Wednesday was a really fun play-in night in the NBA as the Grizzlies dismissed the Spurs from the playoffs and the Lakers snuck past the Warriors to obtain the No. 7 seed in the West and a date with the Suns on Sunday.
Lakers 103, Warriors 100 – Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 25 points, but it was LeBron James’ big 3-pointer with 58 seconds left in the game that will make all the headlines as the Lakers took down the Warriors and will face the No. 2 Suns in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. LeBron, who was poked in the eye by Draymond Green, said he aimed for the “middle basket” with his blurred vision and hit another epic shot in his storied career of big shots. The Lakers are finally healthy again, but it was a rough first half, as LeBron, AD and Dennis Schroder combined to his just 4-of-28 shots and the Lakers dug themselves a 13-point hole. How they weren’t down more than 13 is beyond me, but the game was tied at 6:24 left in the fourth quarter and that’s really when the fireworks began. Andre Drummond started at center but left the game with some sort of leg injury after an awkward slide and that’s when Davis finally stepped up and took over, looking like the superstar he is and scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Drummond is a good fit with the Lakers and he was holding them down tonight, but they rallied once he left the game. Prior to that, AD was standing outside the 3-point arc and just watching, but finally came alive in the second half and went to work inside the paint. LeBron triple-doubled, Schroder bounced back from a terrible first half with 12 points and five dimes, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a nice game with 10 points, two 3-pointers and a full stat line (most of which came in the first half) and Alex Caruso was big with 14 points, two 3-pointers and three steals on a night when Schroder struggled. The Lakers are finally in the playoffs and are now the favorites to win in their series against the Suns, which will start on Sunday, and I wouldn’t put it past them to win the whole thing. And, for the record, no No. 7 seed has ever won an NBA title. But no No. 7 seed, courtesy of a play-in, has ever had LeBron James and Anthony Davis on its roster. This is nuts.
The Warriors aren’t done just yet. Stephen Curry racked up 37 points and six triples and the Warriors will now face the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday to see who is the No. 8 seed. Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas were great against the Spurs last night, but you have to think the Warriors are going to pull out all the stops against Memphis in hopes of facing the Jazz in Round 1. Andrew Wiggins had 21 points on 10-of-18 shooting, Jordan Poole and Kent Bazemore both scored 10, Kevon Looney had 13 rebounds and two blocks, and Draymond Green racked up nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and three blocks to go along with two points in 41 minutes of intense defense last night. I can’t wait to watch Curry vs. Ja Morant on Friday and I think the Warriors are going to find a way to win this game, simply because of the playoff experience of Steph and Draymond. The NBA wants the Warriors and Curry to make the postseason and I do too.
Grizzlies 100, Spurs 96 – The Grizzlies eliminated the Spurs on Wednesday night as DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray combined to hit just 9-of-38 shots for the Spurs on the night. Dillon Brooks played incredible defense against DeRozan and also led the team with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block, while Jonas Valanciunas went off for 23 points, 23 rebounds and three blocks on 10-of-16 shooting in the win. Ja Morant had 20 points, six boards, six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer, Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 10 with a steal and a block, and Kyle Anderson had nine points, six boards, two assists, four blocks and two 3-pointers in the win. How the Grizzlies only won by four points on a night that DeRozan and Murray combined to hit just 9-of-38 shots is beyond me, but it happened. The Grizzlies have a very real shot at beating the Warriors on Friday night, but I’ll take the guys with all the playoff experience in this one, and that is Curry, Green and the Warriors.
Valanciunas was awesome with a 20-20 game by the end of the third quarter, marking the first time any Grizzly had done so in playoff history. Brooks’ defense on DeRozan was spectacular, and Morant, Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson all played well for the Grizz. Grayson Allen was back from his abdominal injury but played just five minutes and the Grizzlies are going to have to play the game of their lives to beat the Warriors on Friday night. And I don’t think they’re going to do it. Morant, Valanciunas and Brooks are going to have to play out of their mind to stop the Warriors tomorrow night. Whoever wins that game will be the No. 8 seed in the West and will play the Jazz in Round 1 of the playoffs.
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