The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers face off in Game 7 Sunday. Here are five things to watch.
1. At Least You’ve Got Your Health, Or Not: It’s become a pretty big deal that Blake Griffin has a sore knee (no ligament damage known of at this time) and that Chris Paul has a hip flexor. The hip significantly bothered Paul at the end of Game 6, keeping him from being able to try and close the game. Lost in all of this is that Memphis has dealt with a sore knee for Tony Allen, their best perimeter defender, Zach Randolph is less than four weeks back from a ligament tear in his knee, and that it’s the playoffs. Everyone’s banged up. The Clippers aren’t going to get easy dunks at the basket, most times in these games. If they want to advance, they’re going to have to tough through it. This game may simply come down to attrition and who has anything left.
2. Painting Classes: Whoever wins inside wins the game. That’s pretty simple. If it’s Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dropping the ball in with expert passing and a soft touch, Memphis advances. If it’s Blake Griffin and Reggie Evans (?!) and Kenyon Martin getting easy dunks on the pick and roll, the Clippers will go on. The battle inside has determined this series, with Memphis’ 3-1 comeback cued by their improved emphasis on getting the ball to their bigs.
3. Expect The Unexpected: Reggie Evans has been a huge swing in this series. His effort on free throw attempt rebounds and making the tough, scrappy plays has given the Clippers life. That Evans has manged to do this without consistently fouling out, turning the ball over, or completely and totally losing his man in rotations stands in stark contrast to his recent career. But this is the playoffs. Someone’s going to have to get unlikely contributions. The Grizzlies had a big momentum swing in Game 6 from Hamed Haddadi. Whoever gets someone to step up who you don’t see coming gets a big edge.
4. Controlling Whistles: This is a fierce, physical series. Both sides are getting hit, and both sides feel the officials aren’t being fair to them. The officials have tended to call more whistles on drives than in the post, and that’s a pattern that helps the Clippers. If contact is allowed on swipes and bodies and elbows inside, that helps the Clippers, because most of their action starts on the perimeter and goes in. Getting a handle on the zebras is key, and if there are adjustments that have to be made, make them.
5. One Shot At A Time: This game could come down to Chris Paul in isolation vs. Rudy Gay in isolation. If that happens, who do you think comes out on top? The Grizzlies have lived and died by late game situations in this series. They have to make sure it doesn’t come down to a Rudy Gay pull-up jumper.
In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.
He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.
The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.
Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.
Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.
The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.
Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.
Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.
They certainly had a chance to turn things around.
After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.
Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.
The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.
They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.
The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.
Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.
Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.
Cleveland fans can only hope Sam Darnold is as good a passer as LeBron James.
And that his receivers are better than Jose Calderon. Or at least taller.
LeBron James grabbed a rebound and threw a perfect touchdown pass to a leaked out Jose Calderon as the Cavaliers went on to beat the Phoenix Suns Friday night.
By the way, LeBron made a nice dish to the returned Larry Nance Jr., too.
Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.
It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.
The Rockets are moving on, waiving Wright and bringing in forward Le’Bryan Nash out of the G-League on a 10-day contract, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…
He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.
“Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”
Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.
The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.
Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.