San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three

NBA Playoffs: Zach Randolph and the most unlikely Spurs possession ever


With the home team who has never won a playoff game in Memphis up two in a pivotal Game 3 between the 4-time-in-the-last-12-years-champion San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies, where would this sequence rank in terms of likelihood ?

1. Zach Randolph hits a pull-up, contested 3-pointer.

2. Manu Ginobili answers with clutch free throws.

3. Randolph misses another pull-up jumper with time remaining.

4. George Hill grabs the rebound, and instead of calling timeout, which the Spurs had one, Hill instead takes off for half-court.

5. Hill throws it to Ginobili, who is trapped in the corner as Matt Bonner frantically calls for the ball instead of for timeout.

6. Tim Duncan comes roaring up the floor screaming for the timeout, which isn’t awarded because of the official not seeing it and coach Gregg Popovich not having called it.

7. Time expires, Grizzlies win, Memphis leads 2-1.

I’m thinking somewhere in the range of 1800-1 odds. Maybe. If we’re being generous.

Check it out.

Here’s the 3-pointer from Randolph, a career 28 percent shooter.

And here’s the final possession, which is just downright bizarre.

So that happened.

Memphis wins its first home playoff game in franchise history while the Spurs face a 2-1 deficit, which they’ve rallied back from once, and that wasn’t in a series where they blew home-court advantage. The Grizzlies are clutch, the Spurs are bumbling. Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria!

How did it get to that point?

The Grizzlies got back to what worked in Game 1. They pounded it inside. Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 42 point and 14 rebounds, while Darrel Arthur added nine points and six boards. The difference in Games 2 and 3? The Grizzlies did a much better job with interior spacing, creating more room for passes and not getting bogged down. Throw in some effective cuts by guards and wings and you had an offense the Spurs couldn’t just bum rush with traps down low.

Ginobili was the would-be savior for the Spurs, causing havoc, and picking up six fouls on Tony Allen nearly all by himself. Ginobili finished with 23 points, five assists, and three turnovers, not counting the final possession. But the Grizzlies answered with … Shane Battier? (I told you it was a weird game.) Battier had nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, with most of them coming on post-ups of Ginobili. While Ginobili was able to get past Battier because of his speed, Battier used his size to overwhelm Ginobili. The Spurs most definitely did not see that one coming.

The Spurs had a stellar third-quarter performance to get back in the game after being down 10 at halftime. They outrebounded the Grizzlies 15-5. But down the stretch, the Grizzlies kept making plays by turning over the inexperienced point guard for the Spurs … Tony Parker? (Again, have I mentioned this game was weird?) Parker was stripped on several possessions and when that wasn’t happening, he was throwing it out of bounds.

So, just to recap. We live in a world where the Grizzlies have the advantage in a playoff series, where the Spurs don’t execute down the stretch, where Shane Battier is a beast in the post, and where Tony Parker has trouble in the clutch.

If you guys need me, I’ll be in the basement with bottled water and Spam.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.