Without Ja Morant, Grizzlies’ promotion hopes get tougher

Memphis’ chances of preventing elimination are tougher now.

The Warriors put the Grizzlies on the brink of elimination late in Game 4 on Monday night, taking a 3-1 series lead in the absence of Memphis star Ja Morant with a sore right knee.

Morant is skeptical about the remainder of the playoffs after an MRI and further evaluation revealed a bone bruise on his injured knee, the team announced Tuesday night. The NBA’s most improved player and All-Star guard is averaging 38.3 points per game.

The Golden State Warriors, now headed to Memphis, need a win to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2019 — when they lost the NBA Finals and then missed the last two playoffs.

It’s been a long wait for a team that has won three championships over the past decade.

“Wednesday will be the toughest one,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “It’s always, the finishing touches. We have to put it behind us and have a good game plan.”

Even without Morant, Memphis led with 45.7 seconds left in Game 4 before Golden State won 101-98. This is the first time Memphis has scored under 100 in this postseason.

“We’re going home,” Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. said. “We have our fans. It’s going to be loud, so we’re excited to go home and play again, man. We still have a chance to play. They’re a good team. We obviously know how the game is going. Yeah, we There is another chance.”

It’s pushing the series back to San Francisco for Game 6 on Friday.

In the Bucks-Celtics series, Boston’s Al Horford played at his level in the playoffs, and many thought he lost at age 35.

It reached new heights in the Celtics’ 116-108 Game 4 win over the Bucks on Monday night. The five-time All-Star scored 16 of his playoff career-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to help Boston play two games apiece with the defending NBA champions in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Equally important, the Celtics have regained home-court advantage as the series returns to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday.

After a challenging season in Oklahoma City last year, Horford was traded to Kemba Walker by the Thunder, returning Horford to where he last earned All-Star honors in 2017-18.

Horford said he feels like he’s experiencing the fruits of the offseason, and he’s focused on getting ready to play meaningful games again. He has gone from averaging 10.2 points and 7.7 rebounds in the regular season to 15.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in the playoffs.

“It was sitting at home,” Horford said. “It was watching the playoffs, not knowing what my future was going to be like, really just hoping for a chance to get into this environment.”

The recovery comes at a time when Boston needs someone to step up as big man Robert Williams III is out for the second time in the playoffs, missing Game 4 with a surgically repaired left knee soreness. He had questions about Game 5.

Bucks guard Wesley Matthews said there was no time to be angry after missing a chance to take a 3-1 series lead.

“If it’s easy to get to the semifinals, then every team will get to the semifinals. This one is hard (hard. It’s so hard,” he said. “At the same time, you can’t hold your head up too high or press your head down too much. Low, you have to bounce back.”

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