The Memphis Grizzlies’ first win of the NBA season was a costly one, as Rookie of the Year Ja Morant limped out with a sprained ankle in the first half of a 116-111 overtime triumph over the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
Morant rose to block a shot by Brooklyn’s French forward Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with less than three minutes remaining in the first half, rolling his ankle as he came down and hopping to the baseline where he fell to the court.
He was taken to the locker room in a wheelchair, with the Grizzlies tweeting that the initial diagnosis was a sprained left ankle.
Morant watched from the sidelines as the Grizzlies rallied for the victory, standing through the final minutes — a protective boot on his injured ankle.
Kyle Anderson led the Grizzlies with 28 points — with a career-best four three-pointers — and Dillon Brooks added 24.
It was Anderson who drained three of four free-throws in the waning seconds of overtime, after he’d grabbed the rebound of when Brooklyn’s Joe Harris couldn’t get a potential game-winning three-pointer to drop with 5.6 seconds remaining.
“You always want to get that first one in the books to start rolling, so this was a big one,” Anderson said. “We had to get this one.”
But the loss of Morant was a potentially huge blow for the Grizzlies. The 21-year-old star had averaged 36 points in the first two games of the season.
Caris LeVert led the Nets with 28 points and 11 assists. Brooklyn rested stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — both coming off long injury layoffs after the abbreviated off-season.
The Nets were also without Spencer Dinwiddie, who will have surgery to repair a partially torn right knee ligament suffered on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Lakers, heavy favorites to win a second straight title, suffered their second defeat in four games in the new season, falling 115-107 to the Portland Trail Blazers.
LeBron James led the Lakers with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Anthony Davis returned from a night off with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 31 points and Gary Trent Jr. added 28 off the bench as Portland’s reserves out-scored the Lakers bench 45-23.
“I thought we came out with great energy,” said Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel, whose Lakers seized a 13-point lead in the first quarter. “When they made their runs we weren’t able to sustain the energy we began the game with.”
In Salt Lake City, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell scored the Jazz’s final 12 points — including the game-winner with seven seconds remaining — and Rudy Gobert shut down Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the rim as time expired to give the Jazz a 110-109 victory over the Thunder.
The game marked the Jazz’s return to Oklahoma City for the first time since March 11 — when Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for Covid-19 and league play shuddered to halt, resuming four months later in a quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
“Obviously you have all the memories coming back,” said French big man Gobert, who finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. “It’s a little bit of a weird atmosphere.
“But I’m happy we were able to come back and get the win.”
Although the NBA managed to resume and crown a champion, the pandemic continues to affect the new season with games being played in largely empty arenas.
The Houston Rockets, without John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon and Mason Jones because of Covid-19 health and safety protocols, fell 124-111 to the Nuggets in Denver, where Serbian center Nikola Jokic had a triple-double of 19 points, 12 rebounds and 18 assists to lead the hosts.
Jamal Murray added 21 points before departing after a hard fall in the third quarter and Paul Millsap added 19 points as seven Nuggets players scored in double figures.
Rockets star James Harden scored 34 points for Houston, who were still without John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon and Mason Jones because of Covid-19 health and safety protocols.