With 9 minutes and 12 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the Grizzlies-Clippers series, O.J. Mayo hit a 3 to put the Grizzlies up by 24 points in front of their hometown crowd.
The Grizzlies were doing everything perfectly: Mayo and Mike Conley were on fire from beyond the arc, the Clippers had no answers for Marc Gasol in the post, and Memphis’ tough-as-nails defense was shutting down the Clippers’ simplistic pick-and-roll attack with ease. To make matters even worse for the Clippers, Caron Butler was forced to leave the game with a fractured left hand. Game 1 appeared to be, for all intents and purposes, in the books.
Then the run happened.
Memphis’ offense stalled as they started settling for outside jumpers instead of looking inside, and their only field goal in the last 9:12 of the game was a Rudy Gay jumper with 28 seconds remaining. Meanwhile, the Clippers finally got hot, and cut the Memphis lead from 12 to 3 when Nick Young made 3 consecutive 3-pointers in the span of a single minute. Then Blake Griffin made two free throws, Reggie Evans got a go-ahead layup to fall, and Paul answered a go-ahead jumper on Memphis’ side by drawing a foul and draining both free throws. Gay missed a jumper on the last possession of the game, and the Grizzlies found themselves on the wrong side of one of the worst collapses in playoff history.
This is a crushing defeat for the Grizzlies, who finished the regular season with a 26-7 home record. Now they’ve lost their home-court advantage, and after this loss, game 2 is almost a must-win situation for Memphis. Los Angeles, meanwhile, should be worried about how futile their offense was against the Grizzlies for the first 39 minutes of the game, but should take solace in the fact that the Grizzlies can’t count on shooting 68.8% from beyond the arc every night, or any other night in this series. After 9 crazy minutes of basketball, the Clippers managed to snag victory from the jaws of defeat, and they are now in total command of this first-round series. We’ll see if they can carry that momentum over to Game 2.
Take that Stephen Curry.
Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.
If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.
Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.
Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.
We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.
This was expected. It still sucks to hear.
Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.
Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.
San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.
In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.
Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.
Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.
Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.
Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.
That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as
Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.
Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.
He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.