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Nets’ Ben Simmons to have surgery for herniated disk in back

Ben Simmons will have surgery to alleviate back pain from a herniated disk.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Ben Simmons will have surgery to alleviate pain in his back caused by a herniated disk, the Brooklyn Nets said Wednesday.

The procedure will be done Thursday. The Nets said it was decided upon after consultation with multiple back specialists.

Simmons sat out this entire season. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft didn’t play in Philadelphia after requesting a trade, citing mental health concerns. After he was dealt to Brooklyn in February in a deal for James Harden, he was bothered by the back while trying to rebuild his conditioning.

Ben Simmons did not play the entire season.John Minchillo/Associated Press

The Nets originally said he had back spasms but later said the problem was a herniated disk. Simmons eventually resumed workouts and hoped to make his debut during the playoffs, but that plan was scrapped when he experienced more pain.

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Simmons will have a microdiscectomy, in which a small fragment of the disk is removed.

The Nets said further updates will be provided after the procedure.

Stephen Curry, Ja Morant enjoying challenge of battling in West semis

Stephen Curry had a message for Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. after the Golden State Warriors took Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Prepare to have some fun in this series.

Morant countered in a big way in Game 2. He also made sure to get in Curry’s ear after tying the best-of-seven playoff at one apiece.

“I was able to return that message ... saying the same thing,” Morant said after equaling his postseason high with 47 points in Memphis’ 106-101 win Tuesday night. “I always say, this is my favorite matchup playing against a guy like him, a great talent. Yeah, it’s going to be a battle.”

Ja Morant and Stephen Curry have engaged in a great duel through the first two games of their playoff series.Justin Ford/Getty

Curry and Morant have been dueling going back to last year’s play-in game. Morant and Memphis won on Curry’s home court to clinch the eighth seed. Starting with that game, only one of seven meetings have been decided by double digits.

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In this semifinal, Morant has outscored Curry in each game. The NBA’s Most Improved Player missed a layup at the end of Game 1 in a 117-116 loss that ate at Morant until he got back on the court Tuesday night.

Morant scored 14 points in the first quarter. But he was at his absolute best in the fourth despite taking a shot to his left eye going for a rebound late in the third period — it even took him a few minutes to see well enough to get back on the floor.

The Grizzlies trailed 89-86 when Morant got started. He converted a three-point play after being fouled by Draymond Green to tie it with 6:11 left. Brandon Clarke added two free throws and then Morant took over, scoring the last 15 points for the Grizzlies over the final 4:16.

The dynamic guard shot 6 of 11 in the fourth, including 1 of 3 outside the arc. He also made all five free throws, scoring 18 of Memphis’ 29 points. Morant was the only Grizzlies starter on the floor during a personal 15-6 run he reeled off while surrounded by reserves, with Jackson fouled out, Dillon Brooks ejected for a flagrant foul on Gary Payton II, and Desmond Bane dealing with a sore back.

The Warriors lost Payton to a broken left elbow early in the game because of the foul by Brooks.. Payton started to help defend Morant, and Green said they just need to “guard him better.” ESPN reported that Payton is expected to miss approximately a month. The NBA is investigating the possibility of a suspension for Brooks. A decision is likely to come Thursday

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Golden State also needs to shoot better. The Warriors were 7 of 38 from 3-point range, with Curry and Klay Thompson combining to go 5 for 23. Curry said they’ll be ready for the next round of this prize fight after feeling they let one slip away. Game 3 is Saturday night in San Francisco.

“It’s going to be a long three days with that feeling, but we understand what we need to do and how we need to play and the things we need to focus on, and commit to that come Saturday,” Curry said.

Nuggets need more than healthy Murray, Porter to contend

Michael Malone says the Denver Nuggets realize they won’t transform into NBA title contenders simply by getting Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back on the court.

Denver’s coach said the Nuggets need to vastly improve on defense, whether that’s through attitude adjustments or player acquisitions.

Thanks to an historic season by reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets won 48 games despite Murray missing the entire season while recovering from ACL reconstruction and Porter missing the final 73 games and the playoffs following back surgery.

What does the rest of the postseason hold for Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets?David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Nuggets lost to Golden State in five games in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs with their two max players looking on in street clothes from the bench.

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Malone called this “a huge offseason” for the Nuggets, who aim to surround Jokic with the proper supporting cast to capitalize on his prime years.

“Everybody wants to just say, ‘Well, it’s just Michael and Jamal coming back healthy.’ And that’s just a starting block, but it doesn’t end there,” Malone said. “We have a window and I think windows are only open so long. We have a 27-year-old phenom who will hopefully soon be named a back-to-back MVP.

“We have to capitalize while we have a special player in Nikola and do everything that we can as an organization — and I know we will — to put the best players around him to give ourselves the best chance to win the world championship.”

That starts with becoming a tougher team to score on.

“Our defense against Golden State was not good enough,” Malone said. “I think we had the 16th-ranked defense in the playoffs, which is dead last.”

During the season, Malone noted, Denver allowed 17½ points per game on turnovers, “so we fuel teams’ breaks, we give them easy baskets.”

“And then in the half-court, our inability to guard one-on-one, contain the ball, led to a lot of rim attacks and I think we were 30th in opponents’ rim field-goal percentage. We were 29th in blocks per game,” Malone said.

“That’s a bad combination if you struggle to guard the ball on the perimeter and you don’t have Dikembe Mutombo blocking shots behind you.”

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