Rudy Gobert admits he was 'thrown off' by the Utah Jazz's decision not to play Donovan Mitchell in Sunday's 112-109 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their NBA playoffs first round series.

Following Utah's morning shootaround on Sunday, Mitchell had declared himself ready to return from an ankle injury which had kept him out since April 17.

However, the Jazz confirmed in their official injury report pre-game that he would miss out again with a "right ankle sprain", much to the surprise of Gobert and team-mate Bojan Bogdanovic.

!It was a big surprise," Gobert said post-game. "I try to stay out of all this because it's just going to give me a headache.

"When you wake up, you get ready for a game and you find out that your star player is not going to play, it throws you off a little bit."

Bogdanovic, who top-scored with 29 points for the Jazz including a series of last quarter three-pointers, added: "Of course we miss him, especially in the playoffs. We all know how good he is.

"I mean, I don't know what happened, honestly, with the decision for him and the medical staff to keep him out. You should ask him."

Jazz coach Quin Snyder admitted pre-game that Mitchell did not agree with the medical staff's decision.

"It's reflective of what a competitor he is and how bad he wants to be out there and is looking forward to being out there," Snyder said.

Speaking about the defeat, Snyder added: "I thought we competed, I didn't think we executed on the level that we need to in this moment in the playoffs. I think our guys know that. We know the things we need to do better."

Dillon Brooks had a game-high 31 points for the Grizzlies, while Ja Morant added 26 in the pair's playoffs debuts.

"For us to be able to come out and get a win on the road in the first game in that environment is big time for us," Morant said. "We can't wait to go back to Memphis to return the favour with our fans."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis shouldered the blame for the NBA champions' Game 1 loss to the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference first round.

Davis was far from his best as LeBron James and the Lakers went down 99-90 to the second-seeded Suns in Phoenix on Sunday.

Lakers big man Davis was five-for-16 shooting in a team-high 39 minutes of action as he recorded just 13 points against the Suns, while missing both of his attempts from three-point range.

As a team, the Lakers were just 26.9 per cent from beyond the arc after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made just one of his seven shots.

Afterwards, Davis scrutinised his performance as the Lakers – ranked seventh in the west – look to bounce back on Tuesday.

"There's no way we're winning a game, let alone the series, with me playing the way I played," Davis said.

"This is on me. I take whatever responsibility, for sure. I'll be ready for Game 2."

"I kind of got lost in the offense. But I still have to be assertive to get the ball," Davis added. "That's on me. I still have to find ways to make plays on that end of the floor offensively.

"It's on me. I'm not too worried about my performance. I know I'll be better. I know we'll be better in Game 2."

Superstar Lakers team-mate James, who finished with 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, added: "It's always AD being AD.

"Any time he comes to the press room and tells you we can't win without him or with him playing the way he played, he always responds. I'm looking forward to that."

"I love when AD puts that pressure on himself," James said. "We're a better team when he's aggressive and we're a better team when he demands the ball."

Davis had posted 42 points against the Suns in the absence of James on May 9, but Phoenix nullified his impact on Sunday.

"Phoenix brought a lot more attention obviously because of that game," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. "They did a great job. Give them credit.

"They did a good job limiting his touches and bringing double teams when he did get it and making things difficult for him. But there are ways we can be better to take advantage of that."

Vogel continued: "There's plenty we can do. I'm not going to get into details on what our adjustments are going to look like. But certainly we can do a better job in taking advantage of the attention that he's drawn."

The Memphis Grizzlies did not follow the script in their shock 112-109 victory over the top-ranked Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs, while the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns drew first blood in their first-round openers.

Utah secured sole possession of the best record in the NBA for the first time in franchise history, having topped the Western Conference with a 52-20 record.

But in the continued absence of All-Star Donovan Mitchell (ankle), the Jazz were upstaged by the eighth-seeded Grizzlies in Sunday's opener on home court.

Dillon Brooks (31 points), Ja Morant (26 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (15 points and 13 rebounds) fuelled the visiting Grizzlies in Utah.

Brooks became the sixth player in the last 10 postseasons to score 30-plus points in his playoffs debut, joining Devin Booker (2021), Luka Doncic (2020), Kyrie Irving (2015), Anthony Davis (2015) and Damian Lillard (2014).

Kyle Anderson also registered a Grizzlies single-game playoff record with his six steals, surpassing the previous mark set by Mike Conley – who now plays for the Jazz – in 2013.

The Jazz were led by Bojan Bogdanovic (29 points), Conley (22 points and 11 assists) and Rudy Gobert (11 points and 15 rebounds).

 

Harris and Embiid flex muscles, Booker stars as Suns sizzle

Eastern Conference top seeds the 76ers overcame the Washington Wizards 125-118 in Game 1 of their first-round series. A playoff career-high 37 points from Tobias Harris set the tone, while MVP hopeful Joel Embiid had 30 points, six rebounds and three assists. Harris and Embiid became the first pair of 76ers to score 30-plus points in a playoff game in 31 years since Charles Barkley and Hersey Hawkins. All-Star team-mate Ben Simmons (six points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists) joined Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76ers players ever with 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a playoff game. Double-doubles from Bradley Beal (33 points and 10 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (16 points and 14 assists) were not enough for the eighth-ranked Wizards.

The Suns trumped defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 99-90 behind Booker (34 points) and Deandre Ayton (21 points and 16 rebounds). Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10, the Suns used a 32-25 opening quarter to see off the seventh seeds in the series opener in the west, despite Chris Paul's shoulder injury. LeBron James had 18 points and 10 assists in a double-double display for the Lakers.

 

Randle struggles

All eyes were on All-Star Julius Randle after leading the New York Knicks back to the postseason for the first time since 2012-13. While he collected 12 rebounds, Randle was far from his usual best in the 107-105 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. Randle finished six-for-23 shooting for 15 points in 36 minutes. The Knicks star made just two of his six three-pointers.

Anthony Davis was five-for-16 shooting in a team-high 39 minutes of action as the Lakers star recorded just 13 points against the Suns. He missed both of his attempts from beyond the arc. As a team, the Lakers were just 26.9 per cent from the three-point line after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made just one of his seven shots.

 

Ice Trae!

Trae Young was the hero for the Hawks, who edged the Knicks in their series opener at Madison Square Garden. Young nailed the game-winner with 0.9 seconds remaining to silence the New York crowd in a thriller between the fourth and fifth seeds in the east. The Hawks guard finished with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. According to Stats Perform, Young is the first NBA player to make a game-winning field goal in the final five seconds in his playoff debut since Dwyane Wade in 2004.

 

Sunday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 125-118 Washington Wizards
Phoenix Suns 99-90 Los Angeles Lakers
Atlanta Hawks 107-105 New York Knicks
Memphis Grizzlies 112-109 Utah Jazz

 

Heat at Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will look to extend their lead over the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first-round series on Monday.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers labelled Ben Simmons "special" after the Eastern Conference top seeds made a winning start in the NBA playoffs.

Simmons, Tobias Harris and Joel Embiid starred as the 76ers topped the Washington Wizards 125-118 in Game 1 of the first-round series on Sunday.

While Simmons only finished with six points on three-for-nine shooting, the All-Star tallied 15 rebounds and 15 assists at home to the eighth-seeded Wizards in Philadelphia.

Simmons joined Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76ers players ever with 15 rebounds and 15 assists in a playoff game, earning praise from Rivers.

"I thought he was special," said Rivers. "Whoever he guarded struggled scoring, he created so many points for us, off the glass to three, off transition to three, creating switches that they didn’t want to have.

"He is just a treasure. He is something that you don't see a lot in this league and he has such a skill set that's so different. There's a lot of people that can't make what of him.

"All I see is his greatness and I just want him to keep doing what he's doing."

Simmons – as the 76ers eye their first championship since 1983 – added: "I just try to make winning plays and do what I can to help this team and be the point guard and run the team.

"Put guys in the right positions, run the right sets, if somebody’s feeling it, keep giving them the ball. I think overall today we did a good job of that."

Harris and MVP hopeful Embiid also flexed their muscles in front of a capped but vocal crowd at Wells Fargo Center.

A playoff career-high 37 points from Harris set the tone, while Embiid had 30 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Harris and Embiid became the first pair of 76ers to score 30-plus points in a playoff game in 31 years since Charles Barkley and Hersey Hawkins.

"Tobias, I have full faith in," Rivers said. "I said it early, I think he struggled the first couple of games, and just from the body of work, coaching them with the Clippers and knowing him and watching him what we are trying to do with him in the training camp, I just really believe it would take over at some point and it has."

Harris is bracing for a challenging playoff campaign, starting with Russel Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the in-form Wizards.

"Yesterday [Saturday] I was watching NBA games, and I was kind of surprised. I said, 'Man, all these games are really close.' It wasn't like a real big spread in any of them," Harris said. "And I think this whole playoffs, game in and game out, you're gonna see dogfights from all around the league.

"I mean, Washington, you know they've been one of the hottest teams after the All-Star break in the whole NBA, so for us, we know the power that they have and the guys that can make shots on the team. So that just adds to our focus as a group and knowing how locked in we need to be for this whole series, and that's only going to help us into where we're trying to go."

The 76ers, who were swept by the Boston Celtics in last season's first round, are dreaming big as they look to progress beyond the Conference semi-finals for the first time since 2001.

"You know we've been there," Embiid said. "And we also have a goal, and to get to that goal, we got to get through these guys. So you know, the mindset is just me, it doesn't matter if it's a week or two weeks off, it doesn't matter if we haven't played in a while. That should not be an excuse."

Donovan Mitchell will miss Game 1 of the Utah Jazz's Western Conference first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies due to an ankle injury.

Mitchell has been sidelined since spraining his right ankle on April 16 and the NBA All-Star was ruled out of Sunday's playoff opener having expected to face the Grizzlies.

Jazz guard Mitchell has missed the past 16 games for Utah, who clinched sole possession of the best record in the NBA for the first time in their history after finishing 52-20 in the west.

Mitchell has been averaging career highs in points (26.4), assists (5.2) and three-point percentage (38.6) this season.

The Grizzlies won through to the playoffs after eliminating the Golden State Warriors in overtime in Friday's play-in game.

Carmelo Anthony was shocked to face booing from Denver Nuggets fans – before he and the Portland Trail Blazers silenced the home crowd in Game 1 of the playoff series.

Portland scored a 123-109 road win to get the early upper hand in the best-of-seven series.

The Denver fans that once worshipped Anthony got on his back in Saturday's game, jeering the 10-time All-Star who began his career as a teenager with the Nuggets.

"It's cool man. I love them too. I love those guys too," said Anthony afterwards.

"It's been what, almost 10 years now since I've been here. The love is there man. They love me, they hate me. I can't do nothing about that.

"I've just got to go out there and smile, enjoy myself and have fun and play basketball. Whatever they have to say, let them say, it's not my concern."

Asked if he could explain the fans' reaction, Anthony, who scored 18 points, was stumped.

"I don't have that answer. I don't know what it is," he said. "I gave my all here for seven and a half, eight years.

"I never said anything bad about Denver, the fans, the organisation, the players, I never complained. It's like I was birthed here with the Denver Nuggets. I started my career here and this will always be a special place for me."

It was Anthony's first win back in Denver since he departed in February 2011 to join the New York Knicks.

Coming up for his 37th birthday next Saturday, it was high time he tasted that winning feeling back in his one-time home city.

"I didn't even know that, this is the first win since I got traded," Anthony said.

"It's not even something I ever even thought about, to be honest with you.

"Somebody told me that when I was in the locker room after the game but I'll take it. I'll take my first win being Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs.

"It's a great time to make it happen, get that first win here in Denver."

James Harden said the Brooklyn Nets took "a huge step" by shaking off sketchy offensive form to overcome the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of their playoff series.

Brookyln's big three scraped together sufficient points to make it comfortable enough in the end, the home team grabbing a 104-93 win, having trailed 53-47 at halftime.

Kevin Durant had 32 points and 12 rebounds, Kyrie Irving added 29 points and Harden weighed in with 21 as the Nets proved too strong for a Celtics side who had 22 points on six-of-20 shooting from Jayson Tatum.

Harden said: "We just engaged. Everybody that steps on the floor is engaged and pretty much knows what they have to do. So everybody had each other's back.

"No matter what happens offensively, defensively is where we show some improvement and tonight was a huge step for us."

With fans back in Barclays Center, Harden suggested their presence may have been a slight distraction, as might the pressure of starting a playoffs tilt.

But ultimately he settled on it being the players' failure to convert opportunities as the reason the Nets took so long to get going.

"We just didn't make shots. I'm sure if we made shots it would be a different conversation," he said.

Asked about Tatum, Harden said: "He's going to be better in Game 2 and we will too."

Durant reached a similar conclusion to Harden.

"We couldn't make shots, I felt like," Durant said. "When we tried to bust the game open seven or eight points, we got open threes we didn't make. We got our scorers in position, but I know I missed a lot of bunnies that felt good leaving my hand.

"But we stuck with our defense. We didn't let that get in the way of what we wanted to do out there. We helped each other and boxed out well. We've got to keep that same effort going into Game 2."

From 82-79 up, the Nets went on a scoring surge and pulled 99-82 ahead in the fourth quarter, before easing to victory.

Irving, prominent in that dominant run, said: "I just think we needed a little separation, just to settle in for the rest of the game. Fourth quarter, we've had the tendency of taking our foot off the gas pedal, of stopping attacking the rim or settling for jump shots or just not swinging the ball around and making easy plays for one another.

"Obviously we know we have all-world one-on-one players, but we make it a little easy when teams can just load up and our one-on-one game isn't working. You can see anything can happen at the end of the game. Kemba [Walker] hits two big threes, we get a flagrant foul. Anything can happen, especially against the Celtics.

"That lucky Irishman is always around the Celtics, so we've just got to be aware of anything against the Celtics. And I think we did a good job of kind of withstanding their runs down the stretch."

Damian Lillard is used to having the game in his hands, but the Portland Trail Blazers star found another level of control Saturday in a 123-109 playoff win over the Denver Nuggets. 

Lillard scored 34 points and had a career playoff high 13 assists to account for 54 per cent of Portland's points in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. 

That assist total was the most for a Portland player since Damon Stoudamire had 13 against the Phoenix Suns on May 13, 1999. 

The sixth-seeded Blazers set a franchise record for a playoff game in hitting 19 three-pointers, five of them by Lillard, as they opened with a critical road win to boost their chances of taking the series. 

"Any time you start a series on the road, you're going into it thinking we need to at least win one -- heading back home we've got to have one of those first two," Lillard told reporters.

"It's a major statement to be able to get the first one." 

The Blazers heaped praise on center Jusuf Nurkic, who spent most of the night defending Nuggets star Nikola Jokic. 

Though Jokic matched Lillard's scoring output with 34, he had only one assist -- a career playoff low. 

Lillard told reporters he believes Jokic is the NBA MVP this season, but said the Blazers' focus was on letting him do the work himself rather than distributing to his team-mates. 

That formula worked in the series opener, though Lillard expects the competition is "only going to get harder from here." 

Added Carmelo Anthony, "I've been here multiple times. We don't want to get too high -- it's just the first game.

"We'll take it, though. It's a big win. Any time you can get Game 1 on the road in the playoffs it's a major win. 

"We don't look at it as a steal -- we came in here and we earned this win tonight."

A strong second half sent the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers to a 123-109 victory over the third-seeded Denver Nuggets as the NBA playoffs began Saturday. 

Portland outscored Denver 65-48 after the break as Damian Lillard had 34 points and 13 assists for the visitors, who made 18 of 19 free throw attempts to just four of eight for the Nuggets. 

CJ McCollum added 21 points and Carmelo Anthony scored 18 in just 22 minutes off the bench for Portland, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers in their playoff opener last season only to lose the next four to the eventual champions. 

Their efforts overcame a 34-point, 15-rebound game from Nikola Jokic and 25 points from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter made all 11 of his two-point field goal attempts Saturday but was just one of 10 from three-point range. 

Game 2 is Monday in Denver. 

 

Brooklyn's big three carry Nets

Big games from the big three carried the Brooklyn Nets to a 104-93 series-opening win over the Boston Celtics. Kevin Durant had 32 points and 12 rebounds while Kyrie Irving added 29 points and James Harden 21 as the Nets stifled the Celtics, who got 22 points on just six of 20 shooting from Jayson Tatum in a losing effort. 

Luka Doncic had his third triple-double in seven career playoff games, scoring 31 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists as the Dallas Mavericks pulled out a 113-103 road win at the Los Angeles Clippers to open their series. Tim Hardaway Jr added 21 points on eight of 13 shooting for the fifth-seeded Mavericks, while Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and Paul George 23 to lead the Clippers. 

 

Butler cannot find the range

Jimmy Butler came close to recording a triple-double with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the Miami Heat's 109-107 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, but the five-time All-Star made only four of 22 shots from the field. 

 

Middleton gives Bucks win

Khris Middleton's contested jumper with 0.5 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Bucks the Game 1 win at home. Middleton's 27 points led the Bucks, with Giannis Antetokounmpo adding 26 points and 18 rebounds. 

 

Saturday's results

Milwaukee Bucks 109-107 Miami Heat (OT)
Dallas Mavericks 113-103 Los Angeles Clippers
Brooklyn Nets 104-93 Boston Celtics
Portland Trail Blazers 123-109 Denver Nuggets

 

Lakers face Suns

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers got the win they needed in the play-in tournament and they will open the playoffs proper with Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against the second-seeded Suns in Phoenix. 

Far from feeling the pressure as the NBA playoffs got underway Saturday, Luka Doncic was right back in his comfort zone. 

A year after a spectacular showing in a first-round series loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the young Dallas Mavericks star was at his best again as the two teams faced off once again Saturday. 

Doncic had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists as the Mavericks took the opening game 113-103 in Los Angeles. 

It was the 22-year-old's third triple-double in seven career playoff games -- a first in NBA history. 

"Playoffs are fun, and especially they are more fun if you win, obviously," Doncic told reporters after the game. "It's fun basketball."

Particularly when the Slovenian is on his game, as he usually is. 

Doncic averaged 31.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists in last year's 4-2 series loss to the Clippers, right in line with his Game 1 showing Saturday. 

The Clippers threw a variety of defensive looks his way, but he managed to either find the shot he needed or get the ball to someone else. 

"He's a very unique player for a 22-year-old," said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle.

"The level of poise that he has, and his ability to slow down the game, to see what's going on -- even when the [shot] clock is at six or seven seconds, he still is able to slow it down and hold that ball just long enough to get a team-mate a great look.

"He was great tonight and I thought his defense was very good, too."

Carlisle also said he thought Doncic was at his best on the kind of stage the playoffs offer. 

Asked whether he agreed, Doncic deflected the praise, pointing to his youth. 

"I hope I'm at my best, but I think that's far away," he said. "I'm only in my third season, so I've got still a lot to learn. 

"We just go out there and have fun and try to win the game."

The NBA playoffs are here!

After some tense one-off play-in games, we can now look forward to thrilling back-and-forth series.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant and all the usual big names will be backed to deliver, but some of their contemporaries have previously found life a little tricky in the postseason.

For five players in particular, it may be do or die as they aim to bolster their reputations or secure their futures.

With the aid of Stats Perform data, we look at the issues this high-profile quartet have encountered in the past...
 

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO

In consecutive seasons, Antetokounmpo won the MVP award on a Milwaukee Bucks team with the best record in the NBA. Then, in the playoffs, the 'Greak Freak' failed to inspire a suddenly one-dimensional side.

Those freakish regular season performances were back again in 2020-21, but Antetokounmpo and the Bucks might have run out of excuses if there is no evidence of postseason improvement.

Last year's approach evidently did not work. Antetokounmpo was on a strict minutes restriction across the campaign, averaging 30.4 minutes per game, but he was still unable to make the difference in the playoffs.

As in all but one of his playoff campaigns, the forward's points return was down on the rest of the season – 29.5 to 26.7 – while the Bucks superstar's shaky shooting came to the fore as he made just 58.0 per cent of his free throws, the worst rate of any of the 23 players to visit the foul line more than 50 times.

Now with additional support in the form of Jrue Holiday, Antetokounmpo simply must deliver this year – and Milwaukee start against the Miami Heat team that beat them in five in round two in 2020.
 

JAMES HARDEN

The man Antetokounmpo followed as MVP has too often had the same problem. Harden is a regular season great, but his career to date has been tarnished by playoff failings.

Although Harden had a big role from the bench as the Oklahoma City Thunder reached the 2012 NBA Finals, he averaged just 12.4 points on 37.5 per cent shooting in that 4-1 series defeat to the Heat.

The dominant scorer has never returned to that stage, subsequently joining the Houston Rockets and repeatedly finding the Golden State Warriors a step too far.

The closest Harden and the Rockets came was in 2018, up 3-2 against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals before letting big leads slip in both Game 6 and Game 7 – the latter seeing Houston's star man shoot two-of-13 from beyond the arc as his team missed a record-breaking 27 consecutive threes.

Now on the Brooklyn Nets, the 31-year-old will at least have former champions Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to turn to if he needs help, although the guard – still battling a hamstring problem – will no doubt be determined to succeed himself and alter his legacy for the better.
 

PAUL GEORGE

Without ever coming close to a title, despite losing back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals with the Indiana Pacers, George has regularly put up impressive numbers in the postseason. There have also been occasions on which he has looked lost on the big stage, however.

George's career playoff average has been kept to 20.1 by some alarming single-digit displays, notably contributing only five points in 45 minutes on two-of-16 shooting in a decisive Game 6 defeat to the Utah Jazz while with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And despite joining a talented Los Angeles Clippers team, George's woes were only magnified in the 2020 'bubble', where he later revealed he was in a "dark place" and "checked out".

The forward shot 25 per cent or lower from the field in four of 11 games, including the Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Back on song and playing in something approaching normal conditions, George has the opportunity to answer his critics, starting against a Dallas Mavericks team he struggled to master last year. The Clippers will need him in a competitive West.
 

CHRIS PAUL

There has generally been little wrong with the level of Paul's performance in the playoffs, his points average climbing to 20.9 from a career regular season mark of 18.3.

However, his deepest run was on Harden's 2018 Houston team as a hamstring kept him out of those painful last two defeats. For Paul, team success this year outweighs any individual achievements.

In his 16th season, he is entering a 13th postseason campaign but still waiting on a first Finals appearance more than 4,000 minutes in.

One of the great point guards of the modern NBA, Paul will be acutely aware of what a title would do for his legacy. He has helped transform the Phoenix Suns into a real force.

The Lakers in round one represent a daunting start for the Suns – especially having secured the number two seed – but fitness issues throughout the West might make this Paul's best and last chance to get to the Finals.
 

BEN SIMMONS

The Philadelphia 76ers ended the season with the best-rated defense in the East (105.1), but will that be enough in the playoffs? It might have to be.

On offense, Joel Embiid led the team by far with 28.5 points, with Simmons, the Sixers' second superstar, only able to contribute 14.3 – low even by his modest standards at that end of the floor.

Those numbers are unlikely to be able to hang with the Nets' 'big three' or a high-scoring Bucks team unless Philly come up with some significant stops.

Embiid, Simmons and Matisse Thybulle were among five 76ers players counted in the 22 best individual defensive ratings this year, but the pressure will ramp up in the postseason.

Simmons, a former first overall pick and the subject of trade rumours this year, is therefore required to become a playoff difference-maker, whether through improvement on offense or series-turning defensive contributions.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr insists their 2020-21 season should be regarded as a success despite missing the playoffs.

The Warriors lost their play-in game 117-112 in over-time against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, meaning they miss the playoffs for the second straight season.

Golden State had won 15 of their final 20 regular-season matches and eight of their last nine to finish with a 39-33 record, before losing both play-in games.

It was a vast improvement on their 2019-20 campaign where they finished 15-50 following serious injuries to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry and were not invited to the NBA bubble.

"I think this season was absolutely a success," Kerr said during his post-game video conference. "We would’ve loved to have gotten into the playoffs and tried to make a run.

"We were really a good team over the last 22 games. To put together a stretch like that over an entire quarter of the season is not a fluke. We were the number one defense over that span.

"To watch these young guys grow and develop, that makes this a successful season because of what it sets up for next year."

Golden State were also narrowly beaten in Wednesday's play-in game for seventh seed against the Los Angeles Lakers following some late LeBron James magic.

Kerr added: "Obviously a crushing way to go out, two straight games that were basically gut punches.

"We felt we had control of the game the other night and lost and really didn’t have the control of this one and could've won. We had the last shot in regulation [which missed]."

Kerr also praised star shooting guard Curry and Draymond Green on their outstanding seasons.

"Steph and Draymond have had fantastic years," he said. "We made a lot of strides this year and I'm really excited about what's next for this group.

"For now, I'm really disappointed they're not going to get the chance to play in the play-offs. It would’ve been a lot of fun."

A visibly disappointed Stephen Curry admits the Golden State Warriors missing the playoffs again was a "tough way" to end their amazing run but wants to keep sight of the bigger picture.

The Warriors won 15 of their last 20 regular-season matches, including eight of the last nine down the final stretch prior to the play-in tournament where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday and were eliminated 117-112 in over-time by the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.

Golden State misses the playoffs for a second straight season, but improved to 39-33 after finishing 15-50 last season, and Curry insisted major gains had been made, after being written off earlier in the season following their disastrous 2019-20 campaign.

"From 15 wins last year, injuries and all that, to what we made out of this year, it's pretty damn impressive," Curry said during his post-game video conference.

"It's a very tough way to go out. We would love to be playing on Sunday but you can't lose sight of the big picture in terms of where people had us at the start of the season, with youth, inexperience and line-up changes all year.

"We were two fourth quarters away from being a seventh or eighth seed. It's weird all the way around."

He added: "It's very unfamiliar territory obviously with the play-in and this being the end of the season. It's a very tough way to end it with these last two games coming down to the wire.

"I gave it everything in the tank. I'm proud of every single person in the Oakland uniform tonight and all season."

The 33-year-old shooting guard, who had a remarkable season averaging 32 points per game, added that the Warriors were "sick to their stomachs" post-game.

"We had a good little session in the locker room after the game where everybody was sick to their stomach disappointed this is the end and how you're going out," Curry said.

"It's okay to pat yourself on the back for doing something nobody thought we could do. I don’t think there's any moral victories, but we're proud of ourselves."

Meanwhile, Grizzlies 21-year-old point guard Ja Morant said his side are not fazed by being the youngest team to qualify for the NBA playoffs since the 2011 Oklahoma City Thunder side which included Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Memphis qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17 as former 2019 number two draft pick Morant, 21, finished with 35 points, six assists and six rebounds.

"We just go out and battle. We know we're a young team," Morant told ESPN.

"We've got some vets who coach us up and lead us. Me being the point guard you have to be a leader. It's my first time making the playoffs but we have some guys who've been in the playoffs before and they’ll help us out."

Morant made two crucial floaters down the stretch to help the Grizzlies to their over-time victory after they blew a 10-point lead late in the fourth.

"That's the shots I want to take," he said. "I like when the pressure is on me. It lifts my game. I've got all the confidence in my game."

The young Memphis Grizzlies have knocked Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors out of the NBA postseason and claimed the eighth seed in the West with a 114-109 over-time win on Friday.

The Grizzlies win through to play the Western Conference top seed Utah Jazz, although they blew a 10-point lead with three minutes to go before triumphing in over-time.

Golden State, who were one of the form teams late in the season, miss the playoffs for the second straight season, while the Grizzlies make their first playoffs since 2016-17.

Ja Morant starred with 35 points including two clutch floaters down the stretch, as well as six rebounds and six assists.

The 21-year-old point guard shot 14-from-29 from the field, including five of 10 from beyond the arc.

It was a big turnaround for Morant who shot one-for-six from three-point range in Sunday's 113-101 loss to the Warriors.

But Morant had great support, with Xavier Tillman (11 points and seven rebounds) draining a crucial three-pointer late as center Jonas Valanciunas had nine points and 12 rebounds before fouling out and Desmond Bane added 10 points including a decisive dunk.

Curry had 39 points for the Warriors, who trailed by 13 at the long interval and looked gone in the last before Draymond Green's back-to-back buckets and Jordan Poole's three put them ahead.

Green finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists, while Andrew Wiggins added 22 points and 10 rebounds but the Warriors were always playing catch-up.

The Warriors only managed 12-from-34 from three-point range with Curry defended well by Dillon Brooks, shooting six-from-15 from beyond the arc.

LeBron James has compared Chris Paul's basketball IQ with stars Rajon Rondo and Draymond Green ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers' playoffs series against the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers won through their play-in game against the Golden State Warriors, earning seventh seed and the right to take on the second seed Suns, who are led by experienced point guard Paul.

Four-time NBA champion James has remarkably never faced 11-time NBA All-Star and high school friend Paul in the postseason.

Rondo and Green are widely known for their basketball intelligence and James identified Paul among those lofty standards.

"It's going to be comparable to playing against Rondo in a series, playing against Draymond in a series," James said during a video conference call on Friday.

"You have those out-of-this-world IQ type guys and fierce competitors, at the same time so it's the same thing.

"Every time I faced Rondo in the past, I knew I had to be not only on my A-game as far as my game, but also my mind as well and that's the same with Draymond, every time you go against those Warriors teams.

"I've had experiences with those two guys, so that will definitely help me in matching up with CP [Paul] because I know the competitor and I know the IQ of the basketball player that he is."

The Lakers may be the seventh seed but head into their series with the Suns as the bookmakers favourites, having been 2019-20 champions.

The Suns surprised a lot of people by ending their long playoffs wait and finishing as high as second in the Western Conference.

Suns coach Monty Williams insisted that being considered underdogs did not faze his side.

"We all hear it," Williams said on Friday. "Ultimately you got to get out there and compete for 48 minutes, and that's what we plan to do.

"Did anybody think we were going to win 51 games this year? In a shortened season? Don't think so. So why would we listen to those people now?"

On facing the reigning champions first up, he added: "Our guys aren't bitter. We're looking forward to competing against the Lakers.

"We're not upset or feel like anybody's done something to our Cheerios. We have to go play the Lakers."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.