miami and Cleveland.
“My teammates said bring us home and it was my responsibility to try to make the right plays and do the right things on the floor to help us win ballgames,” James said during a trophy presentation in mostly empty arena at Disney World, instead of in front of their fans at Staples Center.
The Lakers will face either Miami or Boston in their 32nd NBA Finals appearance, most in league history. They haven’t played for the title since beating the Celtics in 2010 for the last of their 16 titles.
Anthony Davis added 27 points and will end his first season with Los Angeles by playing in his first NBA Finals.
Nikola Jokic and Jerami Grant each scored 20 points for the Nuggets, who had fought off elimination six times before the Lakers finally put them away. Jamal Murray added 19 points and eight assists but the star guard struggled with some leg or foot pain and lacked his usual explosiveness.
The Nuggets had come back from 3-1 down in the first two rounds before being finally ousted a month since they would have departed the bubble had they lost the first time they faced elimination, in Game 5 against Utah on Aug. 25.
Denver fell far behind one more time but James wouldn’t allow another comeback.
The lead was up to 72-56 four minutes into the third with Murray hobbling, but the Nuggets — who were down 15 in the third quarter of Game 5 against Utah and 16 at the same point of Game 5 against the Clippers — put together a comeback fueled largely by Grant. They came all the way back to tie at 84 on Murray’s free throws, before Davis made a 3-pointer with a second to go.
James made consecutive baskets while getting fouled early in the fourth, pushing a two-point lead to 95-88. When Denver made one last push to cut it to four, James set up Danny Green for a 3-pointer for his 10th assist, then made a jumper himself to extend it to 108-99.
Nuggets: The Nuggets became the 16th team in NBA history to lose 10 games in a single postseason. The record is 11, shared by four teams, most recently the 2009 Orlando Magic. They also became the second team to play at least 19 games in a single playoff and finish with a record below .500; they were 9-10, as were the Washington Bullets in the 1979 postseason.
Lakers: The Lakers have wrapped up all three series in five games. ... Coach Frank Vogel said Davis was bothered by just some minor soreness after rolling his left ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 4.

END OF THE ROAD
Game 5 came on Denver coach Michael Malone’s 82nd day in the bubble after arriving July 7. He thinks the time showed that the Nuggets are headed in the right direction and hoped it would last few weeks longer.
“But when I think about this whole experience, as crazy as it sounds — and it’s been hard being away from family — being with the players and staff and the front office, everyone that’s here, has made this a lot easier than I imagine it could be otherwise,” Malone said.

SEASONS CHANGE
NBA teams usually start training camp near the end of September and Vogel said it was strange to be playing conference finals games, which usually happen near the end of May.
“Very much so, especially because we are in Florida and it’s 90 degrees every day, still,” he said. “Somebody told me that it’s fall the other day and I didn’t really believe them. It’s very unusual to be playing playoff basketball in the fall in 90-degree weather.”