The NBA season has returned, and so has the NBC Sports daily NBA roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed, every key moment from the night before in the Association in one place.
1) Ja Morant sprains ankle, and it looks ugly, but X-rays showed no fracture
The NBA is an entertainment business, and Ja Morant is must-watch broadcasting. The lanky point guard in Memphis is just fun to watch — he can drive into the paint and contort his body to make plays, he has the passing-vision gene, and he can drain a three in a defender’s face. Even if he was playing against your team, you had to step back and admire him.
Which is why the NBA felt darker and a little less fun on Monday night.
Ja Morant rolled his left ankle severely against Brooklyn. When the team’s franchise player has to be taken back to the locker room in a wheelchair, things get dark. The MRI with the answers is coming today, but the good news is that the X-rays were negative, reports Malika Andrews of ESPN. By the end of the game, Morant was back on the Grizzlies bench, but in a boot.
Morant contested a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot mid-range jumper just before halftime, but Morant’s left foot landed awkwardly on top of Luwawu-Cabarrot’s foot — video shows Morant’s ankle rolling 90 degrees. Morant immediately hopped on one foot behind the basket and went to the ground. Medical staff treated him there, but Morant could not put any weight on his ankle, and the Grizzlies had to bring out a wheelchair to take him to the locker room.
Morant — the reigning Rookie of the Year — looked like he had taken a step forward from the bubble. He scored 44 points in the Memphis season opener against San Antonio, then dropped 28 in a loss to Atlanta. The Grizzlies are already without Jaren Jackson Jr. (recovering from left knee surgery).
Without Morant, the NBA is less fun — his dynamic playmaking skills are must-watch. Memphis has its franchise cornerstone with him; hopefully, Morant will not miss too much time.
On the bright side, Memphis showed some grit with their star out and held on to beat a shorthanded Brooklyn team.
The Nets rested both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and they are going to be without Spencer Dinwiddie for the season with a partially torn ACL. That meant Brooklyn was the Caris LeVert show Monday night, and he put up 28 points but needed 29 shots to get there. Luwawu-Cabarrot added 21 points but on 7-of-17 shooting. The Nets were not efficient.
The Grizzlies were just efficient enough. Kyle Anderson scored 28 points, Dillon Brooks added 24 on 9-of-19 shooting, and Brandon Clarke looked the best he has all season — he has really struggled early on — with 16 points, including a tip-in during overtime that put the Grizzlies up for good. Without Morant, Memphis kept attacking — in overtime all the Grizzlies’ buckets came either in the paint or at the free throw line (Anderson had some key ones) to secure the win.
After dominating the first two games of the season, Brooklyn has lost their last two while resting Durant (and Irving on Monday). Steve Nash is looking at the long haul.
2) Donovan Mitchell hits driving game-winner, Utah wins in return to OKC
The last time the Jazz were in Utah, officials in suits came running onto the floor minutes before tip-off because Rudy Gobert had just become the NBA’s first player to test positive for the coronavirus. The game was canceled, and that was the first domino in a chain that put the NBA on hold for six months and sent the league to the Orlando bubble.
Utah will have better memories of this stop. Donovan Mitchell hit a running bank shot in the paint with seven seconds left that proved to be the game-winner, giving the Jazz their first victory in Oklahoma City since Halloween night, 2010 — more than a decade ago.
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) December 29, 2020
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander already has one game-winner to his name this season, and he had a chance at another but his contested driving shot in the lane just missed. Gilgeous-Alexander still finished with 23 points and seven assists, while Luguentz Dort led the Thunder with a career-high 26 points.
Oklahoma City isn’t going to win a lot of games this season, but they are going to be feisty. With Gilgeous-Alexander, Al Horford, George Hill, the improving Dort, this team has some talent and will not be a pushover every night. They have shown some fight this season.
Bogan Bogdanovic scored 23 points, while Mike Conley came one dime short of his first triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists for the Jazz.
3) Lethargic Lakers fall to Trail Blazers
Maybe there’s just something about being the home team at Staples Center this week.
One day after a Clippers team that was mentally checked out got routed in historic fashion by the Mavericks, it was the Lakers turn on Monday. Los Angeles had LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup, and they didn’t get blown out, but Los Angeles lost a winnable game at home because it didn’t bring its “A” game.
Damian Lillard always does — he had 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three. CJ McCollum added 20. However, Portland’s bench was the difference in this game, with Gary Trent Jr. adding 28 points and Enes Kanter a dozen.
The Lakers have fallen now to 2-2 on the young season. Portland is good, but this is a winnable home game for the Lakers that got away. The Lakers’ offense has been elite through four games, but the defense — which carried them to the title last season — has started out pedestrian this season. L.A. has work to do on that end.
Los Angeles was without Alex Caruso Monday night due to COVID-19 protocols. That doesn’t mean he has the disease, and no other Lakers players or staff had to miss time due to contact tracing (and Caruso had played for L.A. in Sunday’s win over the Timberwolves). We should know more about how much time he may miss, if any, soon, but right now there are few details.