Our Race to the Playoffs tell you that the Grizzlies still have an outside shot at the playoffs. If they’re going to keep that hope alive, they’ll need Marc Gasol who has missed five games with a partially torn neck muscle.
Luckily, the normally iron-clad Gasol is making a fast comeback. Even with the torn muscle, Gasol will play Sunday at Milwaukee, via the Memphis Commercial Appeal. These five games were the first games Gasol has missed in his two year career, and the effect has been noticeable. While Zach Randolph is often credited with Memphis’ turnaround alongside O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, Gasol has been pivotal for what the Grizzlies do well. He’s a beast on the boards, able to run the pinch post high, a terrific passer, has better offensive abilities than he uses most times.
The question will be what happens to Hasheem Thabeet, who has played surprisingly well since a ten day trip to the D-League. Thabeet has shown the ability to convert at the rim, rebound, block shots, and have a sense of awareness at both ends. Which is a huge improvement from earlier in the season, when he couldn’t really do any of that.
The Grizzlies need to determine where Thabeet fits in their future. Gasol fits incredibly well in the system. The problem is that you don’t pay #2 overall picks to come off the bench. Even if the Grizzlies are devoted to Thabeet long-term, in order to get him the time he requires, he needs to play. And the Randolph-Gasol combo seems too good to break up.
Which leads to discussions like those going on at Grizzlies blog Straight Outta Vancouver over trading Thabeet. Trading Thabeet with the potential he’s shown might help the Grizzlies improve at one of their weakspots, like point guard. But giving up on him is a risk in and of itself. It’s quite a corner the Grizzlies have painted themselves into, but at least having two capable centers with upside is a problem a lot of teams would like to have.
LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry
“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”
“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”
LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.
Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)
But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:
Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.
That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.
The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.
Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to the league:
Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.
But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.
Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.
Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)
Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.
The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.
It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.