Tagged in: NBA

Atlanta Hawks acquire guard Dejounte Murray from San Antonio Spurs for three first-round picks, Danilo Gallinari

The Atlanta Hawks are trading forward Danilo Gallinari and three first-round picks to the San Antonio Spurs for All-Star guard Dejounte Murray.

The Hawks are sending a 2023 first-round pick via the Charlotte Hornets plus their own 2025 and 2027 first-round picks to the Spurs in the deal, sources told Wojnarowski. The deal also includes a pick swap in 2026, the sources said.

The 2025 and 2027 first-round picks are unprotected, a league source told ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

The trade gives the Hawks a formidable backcourt with Murray joining All-NBA guard Trae Young. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Murray and Young will be the first pair of teammates in NBA history who each averaged 20 points and 8 assists per match in the previous season.

Murray took to Twitter later Wednesday to express his gratitude to the Spurs. Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said in May that the team wouldn’t repeat the “mistake” of complacency that he believes set the stage for this season’s disappointing first-round exit from the playoffs.

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The Hawks returned a young core from the team that was eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago.

Ressler stated he believed the team would improve just based on experience.

“We thought we’d be better this season,” Ressler said. “We plan to get better this offseason.”

Instead, the Hawks escaped the play-in tournament with the No. 8 seed before losing to the Miami Heat in five games in the opening round of the playoffs.

Murray, 25, averaged a career-best 21.1 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals last season, earning All-Star honors for the first time in his career. He had 13 triple-doubles, setting the single-season franchise record for the Spurs.

He is scheduled to make $16.6 million next season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.

Gallinari, 33, averaged 11.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 66 matches last season, his second with the Hawks.

His $21.5 million salary for the 2022-23 season is partially guaranteed.

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Kyrie Irving says he’s opting in to $36.5 million option with Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving is opting in to his $36.5 million option with the Brooklyn Nets for next season, he told The Athletic on Monday.

“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow,” Irving told The Athletic. “I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even.”

Irving had created a list of teams he would have liked the Nets to consider working with on a sign-and-trade deal if they couldn’t agree on terms for him to stay in Brooklyn, but the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team known to be interested.

Without the ability to find a sign-and-trade deal, Irving plans to exercise his player option, sources confirmed. He has until 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday to file to paperwork to opt in.

Irving is now no longer eligible for a sign-and-trade deal.

The Nets could still work to trade him as an expiring contract, but Irving would have no formal voice in a potential landing spot. He has until June 30 of next year to work out an extension with the Nets before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

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Irving, 30, averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season but only played in 29 regular-season games. By deciding not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Irving was ineligible to play in New York City because of a city vaccination mandate for employees.

When he did play, Irving reminded everyone just how talented he still is, as evidenced by a stretch in March and April when he scored at least 40 points in four games, including 60 during a March 15 win over the Orlando Magic.

There were usually large gaps in between when he could play in the schedule, until New York City mayor Eric Adams reversed course in late March and allowed a vaccination exemption for athletes and performers. Irving played in all four games of the Nets’ first-round loss to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs.

A seven-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, Irving has averaged 27.1 points and 6 assists while shooting 49% from the field and 40.6% from 3 over the past three seasons. But due to a variety of injuries and other issues off the floor, he has played in just 103 regular-season games over that span.

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Orlando Magic make Duke’s Paolo Banchero No. 1 pick in 2022 NBA draft

After months of speculation, Duke’s Paolo Banchero was a surprise selection by the Orlando Magic with the top overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday night at Barclays Center.

The Oklahoma City Thunder started a busy first round by taking Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren with the second pick, then got 11th pick Ousmane Dieng of France in a trade with the New York Knicks and took Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams at No. 12.

Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. went No. 3 overall to the Houston Rockets.

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Smith had been widely expected to be the top selection. But the Magic turned things upside down by taking Banchero, who sported a bright purple suit with sequins, along with even brighter shoes, as he took to the stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

“I had a feeling, from the information I was being told, that it was just kind of up in the air,” Banchero told ESPN of going first. “Orlando wasn’t really sure yet, and just to be ready for whatever.

“I didn’t find out, though, that I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just kind of happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready. I’m ready.”

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Banchero, a 6-foot-10 forward from Duke, averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists across 39 games for the Blue Devils, who reached the Final Four before losing to their forever rival in North Carolina.

Banchero, who might be the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft, will now be looked to as the anchor of Orlando’s nascent rebuild, which includes guards Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony, forwards Franz Wagner and Jonathan Isaac and center Wendell Carter Jr.

While Banchero was a surprise at No. 1, Holmgren was always expected to go to Oklahoma City with the second pick. A 7-footer from Gonzaga, Holmgren flashed a wide array of skills in his lone season in college, averaging 14.1 points on 60% shooting overall and 39% from 3-point range while grabbing 9.9 rebounds and blocking 3.7 shots in 26.9 minutes across 32 games.

Oklahoma City now has an interior anchor to go with its promising young backcourt of rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Australian Josh Giddey, the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and a first-team All-Rookie selection.

The Thunder also got Dieng, the 11th pick, by sending three conditional first-round picks to the Knicks. Dieng, who turned 19 last month, averaged 8.8 points for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League this past campaign.

Oklahoma City then took Williams with the 12th pick, making him the first player drafted from Santa Clara since Hall of Famer Steve Nash in 1996. And the Thunder rounded out their first-round selections by taking UCLA’s Peyton Watson with pick No. 30.

Smith, a sweet-shooting 6-foot-10 forward from Auburn, averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting 42% from behind the 3-point arc. After drafting Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba in the first round of last year’s draft, the Rockets kept their rebuild in the wake of moving on from franchise icon James Harden at the start of the 2021-22 season by selecting Smith. Houston also took LSU forward Tari Eason with the 17th pick.

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Kendrick Nunn, 26, opts into final year of contract with Los Angeles Lakers

Kendrick Nunn, who missed all of last season because of a bone bruise in his right knee, is opting into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers worth $5.25 million, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Nunn, who turns 27 this summer, signed with Los Angeles for the midlevel exception last summer but never played a match during the regular season after injuring an ankle during training camp and later discovering the bone bruise, which was slow to heal.

The Chicago product came into the league undrafted out of Oakland and latched onto the Miami Heat, averaging 15 points on 36.4% from 3 and 88.1% from the foul line in two seasons, along with 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.

During his exit interview with reporters in April, Nunn announced his plan to return to Los Angeles.

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“Knowing that I just took this entire year off, it’s a no-brainer for me to opt in,” Nunn said.

Nunn’s decision puts the Lakers at five guaranteed contracts on the books for next season, along with LeBron James ($44.47 million), Anthony Davis ($37.98 million), Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.26 million) and Austin Reaves ($1.56 million).

Russell Westbrook, entering into the final year of his deal worth $47.06 million, has until June 29 to inform L.A. whether he intends to opt in or not.

Los Angeles also has team options on Stanley Johnson ($2.35 million) and Wenyen Gabriel ($1.88 million) for next campaign.

Even if the Lakers exercise those options, the front office will still have half the roster to fill out this summer as it looks to regroup from one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history (33-49 in 2021-22).

In other Lakers news, the team is hiring Nets assistant coach Jordan Ott for a more prominent role on Darvin Ham’s new staff.

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Orlando Magic still evaluating all options with No. 1 pick in NBA draft

College basketball season ended almost three months ago, the NBA draft lottery was more than a month ago and the draft itself is later this week.

Seems like the process should be winding down.

Orlando Magic president Jeff Weltman sees it differently.

“I tell you, it’s still early in the process,” Weltman stated Monday.

Translated: The Magic haven’t decided yet what they’ll do on Thursday night when the draft rolls around and they have the No. 1 pick. Other teams have called to gauge what the asking price would be if they want to trade for that selection, and the Magic have evaluated all the top candidates.

But Weltman sees no reason to decide anything before it’s absolutely necessary, especially given the opportunity that Orlando has by holding this No. 1 pick.

“Dialogue is always ongoing,” Weltman said. “But most importantly, we get to do what we want. That’s the real benefit of having the No. 1 pick.”

The top candidates for the pick are well-known: Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. worked out for Orlando earlier this month, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren met with the Magic for multiple days last week and Duke’s Paolo Banchero has been working out with former Magic guard Mike Miller.

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Holmgren stated he came away convinced that “great people” are leading the Magic.

“They’ve got a vision for what they’re trying to put together in Orlando,” Holmgren said.

Weltman wouldn’t say that those are the only three candidates Orlando would consider at No. 1.

“It’s confirmed that there are a lot of talented players at the top of this draft, that’s for sure,” Weltman said.

This is the fourth time that Orlando will be making the No. 1 pick. The Magic took Shaquille O’Neal with the top selection in 1992. Chris Webber was the No. 1 pick by Orlando in 1993, and he got traded that same night for Penny Hardaway and a package of future picks that were eventually turned into Vince Carter and, later, Miller. And in 2004, the Magic selected Dwight Howard with the first pick.

The No. 1 pick on Thursday will join a young core in Orlando that already involves 2017 top pick Markelle Fultz, a pair of top-eight picks from the 2021 draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony — the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft.

Orlando also has the No. 6 picks from the 2017 and 2018 draft, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. It’s possible that when next season starts Orlando could have as many as six lottery picks, nine top-16 selections and 12 first-rounders on its roster.

This is all part of the challenge for the Magic — who also have the No. 32 and No. 35 picks this year — going into Thursday: Finding more youth that fits with the current core, finding ways to be better next season and sustainably better for years to come.

“We do want to get better, but not at the expense of rushing back to mediocrity,” Weltman said.

“And we do want to have something sustainable. But you have to elevate the standard to do that. You can’t just stay at the basement level, you know, interminably. So those are conversations that we’re having, which players do that for us.”

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Celtics torch Heat early, even series with 102-82 blowout

The Miami Heat left Jayson Tatum lying on the court with a pain in his neck in the closing minutes of Game 3.

The Celtics All-Star did his part to make sure the Heat were hurting after Game 4.

Tatum scored 31 points and Boston took its turn pounding Miami early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece.

“Obviously, we knew how important this game was,” Tatum said. “Everybody just had to come up with a different sense of urgency.”

Miami missed 15 of its first 16 shots as this bizarre series produced another game that was all but over after 12 minutes. The Heat led 39-18 after the first quarter of Game 3.

Boston improved to 5-0 this postseason following a loss. Coach Ime Udoka stated the challenge is finding more consistency.

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“Just got to muster that same energy when we came off a win as well as a loss,” Udoka said. “This is a three-game series now. Can’t always just flip the mindset when we come off a loss and get a little desperate.”

Game 5 is Wednesday in Miami.

Payton Pritchard had 14 points for the Celtics. Derrick White added 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Robert Williams concluded with 12 points and nine rebounds.

“We just wanted to up the effort all-around,” Williams said.

The Celtics led by 27 points in the second quarter and stretched their advantage to 32 in the third. Each game in this series has featured a lead of at least 20 points, and none has been close down the stretch.

Victor Oladipo led the Heat with 23 points. Miami’s starting five of All-Star Jimmy Butler (six points), Kyle Lowry (three points), P.J. Tucker (no points), Max Strus (no points) and Bam Adebayo (nine points) were a combined 7 of 36 shooting. They all sat out the fourth quarter.

“They came out and jumped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re not making any excuses. They outplayed us tonight for sure. We never could get any kind of grip on the game.”

And the Celtics stymied the Heat without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, who sat with a sprained right ankle he suffered in the second half of Game 3.

The Heat were without Tyler Herro, who suffered a groin injury late in Game 3.

Butler was in the starting lineup after missing the second half of Game 3 with swelling in his right knee. Lowry (strained left hamstring), Strus (strained hamstring) and Tucker (left knee irritation) all tested their injuries pregame before being cleared to go.

“It’s a part of playoffs. You learn to adapt,” Adebayo said. “Guys being out, guys playing half, guys playing 20 minutes in the game, just depends. You’ve just got to find a way to win.”

Boston’s Williams returned after missing a game with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.

Even with their banged-up roster, the Celtics enjoyed their fastest start of the series. Starting in place of Smart, White scored the game’s first seven points as Boston took an 8-0 lead.

It quickly grew to 18-1, with Miami misfiring on its first 14 shots. The Heat didn’t get their first points until Adebayo’s free throw at the 7:56 mark. Miami made its first field goal at 3:22, a 3-pointer by Oladipo, and ended the quarter 3 for 20.

The Celtics took a 29-11 lead into the second quarter and led 57-33 at the half.

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Celtics roll past Heat 127-102, tie Eastern finals at 1-1

Jayson Tatum scored 27 points, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown each had 24 and the Boston Celtics dominated the first half to roll past the Miami Heat 127-102 on Thursday night and tie the Eastern Conference finals at a game each.

Smart was a rebound shy of a triple-double, after adding 12 assists and nine rebounds.

Grant Williams scored 19 points for Boston, which used a 17-0 run late in the first quarter — fueled by five 3-pointers in the span of six possessions — to take control. Payton Pritchard and Al Horford each had 10 for the Celtics.

Jimmy Butler had 29 points in 32 minutes for Miami, which fell to 7-1 at home in these playoffs. Gabe Vincent and Victor Oladpio each scored 14 points, and Tyler Herro added 11 for the Heat.

The Celtics — now 4-0 in these playoffs in the game immediately following a loss — made 20 shots from 3-point range to Miami’s 10. Game 3 is Saturday in Boston.

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And the margin could have been worse: Boston led by as many as 34 points in the fourth, putting this game on the cusp of really good Celtics history and really bad Heat history.

The Celtics’ record for biggest postseason victory ever is 40, the Heat record for biggest postseason loss ever is 36, and those numbers were within reach before a meaningless Miami run over the final moments.

Boston trailed by 10 in the first quarter, then outscored Miami 60-21 over the next 18 minutes — a 39-point turnaround that wound up leading to a 70-45 halftime lead.

The 25-point halftime lead was the biggest by the Celtics in any road playoff game, topping a 22-point edge at the break at Chicago in 2009.

Brown had 11 points in the first quarter, when the Celtics went 9 for 11 from 3-point range.

Tatum then had 17 points in the second and Boston kept pulling away, on a day where everything went the Celtics’ way.

They learned earlier in the day that two starters — Horford (virus-related issues) and Smart (mid-foot sprain) — were cleared to play in Game 2 after missing the series opener.

“I got to get my rest, got to get my health back, got to watch and see some things and come out and execute in this game,” Smart stated.

And the good news kept coming well into the night.

Butler did all he could to try and manufacture a comeback, scoring 16 points in the third quarter and getting the Heat within 17. But a 12-2 run late in the quarter by the Celtics restored a 27-point edge.

The lead was 96-71 going into the fourth and the outcome was never remotely close to being in question the rest of the way.

Miami didn’t even use its starters in the fourth quarter.

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Spoelstra, Udoka have Heat and Celtics ready for East finals

There is enormous respect between those men, who have known one another for decades and have deep ties. Spoelstra coaches the Miami Heat, Udoka is in his first season coaching the Boston Celtics, and one of them will be representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Game 1 of the East title series is Tuesday night, the top-seeded Heat playing host to the second-seeded Celtics.

“We have great respect for what they’ve done during the regular season, to develop the right habits,” stated Spoelstra, now in his 14th season after taking over as Miami coach for Hall of Famer Pat Riley. “And like I said, this is the way it should be — the two teams that played most consistently at the top of the East for most of the year, and we’re meeting in the conference finals to figure it out.”

The Heat needed five games to get past Atlanta in Round 1, then six games to oust Philadelphia in the East semifinals. Boston swept Brooklyn in Round 1, then ended Milwaukee’s reign as NBA champions by finishing off a seven-game series victory in the other East semi that ended Sunday.

It’s a rematch of the 2020 East finals, held in the restart bubble at Walt Disney World, when Miami topped Boston 4-2 to earn a berth in the NBA Finals. That was the third East finals loss in a four-year span for members of the Celtics — and many of the players from some of or all those defeats, like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, are Boston’s core today.

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“This is the group I feel like is poised enough to get it done,” Brown said. “I feel like everything that we’ve overcome — all these battles and challenges and adversity we’ve been through this season, as well as the challenge that we just had overcoming the defending champions — I think that we are prepared. I think we’re ready to take that next step. We’ve just got to go out and take it.”

For its part, Miami — seeking a seventh trip to the NBA Finals and what would be a sixth in the last 12 seasons — isn’t looking back at the bubble win or much of anything else, All-Star forward Jimmy Butler insisted.

“We just want to focus in on today, right now, the group of guys that we get to go to war with every single day,” Butler said.

So, players might not look back.

It’s a little different for the coaches.

Udoka remembers meeting Spoelstra when he was a kid — at 44, Udoka is seven years younger than Spoelstra — and watching him play in pro-am runs alongside other Portland basketball legends like Damon Stoudemire.

Udoka played against Spoelstra-coached Heat teams four times before becoming a coach, spending the bulk of his years as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.

Hence, the Olympic ties they share: Popovich was USA Basketball’s coach in the last Olympic cycle, and asked Udoka and Spoelstra to be part of his circle of confidants for that journey.

“He’s always had success,” Udoka said of Spoelstra. “One of the best coaches in the league, in my opinion. It’ll be a task for us because he has his team well-prepared, hard-fought, Heat Culture mentality. I got to know him on a more personal level in that time spent in Tokyo in preparations for the Olympics, but I’ve known Erik for a while.”

They’ll know each other a little better after the next couple weeks.

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Booker scores 28, Suns rout Mavericks 110-80 for 3-2 lead

Devin Booker scored 28 points, Deandre Ayton added 20 and the Phoenix Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks 110-80 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Suns used a huge third quarter to turn a tight game into a comfortable victory. Phoenix opened up the second half on an 11-4 run, highlighted by Booker’s two 3-pointers, for a 61-50 lead.

Mavs coach Jason Kidd called for a timeout, but it did little to stop the onslaught. The Suns led 82-60 going into the fourth with Booker pouring in 12 points during the third.

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While the Suns were finally finding some offensive continuity, the Mavs completely lost theirs, scoring just four points in the first six minutes of the third.

At times, the Dallas offense regressed to mostly watching Luka Doncic try and work magic, but he couldn’t do it all by himself.

The Mavs had 12 turnovers during the third quarter.

The top-seeded Suns bounced back after dropping the previous two matches and can win the series in Game 6 on Thursday in Dallas.

Doncic finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Jalen Brunson added 21 points. The Mavs shot just 38% from the field.

The Suns took a hard-fought 49-46 lead into halftime. Booker scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Doncic countered with 18 points, though it was a little less efficient after making 7 of 16 shots.

The Mavericks led for a majority of the first half before Booker’s baseline jam tied it at 40-all with 3:47 before halftime. Mikal Bridges had a nifty steal and then scored on a fast-break layup for a 44-42 lead.

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Ja Morant, with blurred vision, matches playoff career-high 47 points as Memphis Grizzlies even series with Golden State Warriors

All Ja Morant needed was one good eye to match his playoff career-high of 47 points and even the Memphis Grizzlies’ series with the Golden State Warriors.

Playing with blurred vision in his left eye after being poked in the third quarter, Morant scored the Grizzlies’ final 15 points to lift them to a 106-101 win in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal series at FedEx Forum.

Morant concluded with a spectacular 47 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds to help Memphis avoid falling behind 0-2 in this best-of-seven series.

He joined LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the only players with multiple 45-point games in the playoffs before turning 23 years old, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

And he did so after leaving the game at the end of the third quarter complaining, “I can’t see.”

“I still can’t [see],” Morant said when asked about his vision. “I can see on the middle. I can’t see on the outside. I got punched trying to get the rebound.” Morant added: “I got another good eye over here — 20-20 vision right here. Thank God for my right eye.”

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The Grizzlies trailed 97-93 with 3:50 remaining when Morant was in the midst of his fourth-quarter takeover. With starter Dillon Brooks ejected in the opening minutes due to a flagrant 2 foul on Gary Payton II, and Jaren Jackson Jr. having fouled out with 3:59 left, Morant scored on a second consecutive driving layup.

He then buried a 26-foot 3 and a 7-foot floater. Morant also drew a foul on Draymond Green as the two were chasing after a rebound that Green grabbed, but officials called a foul when he bumped into Morant with 49.8 seconds left. Morant made two free throws and then sank another driving floater to push the Grizzlies up 104-101 with 30.7 seconds left.

“I feel like I’ve just watched him transform into a true closer,” power forward Xavier Tillman said.

Morant sealed the game from the free throw line to even it up.

“Definitely big time,” Morant said of where this game ranks for him. “I felt like this was a must-win game for us. For me, I was frustrated with myself missing that layup in Game 1.”

Morant, whose career high is 52 points, was frustrated after missing a driving scoop layup over Klay Thompson and a trailing Payton at the end of Game 1’s 117-116 loss to Golden State.

Morant stated Warriors star Stephen Curry told him and Jackson after that loss that “it is going to be a battle. We are going to have some fun.”

As streamers fell from the ceiling after the buzzer on Tuesday night, Morant walked by Curry. He had returned the favor and told Curry, “We are going to have some fun.”

“I was able to return that message tonight,” Morant said. ” … I am having a lot of fun.”

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