NBA Playoffs: Memphis tries to make Spurs sing the blues

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The Spurs were not regular season monsters only, right? Memphis is just a tough matchup who can grind it out but when push comes to shove Tim Duncan will still be Tim Duncan, Tony Parker will get into the lane and hit floaters, Manu Ginobili will confound. Right?

We’ll find out Saturday in Memphis.

We have Game 3 of a series tied 1-1. The Spurs lost the first game without Manu, won the second one with him and his elbow brace and…

What the Grizzlies want to do remains simple — pound the ball inside. Have that open up enough room for shooters on the perimeter. Get offensive rebounds. Defend. Use your size. Win ugly. Grind it out.

The offensive-minded Spurs found a trendy retro version of themselves for Game 2 and they were able to stop the Grizzlies and get the win. Mostly the Spurs just packed it in and dared the Grizzlies to shoot over the top of them and the Grizzlies responded by driving into the heart of the defense. They need O.J. Mayo to hit the midrange and Marc Gasol to pick-and-pop to create space inside for Zach Randolph to work. Look for a lot of Grizzlies pick-and-roll.

On the other end of the court, look for the Spurs to try to get their three point shooters in a real rhythm. That has been lacking this series and they need Matt Bonner or Gary Neal to give them that spark off the bench. The Spurs staring five will win the day (and did in Game 2) but the Spurs bench has let it down so far. Memphis has had the better bench. That was not supposed to be the case.

At some point you expect the Spurs to just be the Spurs and take over this series. To get their offense going, to overcome the old-school clutch-and-grab defense the Grizzlies run.

They better do it for Game 3 or we’re going to be talking about Golden State Warriors against Dallas a lot leading up to Game 4.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.