LOS ANGELES (AFP) – 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.
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.
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.
Luwawu-Cabarrot, getting a starting nod, added 21 points with six rebounds and two assists.
The Nets said on Monday morning that Durant, who missed all of last season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, wouldn’t play on the first night of back-to-back games.
“We want to protect him and protect us from any negative consequences,” said coach Steve Nash, who added Irving to the injury list later in the day.
The Nets were also without Spencer Dinwiddie, who will have surgery to repair a partially torn right knee ligament suffered on Sunday.
In Atlanta, the Hawks notched their third straight win of the young season with a 128-120 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Trae Young led the Hawks with 29 points, three rebounds and six assists, and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 17 points off the bench for the Hawks against a Pistons team that opted to rest stars Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose on the first night of a back-to-back.