NBA

Morant launches dunk of the year contender as Grizzlies win nine straight, Embiid seals 76ers triumph

By Sports Desk January 15, 2023

Ja Morant scored 23 points including an incredible one-handed dunk of the year candidate to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to their ninth straight win, 130-112 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

Morant drove forward, reached back with his right arm and launched a massive dunk with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter over Jalen Smith to open up a 20-point lead.

The Grizzlies guard finished the game with 23 points on seven-of-17 shooting from the field, with 10 assists and three rebounds.

Morant is averaging 28.7 points per game during the Grizzlies' nine-game win streak.

Desmond Bane was solid as always, going five-of-11 from three-point range in his team-high 25 points.

The victory means Memphis are tied with the Denver Nuggets at 29-13 for the best record in the Western Conference. The win was the Grizzlies' fourth straight on the road.

The Pacers, missing Tyrese Haliburton, were led by Chris Duarte with 25 points despite a hand concern.

Embiid seals Sixers victory over Jazz

Joel Embiid's jumper with 5.7 seconds remaining clinched a 118-117 victory for the Philadelphia 76ers over the Utah Jazz.

Embiid finished the game with 31 points on nine-of-18 shooting from the field with two three-pointers, seven rebounds and two blocks, while James Harden added 30 points and 11 assists.

Utah trailed for most of the game but hit the lead at 115-114 with 33 seconds left, with Jordan Clarkson scoring 38 points with nine rebounds.

Doncic kept to season low as Blazers fire

Luka Doncic was kept to a season-low 15 points as Damian Lillard led the Portland Trail Blazers to a 136-119 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Doncic was benched with seven minutes to go by Mavs head coach Jason Kidd, in a game where the Blazers snapped a five-game losing run, having led 71-56 at half-time.

Lillard was exceptional with 36 points on 11-of-20 shooting with four three-pointers and 10 assists, while center Jusuf Nurkic added 22 points and 11 rebounds.

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    Novak Djokovic defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in Sunday's final to land a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and draw level with Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slams.

    The 35-year-old resisted a fightback from Tsitsipas by saving a set point in the second set on his way to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-5) victory at Rod Laver Arena as he made it 10 wins from 10 Melbourne finals.

    Djokovic, who was blocked from defending his crown last year after being deported from the country over his COVID-19 vaccination status, dropped just one set across his seven matches and has now won 28 matches in a row in his favourite tournament.

    The Serbian consequently reclaims the world number one spot, as well as equalling Nadal for the most singles slams won by a male player.

    Tsitsipas was aiming to become the 27th male singles champion in the opening major of the year, but he was under relentless pressure right from the off and a double fault in the fourth game handed his opponent the first break of serve.

    Djokovic, backed by a crowd that occasionally became too vociferous amid warnings from the umpire, served out the opening set with relative ease and continued to trouble Tsitsipas with some strong serving in the second set.

    World number four Tsitsipas slowly grew in confidence and, after a string of unforced errors from Djokovic – who exchanged some strong words with coach Goran Ivanisevic – he forced set point.

    But an excellent forehand winner from Djokovic prevented Tsitsipas from levelling up the match, and the Serbian went on to edge the tie-break in what was a big moment in the contest.

    He had the occasional blip, with Tsitsipas earning his first break of serve in the opening game of the third set, but Djokovic responded instantly with another backhand winner to level up.

    There was little to separate the two in the next 10 games as another set went the distance, and once again it was Djokovic who held his nerve in an entertaining tie-break to wrap up the victory in a time of two hours and 56 minutes.

  • 'The best player on Earth can't get a call' – Lakers fume after game-defining missed foul 'The best player on Earth can't get a call' – Lakers fume after game-defining missed foul

    The Los Angeles Lakers are furious after an obvious foul on LeBron James' potential game-winner was missed, with the Boston Celtics going on to secure a 125-121 victory in overtime.

    Playing in Boston, James was spectacular with a game-high 41 points on 15-of-30 shooting, adding nine rebounds and eight assists, but the game was tied at 105-105 after Jaylen Brown's and-one with four seconds remaining.

    The four-time MVP and four-time NBA Finals MVP would be the player entrusted with the last shot for the Lakers, and after driving left and getting all the way to the rim, James was smacked on his shooting arm by Jayson Tatum with under one second on the clock.

    But the foul went un-whistled, with James, All-NBA team-mate Anthony Davis and the entire Lakers bench erupting in fury as the game was sent to overtime.

    Los Angeles guard Patrick Beverley was issued a technical foul after bringing over a camera to the referee in an effort to show crew chief Eric Lewis the clearly botched call, and the Celtics went on to score 20 in the extra period, led by Brown with 11 of his 37 total points.

    Speaking after the loss, Davis made it clear he felt cheated by the referees.

    "It was bull**** at the end of the day," he said. "It’s unacceptable, and I guarantee nothing will happen to the ref. We got cheated tonight, honestly. 

    "[Beverley] got all ball on Brown, [but they] called a foul. LeBron, they smack across his arm. Unacceptable, to be honest. The refs were bad – they were bad tonight."

    James echoed those sentiments, saying this is not the first time this season he has felt disrespected by officials.

    "You saw my reaction… it’s challenging," he said. "I don’t get it. 

    "I'm attacking the paint just as much as any other guy in this league that’s shooting double-digit free throws a night. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it."

    He added: "You guys seen some of the games we lost this year, with late-game missed calls. I don’t understand what we're doing. 

    "I watch basketball every single day. I watch these games every single game, and I don’t see it happen to nobody else. It's just weird."

    Head coach Darvin Ham joined the chorus of discontent.

    "The best player on Earth can’t get a call – it’s amazing," he said. "You have to call a cat a cat, you can’t look at something and try to pretend it’s not what it is. 

    "He’s a guy that tries hard to play the right way. Doesn’t flop, plays downhill, plays a strong, physical brand of basketball. 

    "Just because he doesn’t flop or doesn’t flail and he’s not screaming when he’s shooting the ball like I see a ton of other players doing, he gets penalised for it.

    "As much as you try not to put it on officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult. I don't want to see another Last 2 Minute report – they can save that. It doesn't do no one any good."

    In an Instagram story, where he included a still photo of the foul, Lakers guard Dennis Schroder also voiced his frustration.

    He wrote: "The refs gotta start getting fined for their mistakes! They also giving technical fouls to people who are reacting to their mistakes.

    "The replay center should also use replay to get these calls right, especially on an important play like the OBVIOUS foul on LeBron at the end of the game.

    "This needs to stop… to lose 3-5 games this season off of referees' mistakes is really hard."

    In an uncommon occurrence, crew chief Lewis confirmed the botched call immediately after the game finished.

    "There was contact," he said. "At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play."

    The loss has the Lakers fall to 23-27, sitting 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.

  • Celtics beat the Lakers in overtime despite 41 points from LeBron, Clippers win fifth in a row Celtics beat the Lakers in overtime despite 41 points from LeBron, Clippers win fifth in a row

    LeBron James' 41 points were not enough to prevent his Los Angeles Lakers from going down 125-121 in a controversial overtime loss on the road against the Boston Celtics.

    In the latest edition of the league's most decorated rivalry, James was a man on a mission, finishing 15-of-30 from the field, six-of-12 from deep and five-of-six from the free throw line as the only Lakers player to score more than 16.

    He added nine rebounds and eight assists, and he should have been awarded potential game-winning free throws after he was clearly hit on the arm while driving for a layup with under a second remaining in regulation.

    But the Celtics got the call in Boston, and it would be Jaylen Brown stepping up in the extra period to deliver a win for the home fans.

    Brown scored 11 of his team-high 37 points in overtime, finishing 13-of-23 from the field with nine rebounds, picking up the slack for team-mate and MVP candidate Jayson Tatum.

    Tatum had a respectable stat line of 30 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals, but he shot a dismal eight-of-25 from the field, while Sixth Man of the Year contender Malcolm Brodgon chipped in a game-changing 25 points (eight-of-15), six rebounds, four assists and two steals off the bench.

    For the Lakers, it was Anthony Davis' second game back after five-and-a-half weeks on the sideline dealing with a foot injury, and he came off the bench again for 16 points (six-of-15), 10 rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes.

    The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Celtics, and improved their league-leading record to 36-15. 

    The Lakers fell to 23-27, and although they sit 13th in the Western Conference, they are only three games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves in the sixth seed.

    Clippers extend winning streak to five

    The Los Angeles Clippers are enjoying their longest winning streak of the season after making it five in a row with Saturday's 120-113 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

    The Clippers were led by their resurgent two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who scored a game-high 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting while adding eight rebounds and four assists.

    There were fears Leonard's prime had been stolen from him by injuries after scoring a total of 50 points in his first five games of this campaign, but over his past 10 fixtures he sits eighth overall in points per game at 29.3.

    Over that span he is shooting 55.6 per cent from the field, 47.2 per cent from deep and 92.5 per cent from the free throw line while adding 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.9 steals per game, improving the Clippers' record to 28-24.

    Kyrie stays red-hot in New York showdown

    Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving posted his sixth consecutive game with at least 30 points and six assists to defeat the New York Knicks 122-115 at home.

    Irving, who was named an All-Star starter mid-week, scored a game-high 32 points on 12-of-27 shooting with nine assists, six rebounds and two steals.

    Over his past six games, his 36.3 points per game is eclipsed only by Portland Trail Blazers icon Damian Lillard (38.3), while Irving's 7.8 assists would also be a new career-high as he shoulders a massive workload in the absence of injured superstar Kevin Durant.

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