LOS ANGELES: The Memphis Grizzlies clinched an NBA playoff berth in emphatic style on Friday, with Luke Kennard leading a dazzling display from three-point range in a 151-114 rout of the Houston Rockets. Kennard set a franchise record with 10 three-pointers — on just 11 attempts — as Memphis set a franchise record with 25 from beyond the arc. Their 25 treys came on just 42 attempts. Eight Grizzlies players converted from beyond the arc and Kennard was the most ruthlessly efficient of all. “It feels like every shot I take is going to go in,” Kennard said after scoring 30 points.
Desmond Bane added 25 points and two-time All-Star Ja Morant added 18 in a confident performance off the bench in his second game back from an eight-game NBA suspension for brandishing a gun at a nightclub. Even against Western Conference stragglers Houston, it was an impressive display. Most importantly, Kennard said, it was the team’s most complete game since his arrival. “Playing hard, playing fast, communicating a lot better,” he said. “We put it together for about a 48-minute game, so it was a fun game. I love the way we played — we’ve just got to build off that.”
In Salt Lake City, the Milwaukee Bucks made 22 three-pointers in a 144-116 wire-to-wire victory over the Utah Jazz that preserved their two-and-a-half-game lead over Boston atop the Eastern Conference. The Celtics kept the pressure on with a 120-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers while third-placed Philadelphia slipped back with a 120-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.
Grayson Allen scored a season-high 25 points for Milwaukee, draining five three-pointers. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 24 points and handed out 11 assists for the Bucks before sitting out the fourth quarter. The Greek superstar took a hard foul early in the game and grabbed his right wrist—the same wrist he injured in February. But if Antetokounmpo was slowed, the Bucks weren’t. They drained eight three-pointers — four by Allen — in the first quarter and Brook Lopez had four of his seven blocks in the first frame as they seized control.
Six Bucks players scored in double figures and Milwaukee dished out 42 assists. “It’s a really fun way to play,” Allen said. “We were getting the ball up the court super quick today. A bunch of those possessions were less than five seconds — you get, like, three passes in and a good shot.”
In Boston, Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 34 points — his 40th 30-point game of the season, setting a franchise record. Jaylen Brown added 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds and Derrick White chipped in 22 points for Boston, who outscored the Pacers 32-21 in the third quarter and rolled from there. Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner scored 20 apiece for Indiana, who are chasing the Chicago Bulls for 10th place in the East and the final play-in tournament berth. The Bulls beat the Trail Blazers 124-96 in Portland.
Lakers silence Thunder
In San Francisco, Jordan Poole scored 33 points and Stephen Curry added 29 as the reigning champion Warriors withstood 46 points from Sixers star Joel Embiid. With James Harden sidelined by injury, Embiid had Philadelphia poised to hand Golden State a rare home defeat. He made 19 of 22 free throws, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out eight assists, and Philadelphia led by 11 early in the fourth quarter. The Warriors pulled level four times in the period before Curry got past Embiid for the go-ahead bank shot with 2:20 remaining.
In Los Angeles, Anthony Davis scored 37 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Lakers boosted their post-season hopes with a 116-111 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers, with superstar LeBron James sidelined by a foot injury, have won three straight and at 37-37 are level with the Minnesota Timberwolves for seventh in the West. – AFP