NBA Playoffs – Hornets sting Lakers, Grizzlies stun Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO – The New Orleans Hornets shocked the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers and upstart Memphis edged top-seeded San Antonio Sunday in a pair of Western Conference playoff upsets.
Seventh-seeded New Orleans beat the Lakers 109-100 and Memphis defeated the Spurs 101-98 as both best-of-seven first-round series got underway.
Oklahoma City wrapped up the day’s action in the West with a 107-103 victory over Denver.
In the Eastern Conference matchup between the third-seeded Boston Celtics and sixth-seeded New York Knicks, Ray Allen hit the decisive three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining to rally Boston past New York 87-85 to get their first-round playoff series underway.
New Orleans’ Chris Paul had 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds for the Hornets as they seized the initiative over the Lakers on the champions’ home floor in Los Angeles.
“Our defence, I thought, was late,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I think we were late on everything. They were the aggressors, and they stayed aggressive.”
He said he didn’t think his players overlooked the underdog Hornets.
“I just don’t think they were keyed in on what they have to do,” Jackson said.
Hours earlier, the Memphis Grizzlies notched their first-ever NBA post-season win by stunning the top-seeded Spurs in San Antonio.
Zach Randolph scored nine of his 25 points in the fourth quarter for the eighth-seeded Grizzlies, who were making their first playoff appearance since the 2005-06 NBA season.
Marc Gasol finished with 24 points and Mike Conley had 15 points and 10 assists for Memphis, which finished with a 46-36 record in the regular season.
The Grizzlies earned their first playoff win since coming into the league as an expansion team in Vancouver, Canada, 16 years ago.
“It’s nice from an annoyance perspective to have it out of the way, because I don’t have to answer questions about being 0 and 13,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said.
They were swept by San Antonio in four games in the 2004 playoffs.
Memphis trailed when Shane Battier nailed a three-pointer with 23 seconds left, giving the Grizzlies a 99-98 lead.
San Antonio tried to force overtime, but Richard Jefferson missed a long range shot as the clock ticked down.
Memphis players raced onto the court as the buzzer sounded to celebrate their first playoff win in 13 attempts.
Battier was with Memphis when they were swept by San Antonio seven years ago.
“It was awesome. I’m really happy for the city,” Battier said. “Beale Street will be a fun place tonight. Most of these guys don’t know the history or the heartache that the city has gone through. I’m happy for the city.”
France’s Tony Parker led San Antonio with 20 points. Tim Duncan had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who lost their sixth straight playoff series opener.
The Spurs were without all-star guard Manu Ginobili of Argentina, who sat out with a sprained right elbow.
He could be back in time for Wednesday’s game two.
In Los Angeles, Paul scored 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, Carl Landry chipped in with 17 and Jarrett Jack had 15 for the Hornets, who tied a NBA playoff record with just three turnovers.
“I’ve struggled all season long, trying to figure out where to pick my spots,” Paul said. “It’s the playoffs. It’s a whole other energy.”
Kobe Bryant had 34 points for the Lakers, who swept all four games against the Hornets during the regular season.
This time, the Hornets effectively shut down Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Ron Artest finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds while Gasol shot a disappointing two-of-nine from the field and finished with just eight points. Bynum had 13 points.
Game two is Wednesday at Staples Center.
In Oklahoma City, the Thunder relied on All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to pull off a close-run victory over determined Denver.
Durant scored 41 points while Westbrook’s 31 points included two key late baskets.
Westbrook drained the go-ahead basket with 1:06 to play and he scored again to make it 104-101 with 22.4 seconds left.
With 12 seconds remaining, Denver’s Raymond Felton missed a potential tying three-pointer and the Thunder went on to seal the victory at the free throw line.
Oklahoma City host game two on Wednesday.
In Boston, Ray Allen hit the decisive three-pointer with 12 seconds remaining Sunday as Boston rallied to beat New York 87-85 in the first game of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
New York led 85-84 before the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony was called for an offensive foul for pushing Paul Pierce with 21 seconds to play.
Allen, who led the Celtics with 24 points, then sank the key shot from behind the three-point arc.
After Anthony’s foul, Rajon Rondo lined up to in-bound the ball for Boston but called timeout.
Then Allen instead in-bounded from just in front of the half-court line. He tossed the ball to Pierce, moved to the opposite side of the court and caught a pass from Pierce and put up his three-pointer.
“Ray’s the hero with the shot,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “Paul’s the hero with the pass. That’s a great example of not playing hero basketball, just trusting what we drew up. And he made the shot.”
The Knicks headed downcourt, but Anthony missed a long three-point attempt with two seconds remaining, Anthony finishing 1 for 11 from the field in the second half.
Amare Stoudemire had 28 points and 11 rebounds for New York, and Anthony finished with 15.
The Celtics, who won their league-leading 17th title in 2008, are trying to get back to the NBA finals after falling to the Lakers in the championship series last season. They host game two on Tuesday.
Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups said he was not sure if he would be ready to play on Tuesday after leaving the game with 51 seconds left with a strained left knee or thigh muscle.
“I went to the basket and as I took off on my leg it just kind of buckled on me,” Billups said. “I’m in a lot of pain right now, but that’s to be expected.”
The Knicks are in the playoffs for the first time in seven years. The contest was the only Eastern Conference clash on Sunday’s slate.
A Stoudemire dunk over Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal gave the Knicks an 82-78 lead, but he had only one more touch the rest of the game.
“In the playoffs, you have to take these games and learn from them,” Stoudemire said. “We can’t let this game beat us Tuesday.”
Anthony was encouraged rather than discouraged, despite the defeat.
“We did some things great for the most part of that game,” Anthony said. “I’m excited about this series, though.”
Pierce finished with 18 points for Boston and Garnett added 15 points and 13 rebounds as the third-seeded Celtics snatched the victory from the Knicks.
Pierce did a superb job of guarding Anthony, giving him few clear looks at the basket.
However, he said the Celtics would have to improve.
“It’s all about our defense and execution down the stretch,” Pierce said. “We can’t rest on this victory because by no means was this our best basketball.”