Associated Press

Lakers hold off Grizzlies 107-100, snap 4-game skid

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LOS ANGELES (AP) One last time, Kobe Bryant backed down Tony Allen, talked friendly trash with Matt Barnes and reminisced with old AAU teammate Vince Carter.

By the final minutes, Kobe was watching them all from the bench while the young Los Angeles Lakers closed out an unlikely win.

Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points, Brandon Bass got eight of his 18 in the fourth quarter and the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with a 107-100 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night.

Bryant scored 12 of his 20 points in the third quarter, but the superstar sat out the final 4:20 because coach Byron Scott wanted “to see what these guys can do.”

Bryant was curious himself, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“I thought they played hard,” Bryant said of the young group. “I think it’s time for them to make that jump. Now it’s time to really lock in on those details.”

Even with D'Angelo Russell sidelined by a bruised shin, Clarkson led Los Angeles smoothly past the playoff-bound Grizzlies, who had won the clubs’ first three meetings of the season. The Western Conference-worst Lakers wrapped up an eight-game homestand with three wins, beating contenders Golden State and Memphis.

“We were moving the ball, but a lot of it started on the defensive end,” Clarkson said. “We just stuck to the game plan.”

Data curated by PointAfter

Allen made all 12 of his shots while scoring 27 points for the Grizzlies, who rallied to win in Phoenix on Monday night.

“It was one those games where they took advantage of us coming off a back-to-back, but no excuses,” Allen said. “That team played hard. They were all over the place, getting second-chance points. We turned the ball over and they scored off our turnovers. They played with a little more energy than us. They outhustled us and had a little more pep in their step. They’re a young, talented group, and they’re the future of the NBA.”

Zach Randolph and Lance Stephenson added 16 points apiece for the Grizzlies.

“It’s a game that we needed, and we didn’t win,” said Carter, who had four points. “They had more energy than us. I don’t know what they’re playing for, but I know what we’re playing for.”

KOBE’S GUYS

Bryant suited up for the fourth time in Los Angeles’ last 10 games, and he appeared to be in a good mood throughout his final showdown with several old friends.

Kobe recently called Allen the toughest defender he faced in his 20-year NBA career, and Carter was among his early inspirations to work hard. Bryant’s long-standing connections with them explained why he’ll attempt to play back-to-back games with his sore shoulder instead of sitting out this one before Wednesday’s game in Phoenix.

“My shoulder feels great,” Bryant said. “I didn’t have any aches or pains.”

Bryant said he still intends to play in his Phoenix farewell.

D’ANGELO DOWN

Russell had 11 points in 22 minutes before sitting out the final 1 1/2 quarters. The rookie No. 2 overall pick went down in pain in the first half after a leg-on-leg collision with JaMychal Green, but he played in the third quarter before shutting it down.

NO JUSTICE, NO WORLD PEACE

Metta World Peace was ejected early in the fourth quarter when he wouldn’t stop complaining about the lack of a foul call when Vince Carter tied him up for a jump ball. The former Ron Artest has a monumental history of on-court misbehaviors, but it was his first ejection of the season. The Grizzlies got the chance to choose the Lakers player who had to enter the game to take World Peace’s spot on the jump ball, and they grinningly chose Kobe, who lost the tip.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Longtime Lakers G Jordan Farmar had eight points and five assists in his second game with Memphis, which signed the Los Angeles native and UCLA product to a 10-day contract. … Stephenson scored five points in 1.5 seconds late in the third quarter with two free throws, a quick steal and a three-point play. … Mike Conley missed his 10th straight game with tendinitis, and P.J. Hairston missed his fifth straight game with a strained groin.

Lakers: Rookie F Larry Nance Jr. sat out as part of the team’s strategy to rest his sore knees during back-to-back sets. He is expected to play Wednesday in Phoenix. … Russell is questionable to play in Phoenix, the team said.

UP NEXT

Grizzlies: At Spurs on Friday.

Lakers: At Suns on Wednesday.

Memphis picks up first win since restart, beats Oklahoma City

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Dillon Brooks scored 22 points, and the Memphis Grizzlies claimed their first win since the restart with a 121-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Ja Morant had 19 points and nine assists for the Grizzlies.

Memphis shot 55% and avoided falling into a tie with Portland for eight place in the Western Conference standings. Memphis is one game ahead of Portland, two games ahead of San Antonio, 2.5 ahead of Phoenix, and three games up on New Orleans and Sacramento.

Chris Paul scored 17 points and Luguentz Dort added 16 for the Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City’s leading scorer this season, finished with 10 points on 3 for 13 shooting.

The Thunder looked nothing like the team that rolled past the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. Oklahoma City missed a chance to move into a tie with the Houston Rockets for fourth place in the West.

Oklahoma City led by 18 in the first quarter, but the Grizzlies rallied to take the lead in the second. Memphis led by nine in the final seconds of the first half. Danilo Gallinari hit a 3 for the Thunder with 4.6 seconds left, then Paul stole the inbounds pass and hit a corner 3 to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 63-60 at halftime.

The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 32-18 in the third quarter to go up 95-78 at the end of the period.

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Phoenix Suns, a perfect 4-0 in the bubble, are growing and thinking playoffs

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The last time Devin Booker walked off the court as a winner in four consecutive games, these were the opponents: Hampton, Cincinnati, West Virginia and Notre Dame.

That is, until now.

Booker and the Phoenix Suns – the team that came to the NBA restart at Walt Disney World with the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record of the 22 teams in the field – are perhaps the best story of the bubble.

They’re 4-0 at Disney, breathing real life into playoff hopes that basically were nonexistent when the season was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 11. It’s the team’s first four-game winning streak since December 2018; Booker missed one of those games, so it’s his first run of four wins in a row since helping Kentucky make its Final Four run in 2015.

“It definitely feels like a tournament, a big AAU tournament, the March Madness tournament,” Phoenix’s Cameron Payne said Friday. “That’s something I never even got a chance to be in, but hey, I’ll take this.”

The Suns started their bubble run with a win over Washington and followed that with victories against three playoff-bound teams – first Dallas, then the Los Angeles Clippers (both of those games being 117-115 finals, the win over the Clippers sealed by a Booker buzzer-beater) and next a 114-99 victory Thursday over Indiana.

A team that had a stretch of four wins in 20 games during November and December, then a run of four wins in 15 games during January and February, got to the bubble and are now 4-for-4.

The Suns are riding a 10-year playoff drought, the second-longest current one in the NBA, but now they’re thinking big and for good reason.

“Well, you know, this is in the fledgling stages, for sure,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do. And there’s a process that we’ve kind of gotten ourselves involved in and we’re going to stick to that. So, fun? I don’t have time to have fun right now. It’s always good to win, but I’m working right now. And I want guys to understand, it’s fun when you win – but then you’ve got to turn the page and get right back to work.”

Williams understands the reality for the Suns right now. They entered Friday 1-1/2 games out of ninth place and the play-in series that will decide the last postseason berth in the West. And while the 4-0 start has been noteworthy, even an 8-0 mark in the seeding games wouldn’t guarantee the Suns a trip to that play-in round.

The Suns play Miami on Saturday, then finish the regular season against Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Dallas.

“I’ve been in five years now and haven’t had that much success,” Booker said. “But, you know, I’m working hard every day to turn that narrative and change that narrative. We have a good bunch in here to do it. A lot of young players mixed with some veteran presence and it’s a good look for us. So, we’re going to keep our head down, keep working.

“I don’t think anybody here is worried about 4-0. We still have plans and goals for this team to reach and 4-0 wasn’t it.”

Booker is averaging 28 points in the four games. Deandre Ayton, another big piece of the young Suns’ core, is averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. There are six players averaging double figures in all, including Payne, who is shooting 53% from 3-point range in his first four games with the Suns.

“We definitely feel good,” Payne said. “We’re not here for no reason.”

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.