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Depleted Grizzlies stun Suns, Lakers fall despite return of James, Davis
The short-handed Memphis Grizzlies shocked the Phoenix Suns 122-114 on Friday to push their winning streak to seven games in a clash of the top two teams in the NBA.
Dillon Brooks scored 30 points to lead a Grizzlies team playing without injured top scorer Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson and Tyus Jones.
Despite the absences, the Grizzlies took a one-point lead into the final quarter and pushed their lead to 14 midway through the final period.
The Suns cut the deficit to five on Devin Booker's three-pointer with 56 seconds remaining, but Brooks drove to the basket for a layup, was fouled and made the free throw as the Grizzlies -- who had seven players score in double figures -- sealed a statement win in what could be a preview of the Western Conference finals.
Booker finished with 41 points and Mikal Bridges added 18 for the Suns, who are locked into the top seed in the Western Conference ahead of Memphis.
But the Grizzlies' hustle was clear with a 30-2 advantage in second-chance points and a 24-7 edge in points off turnovers.
"What an unbelievable victory," said Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins. "Guys out of the lineup, guys stepping up, guys getting opportunities and making the most of them."
Ziaire Williams scored 19 points for Memphis and De'Anthony Melton added 17 -- making six straight free throws in the last 19.1 seconds.
Los Angeles stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis returned from injury but the Lakers' post-season hopes took another hit with a 114-111 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
The defeat leaves the Lakers in 11th place in the West, a game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the final spot in the play-in tournament for the seventh- through 10th-placed teams for the final two berths in the playoffs proper.
James, who missed two games with a sprained ankle, scored 21 of his 38 points in the third quarter as the Lakers took an 87-86 lead.
But he added just two points in the fourth period as the Pelicans -- led by 32 points from CJ McCollum and 29 from Brandon Ingram -- eked out the victory, with James missing a potential game-tying three-pointer as time expired.
Davis, sidelined since February 16 with a foot injury, scored 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, but his return wasn't enough for a disjointed Lakers side.
"They just made more plays than us," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of his team's inability to close out a game they led by five points with 5:07 left to play.
The Pelicans tightened their grip on ninth place in the West, two games ahead of the Spurs who beat Portland 130-111.
All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray missed the game with a non-Covid respiratory illness, but Devin Vassell scored 22 points and Keldon Johnson added 21 to lead eight Spurs players to score in double figures in the crucial win.
The Spurs led by as many as 28 in the first half, and by 31 in the third quarter.
- Celtics edge Pacers -
Elsewhere, Robert Covington scored a career-high 43 points to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 153-119 rout of the NBA champion Bucks in Milwaukee.
Covington made 11 three-pointers and Amir Coffey also had a career-high with 32 points for the Clippers on a night in which both teams rested their stars.
Milwaukee gave two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday the night off while the Clippers were without Paul George, Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris.
The Boston Celtics, with 32 points from Jaylen Brown and 31 from Jayson Tatum, beat the Indiana Pacers 128-123 to move a half-game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for third place in the Eastern Conference.
In Denver, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 32 points to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 136-130 victory over the Nuggets.
D'Angelo Russel scored 24 points and Anthony Edwards scored 18 for the Timberwolves, who are seventh in the West and appear headed for the play-in tournament.
Minnesota withstood a 38-point, 19-rebound performance from Nikola Jokic, who also handed out eight assists for Denver, who are sixth in the West.