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Memphis Grizzlies set NBA record after beating Oklahoma City Thunder by 73 points

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Grizzlies broke the NBA record for margin of victory on Thursday night, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79.

The 73-point margin easily topped the previous mark, which was Cleveland’s 68-point win over Miami. The Cavaliers topped the Heat 148-80 on Dec. 17, 1991.

“Tonight is not necessarily who we are,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think we’ve definitely shown that from a competitive standpoint. This isn’t indicative of who our team is.”

Memphis used 12 players and nine of them reached double figures in scoring, with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s 27 points leading the way. Memphis was without its best player, injured guard Ja Morant.

It was 72-36 at halftime, and the Grizzlies just kept adding to the lead, eventually pulling ahead by as many as 78 — the largest lead in any game since at least 1996-97.

The Thunder flirted with being on the wrong end of the record last season, trailing Indiana by 67 points on May 1 before rallying — such as it was — to lose by merely 57 points, 152-95.

This was worse. Historically worse.

The Grizzlies set a franchise record for shooting, making 62.5% of their shots. De’Anthony Melton scored 19 points, Santi Aldama scored 18 and John Konchar scored 17 for the Grizzlies, and none of those three players even started.

“Man, it feels great. It feels great to be in the history books, especially in front of our home crowd,” Melton said. “And we did it one through 15. Everybody contributed, everybody played hard and we all got to get in the game. So, it’s always a blessing.

“We knew with [Morant] going down what we had to do. We had to step up.”

No Memphis starter played more than 21 minutes. The Grizzlies’ bench contributed 93 points, outscoring Oklahoma City’s entire team by 14 points.

Lu Dort led the Thunder with 15 points, and Oklahoma City shot only 33%.

It was 12-8 after five minutes. From there, there was no stopping Memphis. The Grizzlies outscored the Thunder by 15 points in each of the four quarters.

It was the third straight game the Grizzlies have led from start to finish. The Thunder lost their eighth straight as they continued to play short-handed with a number of players unavailable, including leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered concussion protocol earlier Thursday.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 39 points against the Rockets on Wednesday night but suffered a blow to the head late in the game. Point guard Josh Giddey, who averages 10.4 points and 5.5 assists, sat out with a non-COVID-19 illness, and the remaining players couldn’t fill the void in Oklahoma City’s offense.

The Thunder had been competitive in their seven straight losses before Thursday night. Their largest margin of defeat was 13 points.

“When you compete, you have exposure to the highs and lows of competition,” Daigneault said. “And competition comes with great joy, and it also comes with grief and frustration and anger. And when you step in that ring, that’s what you expose yourself to is all of those things.

“It’s why the joy feels so good, because when you get punched and you taste your own blood, it doesn’t feel right.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.

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Sacramento Kings pull out of pursuit for Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, sources say

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The Sacramento Kings — one of the most aggressive teams in the trade market and once an eager suitor for Philadelphia‘s Ben Simmons — have ended their pursuit of a deal with the 76ers and turned elsewhere in trade talks, sources told ESPN on Friday.

Inside of two weeks until the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline, the Kings believe the asking price is too steep and that a pathway to a trade agreement with the Sixers doesn’t exist, sources said.

The Kings, who have lost five straight and sit 13th in the Western Conference, are determined to reshape their roster and remain engaged on other fronts, sources said.

Sacramento has several players as viable trade assets, including forward Harrison Barnes, guard Buddy Hield and center Richaun Holmes.

The Kings’ roster represented one of the Sixers’ best options for a Simmons deal ahead of the trade deadline. Losing them in the marketplace somewhat diminishes the chances of an in-season trade, although the Sixers still believe there are potential avenues to a deal, sources said.

With the Kings exiting talks and sources saying the Brooklyn Nets will not engage on a James Harden trade, it becomes increasingly possible that 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will be willing to advance the Simmons discussions into the offseason.

Morey and the Sixers have long believed that the offseason could bring higher-profile players into the trade market for Simmons. Along with free agency, playoff disappointments often give teams and star players reason to pursue change, which could offer the Sixers a wider spectrum of options.

The Sixers’ public and private threshold for a Simmons deal has consistently been stated as a return that would keep them as NBA championship contenders.

Simmons is signed through the 2024-25 season, and the Sixers believe that gives them leverage to wait on a deal. Simmons has sought a trade and declined to play, citing mental health reasons, as center Joel Embiid has turned into an MVP favorite while leading the Sixers to a 29-19 start — two games behind first-place Miami.

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Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden ‘ready to go’ after missing NBA game with hamstring injury

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NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, who missed one game with left hamstring tightness, is “ready to go” against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, coach Steve Nash said Friday.

Harden was a late scratch against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday because of the hamstring injury.

The Nets, who come into Saturday’s game having lost three straight, are counting on Harden to provide offensive stability over the next few weeks as the group tries to continue to weave Kyrie Irving back into the lineup — while still playing without star Kevin Durant, who is expected to miss several more weeks because of a sprained MCL in his left knee.

Nash said Irving “needs the time” on the upcoming five-game road trip to keep building up his rhythm after not playing NBA basketball for almost three months.

Irving, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, is not currently allowed to play in home games because of a New York City vaccination mandate.

“He’s still trying to find his game,” Nash said. “His level’s so good that it’s hard to tell, but we can tell, he can tell. He knows that he’s not fully back yet. He’s right there, and he has patches, but he needs the time. … He needs reps. And games are reps for him right now. So it’s great for him individually. And as a group, it’s great to get more comfortable with him, to spend more time with him. To get him reincorporated with the things we’re doing and try to move this thing forward.”

The issue of how to integrate a star player back into the lineup is one shared by the Nets’ opponent on Saturday. The Warriors are working to get their rhythm back with Klay Thompson, who returned earlier this month after missing close to 2½ years while rehabbing separate ACL and Achilles injuries.

“Knowing Klay, it’s a little deeper one for me in that I know how much he loves the game,” said Nash, who spent five seasons with Golden State as a player development consultant after his own Hall of Fame career ended. “And to have him have back-to-back season-ending injuries more or less was devastating for him personally, so to see him back playing where he needs to be, where he should be, where he wants to be, is a beautiful thing.”

Nash said he’s been impressed by what he’s seen from Thompson after so much time off.

“Missing any extended period of time, it’s not straightforward coming back,” Nash said. “You have to find your rhythm, you have to find your timing, you have to get your legs back under you. So two years is like an eternity … that’s some people’s NBA careers. So for him to come back and play at the level he’s playing at is really impressive, and he’ll continue to get better.”

The Warriors (36-13) are second in the Western Conference standings entering Saturday’s game.

“They have that championship experience and pedigree,” Nash said. “You also have a bunch of guys that are hungry. They’re used to doing that. So Klay, how hungry do you think he is right now? Steph [Curry], after their last couple years, how hungry do you think he is? I think Draymond [Green], as much as anybody’s come back this year, [is] in incredible form. So they’re hungry, they’re motivated. They have that history, and knowing and corporate knowledge.”

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Orlando Magic’s Cole Anthony fined $25,000 for derogatory remarks toward official

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NEW YORK — Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony has been fined $25,000 by the NBA for directing profane and derogatory remarks toward a game official.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of Orlando’s 111-102 loss to the LA Clippers on Wednesday night at Amway Center. Byron Spruell, the president of league operations, announced the fine Friday.

The Magic (9-40) have endured a frustrating season and own the NBA’s worst record. They host the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

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