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Kawhi Leonard leads Spurs to 32-point victory over Grizzlies

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat Memphis 106-74 on Sunday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series, handing the Grizzlies their worst postseason loss.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points, and Tony Parker had 15 points and six assists for San Antonio. The Spurs sat their starters in the fourth quarter to rest them for Game 2 on Tuesday night in San Antonio.

San Antonio shot 68 percent in the third quarter, outscoring Memphis 33-14 to break open what had been a relatively close game against the short-handed Grizzlies.

Memphis matched a postseason low in the first quarter with 13 points, and only Xavier Munford‘s 15-foot jumper with 46.1 seconds remaining kept it from matching the worst output in any quarter.

Vince Carter had 16 points to lead Memphis. Zach Randolph was held to six points on 3-for-13 shooting.

Memphis’ largest previous losing margin was 27 points against Oklahoma City on May 11, 2011.

Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and the San Antonio Spurs beat Memphis 106-74 on Sunday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series, handing the Grizzlies their worst postseason loss.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points, and Tony Parker had 15 points and six assists for San Antonio. The Spurs sat their starters in the fourth quarter to rest them for Game 2 on Tuesday night in San Antonio.

San Antonio shot 68 percent in the third quarter, outscoring Memphis 33-14 to break open what had been a relatively close game against the short-handed Grizzlies.

Memphis matched a postseason low in the first quarter with 13 points, and only Xavier Munford’s 15-foot jumper with 46.1 seconds remaining kept it from matching the worst output in any quarter.

Data curated by PointAfter

Vince Carter had 16 points to lead Memphis. Zach Randolph was held to six points on 3-for-13 shooting.

Memphis’ previous largest losing margin in the playoffs was 27 points against Oklahoma City on May 11, 2011.

Memphis was able to keep the game close in the first half despite being without starters Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but San Antonio closed the second quarter on a 9-0 run leading into its dominant third.

The Spurs also ran a series of defenders to harass Randolph. He had a shot blocked by Leonard in the first quarter, had Leonard step in front of him for a steal, and was stripped of an inlet pass by Tim Duncan.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Memphis is 2-3 in the postseason against teams that have won at least 60 games in the regular season. San Antonio entered the 2011 playoffs as the West’s top seed with a 61-21 record but was upset in the opening round by the Grizzlies in six games. Memphis also beat Oklahoma City in five games in the 2013 West semifinals. …The Grizzlies’ postseason low in any quarter was 11 in the fourth quarter against the Spurs on April 19, 2004. … Memphis used an NBA-record 28 players this season. … Grizzlies coach David Joerger was assessed a technical foul with 7:51 remaining after arguing a non-call on a turnover that led to Leonard’s fast-break dunk.

Spurs: Duncan played in his 242nd postseason game, the third-most in league history. He trails former teammate Robert Horry by two games and former Lakers guard Derek Fisher by 17. … San Antonio’s largest margin of victory in the postseason is 40 points against Denver on May 4, 1983. … The Spurs outscored Memphis 406-356 during the regular season, winning by an average of 12.5 points. … Parker averaged 16.3 points, 4.3 assists against the Grizzlies during the regular season. … San Antonio is in the postseason for the 19th consecutive season, the league’s longest active streak. Atlanta is second with nine consecutive appearances.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.