NBA playoffs: Bucks edge Celtics; Warriors rout Grizzlies as Ja Morant is reinjured
Giannis Antetokounmpo found a way to get better shots and recapture his peak form just in time to help the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks regain the lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But it was the Boston Celtics’ bad timing that made the difference in the end.
Antetokounmpo bounced back from a rare subpar performance by scoring 42 points and making the go-ahead basket with 44.3 seconds left in a 103-101 victory Saturday. The Bucks lead the best-of-seven series 2-1, with Game 4 on Monday night in Milwaukee.
“I know what my strengths are,” Antetokounmpo said. “Just try to read what’s in front of me and just play with my instincts. Sometimes I’m going to make the right play and sometimes I’m going to make the wrong play, but as long as I play within my strengths, we’re going to be in a good place.”
The victory wasn’t secure until replays confirmed that Al Horford’s potential tying putback — capping a wild sequence after Marcus Smart intentionally missed a free throw — came just after the buzzer.
“I saw Al tip it, and I saw the red outline go off on the backboard,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “It was very close.”
Boston trailed 103-100 when officials determined Smart was fouled by Jrue Holiday just before attempting a potential tying three-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining. Because it was a non-shooting foul, Smart only got two free-throw attempts.
Smart made the first free throw, then missed the second intentionally — flinging a shot that went hard off the backboard before hitting the rim.
That’s when things got wild.
Smart got the rebound but missed his putback. Boston’s Robert Williams charged toward the basket and sent the ball up and off the glass. Horford was waiting on the right side with a putback attempt that also went off the glass. Horford then got his own rebound and banked it in, but his final shot came just after the buzzer sounded.
The Lakers continued their search to find Frank Vogel’s replacement as coach, interviewing former NBA coaches Terry Stotts and Mark Jackson.
“Missed it perfectly,” Smart said. “Nobody was ready, [but] our guys were. Got it up on the rim. We had a few chances at it. Just didn’t work out for us.”
The Celtics believed Smart should have had an opportunity to tie the score at the foul line. Celtics coach Ime Udoka and Smart said it should have been a shooting foul on Holiday.
“You can clearly see it,” Udoka said. “I saw it in person but also on the film. I just went and looked at it. It’s a shot. He’s curling into his shot. He’s getting fouled on the way up. Bad missed call.”
“Honestly, it looked like he was still facing the sideline,” said Holiday, who scored 25 points. “That’s not a shooting motion. He wasn’t facing the rim.”
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Horford had 22 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
All-Star forward Jayson Tatum shot four for 19 overall and missed all six of his three-point attempts in finishing with 10 points.
Tatum said his left wrist was bothering him but added that it didn’t impact his play.
“I was probably thinking a little bit too much,” Tatum said. “It all comes down to I’ve got to make better reads.”
at Warriors 142, Grizzlies 112
Now Ja Morant and Memphis are calling out Golden State for causing an unnecessary injury.
Morant reinjured his troublesome right knee late in the game when Jordan Poole grabbed it as they fought for a loose ball late in the Warriors’ victory that embarrassed the Grizzlies and gave Golden State a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
Morant left Chase Center without speaking to reporters but posted and later deleted a video of the play on his Twitter feed with the words “broke the code,” a reference Warriors coach Steve Kerr had used five days earlier when Dillon Brooks’ hard foul in Game 2 sidelined Gary Payton II.
Poole and Andrew Wiggins swarmed Morant as he dribbled at the top of the three-point arc when Morant struggled to keep possession — and Poole described it as “a basketball play.“
“When we doubled him, I hit the ball, l was going for the ball. Obviously, you don’t want to see anybody get hurt. I’m not even that type of player,” Poole said. “I respect everybody. Obviously, hopefully he gets better and we can see him out there next game.”
Brooks was suspended for his Flagrant 2 foul in the first quarter Tuesday night when he pounded the head of a driving Payton, who landed awkwardly and fractured his left elbow. He will be sidelined indefinitely, also with ligament and muscle damage.
Robert Covington, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has agreed to a $24-million contract extension with the Clippers.
Kerr said the play was “dirty” and broke an NBA “code” injuring someone and threatening his career, while Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins and his Grizzlies players defended their hard-nosed style as not dirty at all.
Draymond Green and Golden State kept cool from the opening tip — methodically running away with it. Instead, Memphis forward Kyle Anderson got ejected with 6:19 left for arguing an offensive foul.
Stephen Curry scored 30 points, Klay Thompson had 21 and nine rebounds, and Golden State shut down Morant’s supporting cast.
A three from around half court by Morant just before the halftime buzzer got the Grizzlies to 64-57 at the break and gave him 17 of his 34 points after a 47-point performance in Game 2. But Morant couldn’t do it alone for Memphis, and he was done after rubbing his tender right knee and limping off with 6:19 to play before heading to the locker room.
“He’s getting evaluated now. Nothing further. We just watched the replay,” Jenkins said. “He was going after a dribble and Jordan Poole actually grabbed his knee and yanked it, which kind of triggered whatever happened, so I’m actually going to be very curious to see what happens after that.”
Kerr said he “didn’t even notice the play.”
Brooks will be back for Game 4 on Monday night at Chase Center, where the raucous sellout crowd included two women holding signs of Payton’s face insisting the Warriors “Win it for Gary.” It’s unclear whether Morant will be fine to play.
“I’ve been through a tough knee injury, and I don’t think there’s any malicious intent from Jordan,” Thompson said. “I don’t even think he’s strong enough to affect somebody’s knee. But we’re not out there trying to hurt people or trying to club people in the back of the head on a fast break. We play the game the right way, and I’m going to have his back.”
Golden State dominated with a balanced attack and energy on both ends after Green called for the offense to do more to better the defense. He dished out eight assists, five points and five rebounds.
“The shot selection was much improved,” Kerr said.
Poole scored 27 points off the bench and Andrew Wiggins added 17 points for Golden State, which used a 10-0 run out of halftime to take command for good.
“We’ve got another game on Monday,” Poole said when asked what he expects next given the latest back-and-forth between the rivals.
Rookie Jonathan Kuminga provided a spark starting in Payton’s place, while Ziare Williams was in for Brooks.
Thompson shot eight for 13 with four three-pointers in a solid shooting night.
He had been 11 for 38 from the field, including five for 22 on three-pointers, so far in the series before finding a better groove.
NBA fines Philadelphia 76ers $50,000
The Philadelphia 76ers were fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating league injury reporting rules in failing to disclose center Joel Embiid’s participation status in an accurate and timely manner.
Embiid returned Friday night after missing the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat because of a right orbital fracture and a mild concussion. He scored 18 points to help Philadelphia win 99-79 and cut its series deficit to 2-1.
Game 4 is Sunday in Philadelphia.
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