Ja Morant produced a second-half scoring spree as the Memphis Grizzlies exploited the absence of LeBron James to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 121-109 on Tuesday.
After being restricted to six points as the Lakers took a 49-46 lead into the break, Grizzlies star Morant erupted with 28 points in the third quarter to tip the contest decisively in Memphis’ favor.
The Memphis win snapped the Lakers’ three-game winning streak and put another dent in the team’s recent resurgence following the injury to James on Sunday.
James, who is reportedly facing multiple weeks on the sidelines after injuring his right foot in a Lakers victory over Dallas, was seen wearing a protective boot on the sidelines on Tuesday as his depleted team-mates slipped to defeat.
The Lakers were also without the injured D’Angelo Russell, and the absence of the team’s two most assured ball-handlers was keenly felt, with the Lakers coughing up 26 turnovers for 41 points.
Morant received scoring support from Xavier Tillman with 18 points, while Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane added 16 points apiece for the home side.
Morant said he had been determined to produce a big second half after a wayward first-half shooting performance.
“I was locked in,” Morant said. “The shots I missed early in that first half were the shots that I made in that third quarter.
“I told my team-mates at half-time I wasn’t going to miss too many more of those. I got it going, and the rest is history.”
Anthony Davis led the Lakers scoring with 28 points while Lonnie Walker IV added 21 off the bench.
“We’ve got some guys out of the lineup obviously but we have capable players, and we have to be conscious of making the simple play,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.
“You turn the ball over, it’s hard to get your defense set.”
Bucks rally, Jokic century
Elsewhere, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points as the Milwaukee Bucks stretched their winning streak to 15 games with a come-from-behind 118-104 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets, who are rebuilding after the departures of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, sprinted into a 28-13 first-quarter lead and remained in front for the remainder of the half to lead by 10 points at the break.
But a third-quarter scoring blitz from Milwaukee -– outscoring Brooklyn by 39-23 -– saw the Eastern Conference leaders finally edge clear 91-85 heading into the fourth quarter before closing out the win.
“Right now we’re playing great basketball, we’re playing together and guys are making shots and defending,” Antetokounmpo said. “We’re out there competing, doing whatever it takes to win, building good habits. It’s fun.”
Antetokounmpo said the Bucks’ unflappable temperament had helped them recover from their double-digit half-time deficit.
“When we’re winning and making shots, it’s easy,” Antetokounmpo said after a win that saw the Bucks improve to 44-17.
“But sometimes when you’re down it’s a little harder. But at the end of the day, as a team we kept our composure.
“We know we have to be able to win games like this.”
In Houston, Nikola Jokic brought up a century of triple-doubles as the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets downed the Rockets 133-112.
Nuggets star Jokic, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Serbian star is only the sixth player in NBA history to collect 100 or more triple-doubles, joining Russell Westbrook (198), Oscar Robertson (181), Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107) and LeBron James (106).
In San Francisco, Damian Lillard finished with 25 points following his 71-point masterpiece on Sunday but was unable to stop the Golden State Warriors, who cruised to a 123-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Jordan Poole led the Golden State scoring with 29 points while Klay Thompson added 23.
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