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Brad Hurt
Brad Hurt
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Jazz Fan

Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward lead Jazz past Grizzlies posted by Jazz Fan

After losing to Eastern Conference foes Chicago and Cleveland over the weekend, Memphis showed signs of fatigue in not being able to counter Utah's youth, allowing the Jazz to beat the Grizzlies 97-91 on Monday night.

Alec Burks scored 23 points and Gordon Hayward added 21 to lead the Jazz, who withstood a late push by hitting eight of 10 free throws down the stretch for their third win in the last four.

Derrick Favors finished with 15 points, while Enes Kanter added 13 points and nine rebounds. Rudy Gobert had a career-best 16 rebounds as the Jazz dominated the boards 49-34.

"I think our offensive game started with our defense," Hayward said. "We have a goal of not letting teams score over 24 points per quarter, and we won on three of four quarters."

Utah connected on 9 of 19 from outside the arc to create a buffer from Memphis. Another factor, beyond the rebounding margin, was the Jazz converting 20 of 27 free throws, while Memphis went to the line only nine times in the game, making eight.

Utah led through much of the second half until Gasol connected with 5:32 left for a 77-75 Memphis lead. Burks answered with a 3-pointer, and Utah never let go of the lead the final 5 minutes in rebounding from a 104-86 loss Saturday at Charlotte.

"It was big for our confidence to be able to come back and get a road win here in Memphis after a poor performance in Charlotte," Jazz guard Trey Burke said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to six points in the third quarter, and managed to keep the Grizzlies at bay through most of the period as Hayward had nine points and Kanter added seven.

Continue reading "Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward lead Jazz ..."

Grizzlies Fan

Biggest Surprises and Disappointments for the Memphis Grizzlies posted by Grizzlies Fan

The Grizzlies are playing remarkably well, with impressive offensive showings by a few players. Marc Gasol has found a new gear on that end. In his 11th season, Beno Udrih is having one of the best performances by point guard. 

Marc Gasol played within himself before this season. He'd been a complementary shooter in his first six years in the NBA, even while averaging career highs of 14.6 points and 12.1 shots per game in 2013-14. He was a pass-first center who dished out 3.6 assists across three years entering 2014-15.

Nevertheless, Gasol's taken his game to the next level. He's averaging 19.7 per game on 50.3 percent shooting. Still, he's facilitating the offense, distributing 3.7 assists per game.

Gasol hasn't been surprised by his big step, telling Tillery, "I don't see the big deal. It's just a natural progression. I just have to score more; give us a good chance to win."

The Spaniard now has the offense to match his prowess as a rim protector. It's hurtled him into the MVP discussion and confirmed his place as the NBA's best center.

Courtney Lee has made a career out of being a solid perimeter shooter, but he's on another tier this year.

Lee's leading the league at 54.5 percent from long range, 15.5 percent higher than his career rate. That's a big rebound after he shot 31.8 percent from beyond the arc in the final three months last season.

"I'm definitely comfortable with this team because it's my second year. I'm comfortable with everyone out there, and they've got confidence in me, and that helps a lot,"

Continue reading "Biggest Surprises and Disappointments ..."


Grizzlies Fan

Memphis Grizzlies Preseason Report 2014 posted by Grizzlies Fan

Memphis Grizzlies had a shaky start in 2013-14 season with 10-15, but performed much better later. They fought back impressively in the West the second time, and managed to be seventh seed. Marc Gasol made a difference, when he returned after his injury, and new acquisitions during midseason such as Courtney Lee and James Johnson gave the team a better look. Memphis was a strong team in the playoffs but Reggie Jackson from Oklahoma City Thunder managed an explosive performance that defeated the Grizzlies.

For 2014-2015 season, the Grizzlies may not be the favorites, but they are a serious contender to the title. Bringing in Zach Randolph was a costly move, but it could pay off, as he is quite formidable in PF position, and also the team's top player. In the draft, Jordan Adams was picked in the first round and hence there is not much possibility of further help. Adams is not considered athletic, as there are special provisions in his contract for keeping his fat low. In the second round, the team managed to acquire Jarnell Stokes, who even though undersized, has a long reach. Since Ed Davis, the PF backup has left; Stokes might be more in play compared to Adams.

The C position will be held by Marc Gasol to provide the required defense and toughness, while assisting Randolph. Tayshawn Prince and Tony Allen could be holding the SF and SG positions. Combining Prince with Allen is a good strategy, and adding Gasol in the starting lineup would provide Grizzlies with a formidable defense. Memphis Grizzlies have also picked up veteran Vince Carter who could provide a good offense, and Quincy Pondexter could contribute considerably, if he remains uninjured. Lastly, David Joerger, the head coach, who managed 50-32 record for the team last season, could take the team to the finals this season.

Continue reading "Memphis Grizzlies Preseason Report 2014"


Brad Hurt

Gasol out indefinitely with MCL sprain posted by Brad Hurt

An MRI on Marc Gasol's left knee, which he injured in the first half of the Grizzlies' loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, revealed a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL).  The injury, similar to one suffered two years ago by Zach Randolph, will keep Gasol out of action indefinitely but will not require surgery.  Kosta Koufos will start in his place.  This is a huge blow for the team, both in terms of production and morale.  The injury has been called "non-contact", although there could have been some contact as it occurred while the Spurs' Danny Green posted up against Gasol and backed into him.  Even so, it's still a freakish, unfortunate injury.Continue reading "Gasol out indefinitely with MCL sprain"

Brad Hurt

Gasol leaves loss with knee sprain posted by Brad Hurt

The Grizzlies had reason to be proud as they returned home Friday to face the perennially tough San Antonio Spurs.  They had just finished the most successful West Coast road trip in a decade.  Now they would have the FedEx Forum crowd behind them to urge them to victory.  Unfortunately, the Spurs would have none of that, playing the role of the rude houseguests with a 102-86 victory.

Potentially far worse for the home team, however, is the fact that center Marc Gasol left the game after suffering a non-contact injury to his left knee early in the second quarter and did not return.  The team is calling it a sprain, and Gasol will undergo an MRI today.  Losing Gasol for any extended period of time would be a crushing blow to the team.  He is currently averaging 16 points and more than 7 rebounds per game, teaming up with Zach Randolph to form an imposing post duo.  Randolph has been putting up monster numbers in his own right, but losing Gasol would undoubtedly change the way teams choose to defend Randolph, enabling more double-and-triple teams.  The Grizzlies currently have the 23rd-ranked offensive output in the league, averaging 94.1 points per game.  Ideally, they would like to see that number increase as they work toward a return to the playoffs come April.  Gasol is also a great veteran leader for the team, and intangibles are difficult to replace.  So let's hope the sprain isn't too severe and Gasol can return to action soon.

Continue reading "Gasol leaves loss with knee sprain"


Brad Hurt

Close call: Grizzlies rally for sweep posted by Brad Hurt

It was anything but easy, but the Memphis Grizzlies outlasted the Golden State Warriors, 88-81 in overtime on Wednesday night to complete a perfect West Coast road trip.

The comeback happened largely thanks to the team's Grit N Grind mentality.  After spotting the home team a double-digit lead in the opening quarter, the Grizzlies (7-5) relied on strong defense to get back into the game.  They had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the second half to escape with their 11th consecutive head-to-head win over the 8-4 Warriors.  They won the third quarter 25-13 behind a 17-2 run led by Zach Randolph's eight points in the period.  Randolph finished with another double-double of a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Ball control played a huge part in the win as the Grizzlies turned the ball over only seven times.

The Grizzlies shot only 38 percent for the game, led by Marc Gasol's 6-of-14 effort.  Gasol added 11 rebounds to his 18 points to join Randolph with a double-double.  His pair of free throws with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter forced the game into overtime.  Mike Conley also finished in double figures scoring for the Grizzlies, scoring 19 points and draining the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime.  The Grizzlies' bench came up large, outscoring the Warriors' reserves 16-7.  Kosta Koufos led the Grizzlies subs with seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Andrew Bogut led the Warriors with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

This trip proved the Grizzlies can compete with some of the top teams in the West.  It is never easy to win away from home, and putting together a streak like this shows the character and fight this team has.

Continue reading "Close call: Grizzlies rally for sweep"


Brad Hurt

Grizzlies seek first road sweep since '04 posted by Brad Hurt

The Grizzlies have reeled off three straight wins on the road since falling at home to Toronto last Wednesday.  West Coast trips are usually daunting, but the Grizzlies have found ways to win to this point.  Their current trip reaches its conclusion tonight in Oakland as the Grizzlies (6-5) take on the Pacific-leading Golden State Warriors (8-3), winners of four straight.  So someone will see a streak end.  If the Grizz get the win, they will have their first road sweep of at least four games since March 2004.  The Warriors are 5-0 at home this season, a mark the Clippers also had before falling to the Grizzlies on Monday.

The Warriors boast five players averaging double figures in scoring at this point in the season, led by Klay Thompson's 20.5 points per game.  Sensational guard Stephen Curry is a close second with 19.9 points per game.  Curry, who usually gets top billing as the team's superstar leader, will miss Wednesday's game with a concussion.

The Grizzlies have seen good balance offensively.  Mike Conley is off to a good start, scoring 18.7 points and dishing out around six assists per game.  As he has gone over the past few years, so have gone the Grizzlies.  He seems to be over the confidence issues and inconsistency that plagued him a couple of years ago, when trade rumors surrounded him.  Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have been key for the Grizzlies, continuing to comprise one of the biggest post tandem threats in the league.  Gasol is putting up 17 points and seven rebounds per game on the season.  However, on this trip he is scoring over 20 points per game with 8+ rebounds and 8+ assists.  Randolph is leading the team with 9.2 rebounds per game while scoring 16.1 points per contest on a career-high 55 percent shooting clip.

Continue reading "Grizzlies seek first road sweep since '04"


Brad Hurt

Tony Allen Receives Dubious Suspension posted by Brad Hurt

The NBA has announced that Tony Allen will be forced to sit out the Grizzlies' game at Golden State on Wednesday as he serves a one-game suspension for his actions on Monday. Allen was assessed a Flagrant 2 Foul and ejected from Monday night's 106-102 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers for kicking Chris Paul in the face.  The kick in my opinion was clearly inadvertent as Allen jumped and kicked his legs out in a defensive move against the driving Paul.  Such a move is a fairly common part of today's NBA game and is a natural reaction.  Players want to do all they can to impede the progress of the ballhandler and get the ball free.  I don't think Tony said, "Hmmm...I think I'll kick Chris Paul in the face."  Tony is one of the best defenders in the league and doesn't need to resort to cheap shots to get the job done.  It was just a case of bad timing and an unfortunate accident.  Paul is among the shortest players in the league.  That is the only reason the blow landed where it did and made this an issue.  I can see calling a Flagrant 1 because it's not an everyday occurrence, regardless of alleged intent, but a suspension seems a bit heavy-handed to me.  Save that for thrown punches.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flz-uF9ldls

Continue reading "Tony Allen Receives Dubious Suspension"


Brad Hurt

Grizzlies Adjusting to Changes posted by Brad Hurt

It was an eventful offseason for the Memphis Grizzlies, centering around the drama that comes with a regime change.  Following the franchise's first-ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals, a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, new owner Robert Pera made his presence known by allowing the expiration of head coach Lionel Hollins' contract.  While stunning in the wake of a string of postseason appearances and a new milestone, this move came as no real shock from a business perspective.  Anytime someone new takes over a team, he is going to want to surround himself with people who fit into his vision for the franchise.  Very few coaches in sports survive changes at the top of an organization for very long.  Displeased by pending changes in the team's philosophy, Hollins made his frustration publicly known, and that did not help any chance he may have had of returning to the bench for the 2013-14 season.

With lead assistant Dave Joerger getting the front office's support as the new head man, the Grizzlies have gotten off to an uneven start, but that is to be expected as the players adjust to the change.  I think bringing in a total stranger would have made the transition more daunting.

So far the biggest asset for the Grizzlies as they try to establish the type of team they are going to be this season has been Zach Randolph.  Z-Bo proved to be very valuable down the stretch last season, and he continues to be a crucial factor in establishing the Grizzlies as a powerful post team.  If Zach continues to be on top of his game and the guards knock down perimeter shots, the Grizzlies will be back contending for a spot in the finals at the end of the season.

Continue reading "Grizzlies Adjusting to Changes"


Andy Charles

Grizzlies give Thabeet some time posted by Andy Charles

The Memphis Grizzlies will be hopeful that the NBA D-League lives up to its name after they sent 2009 No 2 draft pick Hasheem Thabeet down to the North Dakota Wizards and made just a little bit of history in the process.

Thabeet, who was expected to be a fairly raw rookie anyway, has had little or no success since the Grizzlies drafted him out of Connecticut last summer, and he is the highest draft pick yet to be sent down to the Developmental League, the NBA’s own version of the minors.

The 7ft 3in giant, who has only really had any success as a shot-blocker and often looked lost out on the court against more seasoned professionals, will be working mainly on his shooting according to NBA Tips, after averaging less than three points per game.

Thabeet has been on court in 50 Memphis games this season, but only logged an average of 10 minutes, scoring in double figures just once against Phoenix in early January.

Although the Grizzlies knew he was going to be something of a project, much of the trouble has come for the right reasons; Memphis are only a couple of games out of the playoff picture and felt less need to risk their prized rookie in key moments.

Seasoning may well prove to be all he needs, although adding a few pounds to a fairly wiry frame would help as well, but shooting was a problem for him in his college days as well and is something that could well prove to be a concern through his career if it is not dealt with sooner rather than later.

Thankfully Grizzlies officials appear to have learned from previous picks, though, as they are finally showing a little in the way of patience. It is doubtful that they will see Thabeet in a Memphis jersey again this season, but it could well be to their benefit by the time next season rolls around.

Continue reading "Grizzlies give Thabeet some time"

Memphis Grizzlies News

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Blazers limp into playoff series against the Grizzlies (Yahoo Sports)

The Trail Blazers limp into their first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on a four-game losing streak, as injuries finally appeared to catch up with the Northwest Division champions. The Blazers will likely start the playoffs on Sunday in Memphis with guard Damian Lillard, center Robin Lopez and forward LaMarcus Aldridge but those appear to be the only real certainties to start. CJ McCollum, who had been thrust into the starting lineup following Wesley Matthews' season-ending Achilles injury and Arron Afflalo's shoulder injury, also missed the Dallas game with a sprained left ankle. Aldridge came back for the finale after missing two games with a sore left foot and Portland ended the regular season 51-31. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


NBA Playoff Preview: Grizzlies vs. Trail Blazers

FOX Sports Tennessee previews the first-round NBA matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers. [read full article]

From FOX Sports Digital


NBA Playoff Picture Update: The Spurs send the Warriors, and everyone else, a message (Ball

With just about two weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Spurs of the moment: Another Sunday, another statement game from the San Antonio Spurs. After dismantling the East-leading Atlanta Hawks on March 22 and hammering a potential Round 1 opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, on March 29 , the Spurs faced off with the Golden State Warriors — winners of 12 straight, owners of the league's best record and home-court advantage throughout the entire NBA playoffs  — and mopped the floor with 'em. The 107-92 final's impressive enough — it's the largest margin of defeat the Warriors have tasted during this season for the ages — but it scarcely tells the story. Golden State never led, trailed by as many as 28 and finished the third quarter down 22 before turning the final frame over to the likes of Leandro Barbosa, Justin Holiday, James Michael McAdoo and Festus Ezeli. San Antonio blitzed Steve Kerr's crew from the opening tip. Emerging star Kawhi Leonard keyed both a game-opening 8-1 run (six points of his own, plus an assist on a Tim Duncan jumper) and a 14-3 mid-quarter jolt that knocked the 63-win Dubs on their heels and gave the Spurs a 15-point lead less than eight minutes into the contest. The Spurs' ball movement had the Warriors' league-best defense scrambling early ... ... and often, as San Antonio logged 27 direct assists on 44 made field goals. The Spurs beat the Warriors with backdoor cuts in the half-court, with alley-oops on the break, with long-distance bounce passes in transition, and with just about every other weapon Pop and company could muster. San Antonio's most dangerous weapon, once again, was Leonard, who served as the tip of the spear that punctured the Warriors' free-flowing offense: The quick-as-a-cat perimeter mauler with the massive hands snared a career-high seven steals on Sunday. He opened the game by making life miserable for Harrison Barnes (four points on 2-for-7 shooting) and later switched assignments to cool down a Stephen Curry early third-quarter explosion. The MVP candidate scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in just under two minutes to cut the Warriors' deficit to 14; Popovich called a timeout and put Leonard on Curry; Curry didn't score another point for the rest of the quarter, and the Spurs ripped off six straight to rebuild the lead. Leonard's offense might never impress quite as much as his masterful defense, but his ascent into something like San Antonio's primary scorer continues. The 23-year-old tied a regular-season career-high with 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting in just 24 minutes, topping the 20-point mark for the 12th time in his last 19 games. He showed his combination of improving handle, increased confidence and strength against contact with plays like this drive and finish right through Andre Iguodala: Duncan (19 points on 6-for-7 shooting, seven rebounds) and Danny Green (18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 4-for-6 from 3-point land, six rebounds, three assists, three blocks, great defense on the Warriors' Klay Thompson) also turned in great games for the Spurs, who have now won seven straight, 10 of their last 11 and 17 of their last 20 overall. During that stretch, San Antonio's outscoring its opposition by 15.2 points per 100 possessions — the best net rating in the league over that span, head-and-shoulders above even the league-best Warriors' historic full-season mark . There remain bits of disharmony in the system that keep the Spurs from looking exactly like the well-oiled machine that overwhelmed the Miami Heat last June — Tony Parker (eight points on nine shots in 23 minutes) still seems to look more like a caretaker than a gamebreaker, the "Foreign Legion" shot a combined 6-for-22, etc. But as the regular season draws to a close, San Antonio's offense is humming and its defense is suffocating, which is the kind of thing that can make a No. 6 seed look an awful lot like the team to beat. The Warriors likely won't panic much about Sunday's whitewashing: "This is the first time I think since Christmas that we haven't really been in a game," Curry said, according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press . For his part, Kerr intimated after the game that Golden State will have some different looks to offer San Antonio should these two teams meet in the postseason and Pop decides to once again sic Kawhi on Curry. Even so, after seeing San Antonio short-circuit his squad — making the Spurs the only team to have beaten the Warriors twice this season (Golden State also beat San Antonio right after the All-Star break ) — you wouldn't blame Kerr if he'd just as soon not see No. 2 in black and silver again come playoff time. “Kawhi was phenomenal,” Kerr said after the game, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News . “He was the best player on the floor.” Which helped serve notice that, on any given Sunday, the Spurs can still be the best team on the floor, too. Star Wars: Sunday's marquee matinee matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder largely lived up to its billing, with MVP candidates James Harden and Russell Westbrook matching big shots in trying to propel their teams to a much-needed victory in their respective tight playoff fights. But despite a league-leading 11th triple-double — 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds — for the Thunder star ... ... it was his hirsute former teammate who'd carry the day: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:   The best slams from all of basketball] Harden scored a game-high 41 points on 12-for-22 shooting (6-for-9 from 3-point land) to go with six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 38 minutes to push the Rockets to a 115-112 win . It was the league-leading 10th 40-plus-point performance for Harden this season. He cranked up the heat late, scoring eight points in a 70-second span to break a 100-all tie, to quell a comeback that had seen the Thunder rise up after trailing by as many as 13, and give the Rockets just enough breathing room to finish the game at the foul line. And I mean just enough — Oklahoma City had a chance to tie it up in the closing seconds, but Westbrook's 3-point try came up short , thanks in part to a close contest by Rockets wing Corey Brewer. It was a little too close of a contest for Russell's liking, actually: Westbrook on if he was anticipating a foul from Brewer on the last play: "He did. He did actually." — Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 5, 2015 Be that as it may, it was lacking defense on the interior (54 points in the paint for the Rockets, including 22 in 23 minutes from Dwight Howard) and in transition (26 fast-break points or Houston) that did Oklahoma City in far more than a swallowed whistle. Steven Adams and Mitch McGary battled foul trouble throughout, and Enes Kanter continued to put up big numbers (21 points, 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass) while giving just about all of it back on the other end. It's bad enough that Oklahoma City has given up 106.5 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, a bottom-five mark over that period. But during the 1-5 skid that's put their playoff hopes in jeopardy , that's dropped to 112.7 points-per-100 allowed, barely above the defensive efficiency marks of league lowlights like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers. With no Kevin Durant , with  no Serge Ibaka and with San Antonio coming to town Tuesday, the 42-35 Thunder must stop the bleeding immediately if they're to hold off the New Orleans Pelicans, who sit a half-game behind OKC in the race for the eighth playoff spot out West. Houston, on the other hand, has now won three in a row, seven of eight and 10 of 12 to improve to 53-24. The Rockets now have a one-game lead over the Grizzlies in the race for the No. 2 spot in the West and seem to be weathering their recent rash of injuries well, thanks to both the depth provided by general manager Daryl Morey and the irrepressible offensive orchestration of their bearded wonder. Here comes the Ax and here comes the Smasher: When the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers met on Sunday, the result — as has tended to be the case over these past couple of "Freaky Friday" seasons — was  demolition . There were flashy, thunderous dunks: And there was Chris Paul dribbling the ball through Carlos Boozer's legs at midcourt in a moment that neatly encapsulated just how vastly the fortunes of the two Staples Center tenants vary right now: The Clippers won, 106-78 , and the game wasn't that close. Well, that's not entirely true. This was a seven-point game after 12 minutes, a 13-point game at halftime, and a 13-point game midway through the third. But then the floodgates opened, with the Clippers ripping off a 22-5 run that got the lead to 29 after three, followed promptly by a 16-2 burst to open the fourth that pushed the advantage to its high-water mark of 43 points with 8:09 remaining in the game. It's the second one that likely really hurt Lakers fans. I mean, at least the first came primarily with stars Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the floor. The 16-2 spurt was produced entirely by the Clippers' threadbare second unit — Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers, Spencer Hawes and recent addition Lester Hudson. That's the kind of thing that'll make Byron Scott fold his arms in a huff on the Laker sideline. Then again, so is literally everything. The Clippers, who boast the NBA's top offense (110 points scored per 100 possessions) and second-best efficiency differential (+6.9 points-per-100, behind only the Warriors) this season, have now won 10 of their last 11 to keep pace in the pack behind Golden State in the West's second tier. Doc Rivers' club sits just a half-game below No. 3 Memphis and, just as importantly, a full game above the No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers. (That's a weird thing that we'll discuss in some more detail later.) With injured sixth man Jamal Crawford expected to return this coming week , everything seems to be going the Clips' way right about now ... including the schedule, which matches them up with these very same Lakers again on Tuesday night . Quick, somebody find the Pharrell hat : Yeah, his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the division-rival Chicago Bulls to win for the 31st time in their last 38 games, but LeBron James didn't seem too happy afterward, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin : With two weeks until the NBA playoffs open up and fewer and fewer dress rehearsals remaining for James to direct his group into postseason form, he saw Sunday's win as somewhat hollow because of the shoddy way the Cavs closed things out. Cleveland was ahead by 13 with 9:59 remaining, but ended up winning by just five as the Cavs had as many turnovers in the fourth quarter (five) as they had in the first three quarters combined and also attempted 12 of their 15 shots as a team from outside the paint. "I think we turned the ball over and we got out of attack mode," James said. "I think we settled for a lot of jumpers in the fourth quarter. And those are things that we, as a young team, will have to just learn from and get better with it the next time. So, we controlled the game, but we allowed them to get back in the game because of what we did offensively and that's a very good team. You know a Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) team is never going to give up and we have to understand every single possession means everything and we can't take one off." Despite not quite sticking the landing, Cleveland won its 50th game of the year behind an all-around effort from James, who chipped in 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and a block for his first triple-double of the season. LeBron did a bit of tone-setting, too. In the early going, he took Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler into the post for several scores just to prove he's too strong for the Chicago defensive ace down there. Later, he locked up power forward Nikola Mirotic just to show the Bulls rookie sensation that, when he puts his mind to it, he can make just about any scorer's life miserable on the defensive end. While LeBron was out here handing down life lessons , his teammates were bombing awary from deep. Like, really deep: J.R. Smith went 8-for-17 from 3-point land — no, he did not attempt a 2, and yes, that is a record — for 24 points. Kyrie Irving added a game-high 27 on 8-for-19 shooting, including a 4-for-5 mark from downtown, as the Cavs extended their lead over Chicago both in the Central Division and for the No. 2 seed in the East to four games. And yet, despite the absence of guards Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls wound up playing Cleveland close enough that Smith and Irving's circus shots — "three heaves that went in," as Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau called them — constituted the difference. That didn't exactly rattle the veteran Bulls' confidence that they could hang with a Cavs squad that's been arguably the best team in basketball since mid-January. "It would be great to play them in the playoffs," said Bulls center Joakim Noah, who finished with six points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the loss, which cut Chicago's lead over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the East to just one game. "That would be very, very exciting. That's something I really hope happens." We're with him. Your dreams were your ticket out: Welcome back , Paul George: Our man Jeff Eisenberg has your full on-the-scene story from Paul George's first game back after breaking his right leg last August, so I'll go with the broad strokes. The Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat, 112-89 , behind 23 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench from Luis Scola and a somewhat un-Pacer-y 14-for-30 mark from 3-point land, with wings Solomon Hill and C.J. Miles combining for eight triples in 15 tries. Indy pulled even with the Heat at 34-43, but nudged ahead of Miami in the standings by virtue of a 3-1 season-series win over Erik Spoelstra's club. The Pacers now sit in ninth place in the East, one game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics (to whom they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker) and 1 1/2 games back of the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets (ditto). The Heat won their season series with both Brooklyn and Boston, but in order to cash them in, they'll need to stop their current four-game skid and get back on the good foot against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Monday's Most Important Games Only Game Knowing the eyes of the basketball-watching world will be focused on the NCAA championship game , the NBA's scheduling wizards decided to go light on Monday, slating just one game. (Actually, there weren't supposed to be any, but a January snowstorm interceded, so here we are.) Blazers at Nets , 7 p.m. ET: The Nets have been a tough squad to draw a bead on over the past three weeks. Lionel Hollins' crew has won 10 of its last 13 games, but has operated in feast-or-famine fashion, amassing both gut-it-out victories with boat-race beatdowns : In last 13 games, Brooklyn is 10-3 & a minus-8. Avg. margin of victory: 6.8 Avg, margin of defeat: 25.3 http://t.co/qceh9kkxys — John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 5, 2015 Sitting in seventh place in the East at 35-41, just a half-game ahead of a Celtics squad that owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nets, Brooklyn could surely use the former on Monday. The Blazers seem to have made the Nets' job a bit easier by deciding to keep three key contributors — All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, starting swingman Nicolas Batum and backup center Chris Kaman — back in the Pacific Northwest. On one hand, it's a bit of a surprise that the Blazers would leave three major rotation players at home while still in the midst of a tough race for home-court advantage in the West playoffs. While Portland's guaranteed a top-four seed after locking up the Northwest Division title on Friday night , the Blazers head into Monday's game at 50-26. The fifth-seeded Clippers now sit at 52-26; the sixth-seeded Spurs are 51-26. If whoever finishes fifth ends the season with a better record than Portland, the Blazers will open the playoffs on the road, so it'd seem to be in their best interest to go after every win they can. Then again, all three players are dealing with injuries — torn thumb ligaments for Aldridge and Kaman , a lower back injury for Batum — and played heavy minutes to help Portland seal up the Northwest. With three more road trips on the way before the end of the regular season, the Blazers' brass seems to have decided that it just made more sense to let the wounded rest rather than flying them across the country for one measly game before flying 'em back for Wednesday's home game against the Timberwolves. While several Blazers didn't make the trip, center Robin Lopez did, meaning we'll get yet another installment in his ongoing rivalry with his twin brother, Brook Lopez. The Brooklyn big man sounds ready for battle, according to Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily : "Ah," Lopez said, laughing. "Same old same old. I hate that guy and we'll probably hopefully destroy him." That probably wouldn't make the rest of the Lopez family too happy, but it'd be just fine for Nets fans eager to see their club get a bit more breathing room. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

NBA Playoff Picture Update: The Spurs send the Warriors, and everyone else, a message (Ball

With just about two weeks remaining until the NBA postseason, every night can impact the standings. The NBA Playoff Picture Update keeps you up to date on all the most important news for all 16 berths and seeds. [DraftKings: FREE entry to huge cash Fantasy Basketball Contest with first deposit ] Spurs of the moment: Another Sunday, another statement game from the San Antonio Spurs. After dismantling the East-leading Atlanta Hawks on March 22 and hammering a potential Round 1 opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, on March 29 , the Spurs faced off with the Golden State Warriors — winners of 12 straight, owners of the league's best record and home-court advantage throughout the entire NBA playoffs  — and mopped the floor with 'em. The 107-92 final's impressive enough — it's the largest margin of defeat the Warriors have tasted during this season for the ages — but it scarcely tells the story. Golden State never led, trailed by as many as 28 and finished the third quarter down 22 before turning the final frame over to the likes of Leandro Barbosa, Justin Holiday, James Michael McAdoo and Festus Ezeli. San Antonio blitzed Steve Kerr's crew from the opening tip. Emerging star Kawhi Leonard keyed both a game-opening 8-1 run (six points of his own, plus an assist on a Tim Duncan jumper) and a 14-3 mid-quarter jolt that knocked the 63-win Dubs on their heels and gave the Spurs a 15-point lead less than eight minutes into the contest. The Spurs' ball movement had the Warriors' league-best defense scrambling early ... ... and often, as San Antonio logged 27 direct assists on 44 made field goals. The Spurs beat the Warriors with backdoor cuts in the half-court, with alley-oops on the break, with long-distance bounce passes in transition, and with just about every other weapon Pop and company could muster. San Antonio's most dangerous weapon, once again, was Leonard, who served as the tip of the spear that punctured the Warriors' free-flowing offense: The quick-as-a-cat perimeter mauler with the massive hands snared a career-high seven steals on Sunday. He opened the game by making life miserable for Harrison Barnes (fourpoints on 2-for-7 shooting) and later switched assignments to cool down a Stephen Curry early third-quarter explosion. The MVP candidate scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting in just under two minutes to cut the Warriors' deficit to 14; Popovich called a timeout and put Leonard on Curry; Curry didn't score another point for the rest of the quarter, and the Spurs ripped off six straight to rebuild the lead. Leonard's offense might never impress quite as much as his masterful defense, but his ascent into something like San Antonio's primary scorer continues. The 23-year-old tied a regular-season career-high with 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting in just 24 minutes, topping the 20-point mark for the 12th time in his last 19 games. He showed his combination of improving handle, increased confidence and strength against contact with plays like this drive and finish right through Andre Iguodala: Duncan (19 points on 6-for-7 shooting, seven rebounds) and Danny Green (18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, 4-for-6 from 3-point land, six rebounds, three assists, three blocks, great defense on the Warriors' Klay Thompson) also turned in great games for the Spurs, who have now won seven straight, 10 of their last 11 and 17 of their last 20 overall. During that stretch, San Antonio's outscoring its opposition by 15.2 points per 100 possessions — the best net rating in the league over that span, head-and-shoulders above even the league-best Warriors' historic full-season mark . There remain bits of disharmony in the system that keep the Spurs from looking exactly like the well-oiled machine that overwhelmed the Miami Heat last June — Tony Parker (eight points on nine shots in 23 minutes) still seems to look more like a caretaker than a gamebreaker, the "Foreign Legion" shot a combined 6-for-22, etc. But as the regular season draws to a close, San Antonio's offense is humming and its defense is suffocating, which is the kind of thing that can make a No. 6 seed look an awful lot like the team to beat. The Warriors likely won't panic much about Sunday's whitewashing: "This is the first time I think since Christmas that we haven't really been in a game," Curry said, according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press . For his part, Kerr intimated after the game that Golden State will have some different looks to offer San Antonio should these two teams meet in the postseason and Pop decides to once again sic Kawhi on Curry. Even so, after seeing San Antonio short-circuit his squad — making the Spurs the only team to have beaten the Warriors twice this season (Golden State also beat San Antonio right after the All-Star break ) — you wouldn't blame Kerr if he'd just as soon not see No. 2 in black and silver again come playoff time. “Kawhi was phenomenal,” Kerr said after the game, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News . “He was the best player on the floor.” Which helped serve notice that, on any given Sunday, the Spurs can still be the best team on the floor, too. Star Wars: Sunday's marquee matinee matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder largely lived up to its billing, with MVP candidates James Harden and Russell Westbrook matching big shots in trying to propel their teams to a much-needed victory in their respective tight playoff fights. But despite a league-leading 11th triple-double — 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds — for the Thunder star ... ... it was his hirsute former teammate who'd carry the day: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr:   The best slams from all of basketball] Harden scored a game-high 41 points on 12-for-22 shooting (6-for-9 from 3-point land) to go with six rebounds, six assists and three steals in 38 minutes to push the Rockets to a 115-112 win . It was the league-leading 10th 40-plus-point performance for Harden this season. He cranked up the heat late, scoring eight points in a 70-second span to break a 100-all tie, to quell a comeback that had seen the Thunder rise up after trailing by as many as 13, and give the Rockets just enough breathing room to finish the game at the foul line. And I mean just enough — Oklahoma City had a chance to tie it up in the closing seconds, but Westbrook's 3-point try came up short , thanks in part to a close contest by Rockets wing Corey Brewer. It was a little too close of a contest for Russell's liking, actually: Westbrook on if he was anticipating a foul from Brewer on the last play: "He did. He did actually." — Royce Young (@royceyoung) April 5, 2015 Be that as it may, it was lacking defense on the interior (54 points in the paint for the Rockets, including 22 in 23 minutes from Dwight Howard) and in transition (26 fast-break points or Houston) that did Oklahoma City in far more than a swallowed whistle. Steven Adams and Mitch McGary battled foul trouble throughout, and Enes Kanter continued to put up big numbers (21 points, 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass) while giving just about all of it back on the other end. It's bad enough that Oklahoma City has given up 106.5 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, a bottom-five mark over that period. But during the 1-5 skid that's put their playoff hopes in jeopardy , that's dropped to 112.7 points-per-100 allowed, barely above the defensive efficiency marks of league lowlights like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers. With no Kevin Durant , with  no Serge Ibaka and with San Antonio coming to town Tuesday, the 42-35 Thunder must stop the bleeding immediately if they're to hold off the New Orleans Pelicans, who sit a half-game behind OKC in the race for the eighth playoff spot out West. Houston, on the other hand, has now won three in a row, seven of eight and 10 of 12 to improve to 53-24. The Rockets now have a one-game lead over the Grizzlies in the race for the No. 2 spot in the West and seem to be weathering their recent rash of injuries well, thanks to both the depth provided by general manager Daryl Morey and the irrepressible offensive orchestration of their bearded wonder. Here comes the Ax and here comes the Smasher: When the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers met on Sunday, the result — as has tended to be the case over these past couple of "Freaky Friday" seasons — was  demolition . There were flashy, thunderous dunks: And there was Chris Paul dribbling the ball through Carlos Boozer's legs at midcourt in a moment that neatly encapsulated just how vastly the fortunes of the two Staples Center tenants vary right now: The Clippers won, 106-78 , and the game wasn't that close. Well, that's not entirely true. This was a seven-point game after 12 minutes, a 13-point game at halftime, and a 13-point game midway through the third. But then the floodgates opened, with the Clippers ripping off a 22-5 run that got the lead to 29 after three, followed promptly by a 16-2 burst to open the fourth that pushed the advantage to its high-water mark of 43 points with 8:09 remaining in the game. It's the second one that likely really hurt Lakers fans. I mean, at least the first came primarily with stars Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the floor. The 16-2 spurt was produced entirely by the Clippers' threadbare second unit — Hedo Turkoglu, Glen Davis, Austin Rivers, Spencer Hawes and recent addition Lester Hudson. That's the kind of thing that'll make Byron Scott fold his arms in a huff on the Laker sideline. Then again, so is literally everything. The Clippers, who boast the NBA's top offense (110 points scored per 100 possessions) and second-best efficiency differential (+6.9 points-per-100, behind only the Warriors) this season, have now won 10 of their last 11 to keep pace in the pack behind Golden State in the West's second tier. Doc Rivers' club sits just a half-game below No. 3 Memphis and, just as importantly, a full game above the No. 4 Portland Trail Blazers. (That's a weird thing that we'll discuss in some more detail later.) With injured sixth man Jamal Crawford expected to return this coming week , everything seems to be going the Clips' way right about now ... including the schedule, which matches them up with these very same Lakers again on Tuesday night . Quick, somebody find the Pharrell hat : Yeah, his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the division-rival Chicago Bulls to win for the 31st time in their last 38 games, but LeBron James didn't seem too happy afterward, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin : With two weeks until the NBA playoffs open up and fewer and fewer dress rehearsals remaining for James to direct his group into postseason form, he saw Sunday's win as somewhat hollow because of the shoddy way the Cavs closed things out. Cleveland was ahead by 13 with 9:59 remaining, but ended up winning by just five as the Cavs had as many turnovers in the fourth quarter (five) as they had in the first three quarters combined and also attempted 12 of their 15 shots as a team from outside the paint. "I think we turned the ball over and we got out of attack mode," James said. "I think we settled for a lot of jumpers in the fourth quarter. And those are things that we, as a young team, will have to just learn from and get better with it the next time. So, we controlled the game, but we allowed them to get back in the game because of what we did offensively and that's a very good team. You know a Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) team is never going to give up and we have to understand every single possession means everything and we can't take one off." Despite not quite sticking the landing, Cleveland won its 50th game of the year behind an all-around effort from James, who chipped in 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting, 12 assists, 10 rebounds, three steals and a block for his first triple-double of the season. LeBron did a bit of tone-setting, too. In the early going, he took Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler into the post for several scores just to prove he's too strong for the Chicago defensive ace down there. Later, he locked up power forward Nikola Mirotic just to show the Bulls rookie sensation that, when he puts his mind to it, he can make just about any scorer's life miserable on the defensive end. While LeBron was out here handing down life lessons , his teammates were bombing awary from deep. Like, really deep: J.R. Smith went 8-for-17 from 3-point land — no, he did not attempt a 2, and yes, that is a record — for 24 points. Kyrie Irving added a game-high 27 on 8-for-19 shooting, including a 4-for-5 mark from downtown, as the Cavs extended their lead over Chicago both in the Central Division and for the No. 2 seed in the East to four games. And yet, despite the absence of guards Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls wound up playing Cleveland close enough that Smith and Irving's circus shots — "three heaves that went in," as Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau called them — constituted the difference. That didn't exactly rattle the veteran Bulls' confidence that they could hang with a Cavs squad that's been arguably the best team in basketball since mid-January. "It would be great to play them in the playoffs," said Bulls center Joakim Noah, who finished with six points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the loss, which cut Chicago's lead over the Toronto Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the East to just one game. "That would be very, very exciting. That's something I really hope happens." We're with him. Your dreams were your ticket out: Welcome back , Paul George: Our man Jeff Eisenberg has your full on-the-scene story from Paul George's first game back after breaking his right leg last August, so I'll go with the broad strokes. The Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat, 112-89 , behind 23 points and 12 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench from Luis Scola and a somewhat un-Pacer-y 14-for-30 mark from 3-point land, with wings Solomon Hill and C.J. Miles combining for eight triples in 15 tries. Indy pulled even with the Heat at 34-43, but nudged ahead of Miami in the standings by virtue of a 3-1 season-series win over Erik Spoelstra's club. The Pacers now sit in ninth place in the East, one game behind the eighth-seeded Boston Celtics (to whom they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker) and 1 1/2 games back of the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets (ditto). The Heat won their season series with both Brooklyn and Boston, but in order to cash them in, they'll need to stop their current four-game skid and get back on the good foot against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Monday's Most Important Games Only Game Knowing the eyes of the basketball-watching world will be focused on the NCAA championship game , the NBA's scheduling wizards decided to go light on Monday, slating just one game. (Actually, there weren't supposed to be any, but a January snowstorm interceded, so here we are.) Blazers at Nets , 7 p.m. ET: The Nets have been a tough squad to draw a bead on over the past three weeks. Lionel Hollins' crew has won 10 of its last 13 games, but has operated in feast-or-famine fashion, amassing both gut-it-out victories with boat-race beatdowns : In last 13 games, Brooklyn is 10-3 & a minus-8. Avg. margin of victory: 6.8 Avg, margin of defeat: 25.3 http://t.co/qceh9kkxys — John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) April 5, 2015 Sitting in seventh place in the East at 35-41, just a half-game ahead of a Celtics squad that owns a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Nets, Brooklyn could surely use the former on Monday. The Blazers seem to have made the Nets' job a bit easier by deciding to keep three key contributors — All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, starting swingman Nicolas Batum and backup center Chris Kaman — back in the Pacific Northwest. On one hand, it's a bit of a surprise that the Blazers would leave three major rotation players at home while still in the midst of a tough race for home-court advantage in the West playoffs. While Portland's guaranteed a top-four seed after locking up the Northwest Division title on Friday night , the Blazers head into Monday's game at 50-26. The fifth-seeded Clippers now sit at 52-26; the sixth-seeded Spurs are 51-26. If whoever finishes fifth ends the season with a better record than Portland, the Blazers will open the playoffs on the road, so it'd seem to be in their best interest to go after every win they can. Then again, all three players are dealing with injuries — torn thumb ligaments for Aldridge and Kaman , a lower back injury for Batum — and played heavy minutes to help Portland seal up the Northwest. With three more road trips on the way before the end of the regular season, the Blazers' brass seems to have decided that it just made more sense to let the wounded rest rather than flying them across the country for one measly game before flying 'em back for Wednesday's home game against the Timberwolves. While several Blazers didn't make the trip, center Robin Lopez did, meaning we'll get yet another installment in his ongoing rivalry with his twin brother, Brook Lopez. The Brooklyn big man sounds ready for battle, according to Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily : "Ah," Lopez said, laughing. "Same old same old. I hate that guy and we'll probably hopefully destroy him." That probably wouldn't make the rest of the Lopez family too happy, but it'd be just fine for Nets fans eager to see their club get a bit more breathing room. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Pacers' playoff hopes end with 95-83 loss to Grizzlies (Yahoo Sports)

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From Yahoo Sports

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