Watch Ja Morant scors 33, Grizzlies hold off Trail Blazers for win

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Ja Morant had 33 points and 13 assists and the Memphis Grizzlies handed the Portland Trail Blazers their fourth straight loss with a 130-128 victory on Friday night.

Dillon Brooks added 25 points for Memphis, which snapped a two-game losing streak.

Morant is the first player in franchise history with as many points and assists in the same game. He had no turnovers.

Damian Lillard overcame a slow start and finished with 27 points, and Jusuf Nurkic added 26 points and a season-high 17 rebounds. Portland has lost six of its last seven.

“We know what we’re capable of every night. We’ve just got to go out there with a lot of energy for 48 minutes,” Morant said. “Offensively we’re going to score the ball, so as long as we are locked in on the defensive end and get stops we’re going to always put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

Neither team was able to lead by double digits. The Grizzlies had a 100-99 edge heading into the final period.

Nurkic’s dunk gave the Blazers a 116-115 lead, but Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s layup put the Grizzlies back in front with 5:20 left. Lillard made the second of a pair of free throws to tie it at 117 before Nurkic’s layup.

The teams wrestled for the lead down the stretch. Morant’s layup put Memphis up 125-123. He missed the first of a pair of free throws before Norman Powell‘s layup got the Blazers within a point with 45.9 seconds left.

The Blazers got the ball with 10.7 seconds left and 2.1 on the shot clock, but Nurkic missed a shot under the basket. De'Anthony Melton made free throws at the other end, giving Portland 3.6 seconds left for a 3-pointer to tie it.

Lillard was fouled and made his first free throw but his second rimmed out and Portland couldn’t catch up.

“They pushed the pace on us the entire game. Obviously we didn’t shoot the ball from three in the fourth quarter, but that wasn’t the reason we lost. We really didn’t take away their transition all for most of the night, and that, and the fourth quarter, I think made the difference,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

The Grizzlies were in the midst of a seven-game road trip, longest of the team’s Memphis-era. They’ll play the Trail Blazers three times in the space of a week. After Friday’s game, the teams meet again Sunday afternoon at the Moda Center, then they face off in Memphis next Wednesday.

Memphis had lost four straight to the Blazers, and the Grizzlies hadn’t won in Portland since 2017.

“We knew they were going to score, they’ve done it all season long so we had to have a next play mentality,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.

Both teams were slow to get warmed up. The Grizzlies led 28-20 in the opening quarter and 62-56 at the break. Morant’s putback capped the half and he led all scorers with 14 points.

Nurkic’s layup and a 3-pointer from CJ McCollum got Portland within 62-61 to start the second half.

Portland pulled in front 71-70 on Lillard’s layup, but he came down hard on the court and came up grimacing. It was just his second game back after a hamstring injury kept him out for three games. He stayed in the game.

The Blazers couldn’t hold on to the lead and Brooks’ running jumper gave the Grizzlies a 94-91 lead.

Portland gave up a season-high 75 points in the paint.

“It’s harder when you lose by one point or a close game than just blowouts,” Nurkic said. “It hits harder.”

Morant, Jackson and Brooks had 10 or more field goals, marking the first time three Grizzlies have had as many since Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph against the Phoenix Suns in 2017.

Jackson finished with 23 points off the bench. It was just his second game back this season after recovering from left knee surgery.

“I’m very excited to have him back on the floor,” Morant said. “He’s a tough cover. You’ve just got to pick and choose what you’re going to give up with him. He’s able to knock down the 3, attack you off the dribble and finish inside so it’s hard to contain him.”

What will happen with Warriors biggest free agent this summer: Bob Myers

2022 Golden State Warriors Victory Parade & Rally
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
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This summer, the Warriors have on their plate a couple of major decisions that could lead to free agency and change the course of the franchise. One is Draymond Green, who has a $27.6 million player option, didn’t get an extension he wanted with the team last summer (while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins did), and could be the guy standing without a chair when the music stops. The Warriors can’t pay everyone.

The other free agent: general manager Bob Myers.

His is an even more complex and nuanced situation — will the Warriors make him the highest-paid executive in the league, and does Myers still want the job — that could be the latest sign that the dynastic Curry era in Golden State is coming to an end.

At the Athletic, Anthony Slater, Marcus Thompson II and Sam Amick break down the situation incredibly well in a story Warriors fans should read.

As the clock ticks and extension talks remain flat, many around Myers are wondering whether – and even predicting that – his days with the Warriors are about to run out…

For all the nuance that surrounds the situation, this much is clear: team and league sources, who like all of the sources in this story were granted anonymity so they could speak freely, say Myers believes he should be among the highest-paid front office executives in the league, if not the highest. He’s been the architect of four NBA title teams, was the lead recruiter in the Durant free agency signing, and has been the trusted conduit between players, coaches and ownership. Myers also has served as chief problem solver, the coolant in an ecosystem that periodically overheats…

Part of the equation for Myers, known for his deep conversations and intellectual curiosity, is the contemplation of what’s next. After more than a decade of building a dynasty, and managing it through the intensity of modern scrutiny, and living beneath the relentless pressure of the Warriors’ championship standard, might Myers be interested in a new challenge? Would it be better for him and his family to move on, build up another franchise away from the Golden State fish bowl? He walked away from a successful career as a player agent to become an NBA executive. Is it now time to leave the front office behind and try his hand in another industry?

While there are other layers, it’s always about the money.

The very top NBA executives make north of $10 million a season. While Warriors owner Joe Lacob has said Myers is one of the highest-paid general managers in the league, titles get fuzzy (and somewhat meaningless) around the league — many guys in Myers’ role have a president or VP title attached to their name. His pay relative to title can get bogged down in semantics that miss the basic “pay me” bottom line of this.

There are no straight lines and simple answers here, but if Myers gets paid like Daryl Morey or Masai Ujiri he is far more likely to stay. Even if he gets that money, how badly does Myers want to stay on for the final years of the Stephen Curry era and start rebuilding whatever comes next? Does he want to walk away? Hang around for a few years then take his leave?

More than whatever happens with Green, the Myers situation will signal what comes next for this era of the Warriors and what they may look like going forward. He is the ultimate architect. This is the biggest decision the Warriors have this offseason.

PBT Podcast: Rui Hachimura trade to Lakers and All-Star team

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Rui Hachimura is a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. That is a win for the Lakers front office — “Look! We’re doing something!” — but how much of a win was that for the Lakers? Does it change much of anything for them on the court?

That’s the first topic of this week’s PBT Podcast with Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself. Then we talk about the Orlando Magic and the return of Jonathan Isaac to the floor. Corey’s Jukebox ties together the Magic and the Phantom of the Opera.

From there, we dive into my selections for the NBA All-Star Game, both starters and reserves, and what can be done to liven up that game. Plus, who would you want to star as if you were in a movie?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above (the Christmas games segment) or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Kyrie Irving still seeking contract extension, agent says “ball is in Nets” court

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How many guaranteed years are the Nets — or any team — willing to give Kyrie Irving?

It will be one of the questions of this offseason (Irving is in the final year of his current contract). It was a question last offseason, too. Irving and the Nets talked extension last summer — how close they got depends upon who you ask — but after two years of issues the Nets refused to give Irving a long-term deal. They did give him permission to find a sign-and-trade, but after checking out the market, Irving opted into his $36.9 million player option for the season.

The latest buzz around the league is that with the Nets winning, Irving is likely to re-sign and stay in Brooklyn. Apparently, his agent is ready to talk extension again, as she made public through Chris Haynes at Bleacher Report.

“Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” his agent Shetellia Irving told Bleacher Report. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”

“The right type of extension” sounds like we’re back to talking about years. Brooklyn can offer Irving a four-year, $190+ million max extension (which would align with the extension Kevin Durant signed last summer). The Nets may not want to lock themselves into Irving for that long.

Would another team? The question isn’t money — on the court, Irving is a max player averaging 26.8 points per game and he is likely voted an All-Star starter when those are announced Thursday — but instead how long is a team willing to be locked into paying Irving?

The Nets and Irving can reach an extension up through June 30, Brooklyn management may not be in a rush to get a deal done while the team is still playing. Brooklyn would be wise to want to see how the postseason plays out before talking about next season and beyond with anyone.

Three things to Know: Poole hits game-winner in Warriors new rivalry with Grizzlies

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Poole hits game-winner in Warriors’ new rivalry with Grizzlies

The NBA’s “Rivalry Week” can feel forced at points, but this game is what a rivalry feels like.

The Warriors — the old guard — held off the upstart Grizzlies in last year’s playoffs, but it may have been the toughest series they had in a title run, and if Ja Morant‘s knee hadn’t been injured in Game 3… who knows.

Wednesday night, they met again and this felt like a rivalry game. Sure, it started out sloppy with a lot of turnovers and the referees apparently in love with the sound of their own whistles, but the ending felt as close to a playoff game as you can get in January.

The Grizzlies led 111-100 with five minutes remaining, but the Warriors closed the game on a 22-9 run, complete with big 3s from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — and Curry getting ejected for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands (in frustration after Jordan Poole launched an ill-advised 3-pointer early in the clock while Curry asked for the ball).

“He knows he can’t make that mistake,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, via the Associated Press. “To win the game after the Steph ejection was great. I liked the execution down the stretch.”

Poole made up for it by hitting the game-winner on a baseline out-of-bounds play (that Ziaire Williams defended poorly).

The Warriors did not look dominant, but this game is a reminder they do have a switch to flip, one that can take them on another deep playoff run.

This makes four straight losses for the Grizzlies on this five-game road trip. The concerns about the Grizzlies as contenders remain the same:

The concerns about the Grizzlies as a playoff team remain the same: Can they score consistently in the half-court, and can Jaren Jackson Jr. stay out of foul trouble?

Both of those were on display Wednesday. Jackson Jr. fouled out again with 2:33 left, leaving the Grizzlies without their Defensive Player of the Year candidate in the clutch (and the Grizzlies are without Steven Adams for 3-5 weeks with a knee sprain, making them especially shorthanded up front). Then in the half court… yikes.

The Grizzlies’ half-court sets got better when they focused and started hunting Poole (the Warriors did the reverse, hunting Ja Morant in key minutes).

This is a rivalry now, the Grizzlies are coming for the Warriors’ crown and Golden State is not just going to give it up (will GM Bob Myers stick around to see the end of this era?). We need another playoff series between these teams.

2) Damian Lillard drops 60 spot on Jazz

Huge scoring numbers just keep coming in the NBA this season.

The thing is, Damian Lillard was doing this before this was trendy — the 60 points he put up on the Jazz Wednesday was his fourth 60+ point game of his career. The history is pretty staggering: Only two players have more than four 60+-point games — Kobe Bryant (6) and Wilt Chamberlain (32) — and Lillard is now tied with Michael Jordan and James Harden with four.

Lillard did it efficiently shooting 21-of-29 (72.4%) on the night.

Devin Booker was impressed.

Portland led comfortably the entire second half and won 134-124. Lauri Markkanen led seven Jazz players in double figures with 24.

3) Anthony Davis scores 21 in his return to action, Lakers win

The Lakers picked a soft landing spot to bring Anthony Davis back and insert Rui Hachimura into the lineup, playing the tanktasktic Spurs at home.

It worked, Davis scored 21 points and had four blocks coming off the bench — which he is going to do for a week or so coach Darvin Ham said, while he’s on a minutes limit — and the Lakers picked up the win. 113-104.

“He makes the game look so easy and takes the pressure off us,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said of Davis.

Hachimura played 21 minutes off the bench as Ham tested out different lineups and combinations all game. Hachimura finished with 12 points, six coming during a fourth-quarter run when the Lakers took control.