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.
The Bulls suspended Rajon Rondo for tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers for conduct detrimental to the team.
But what does that really mean?
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Rondo had an emotional exchange with an assistant coach during and after Saturday’s loss to the Mavericks, according to a source. One source said Rondo threw a towel in the direction of associate head coach Jim Boylen during the game and the situation escalated postgame.
Rondo has already apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates, the source said. He met with coach Fred Hoiberg on Sunday and also attended a team function that day.
Rondo has long been notoriously difficult to coach. That reputation has only intensified in recent years as his play has declined, which is probably not a coincidence. Struggling on the court – Rondo had two points, two assists and five turnovers against Dallas – will only lead to frustration. Plus, tolerance for players acting out exists on a sliding scale with their ability.
But it’s also worth noting teammate Jimmy Butler and coach Fred Hoiberg continue to speak positively about Rondo:
Butler said following Monday’s shootaround that Rondo “has been great” during his stint with the Bulls.
“I think this is just another bump in the road,” Butler said. “He’s a phenomenal damn teammate and I back him on everything.
Hoiberg refused to get into details about the suspension but echoed Butler’s opinion on Rondo’s stint with the Bulls.
“Rajon, as we’ve all said, has been great,” Hoiberg said. “A great teammate. I’ve enjoyed the relationship that we developed, and … it’s not going to change moving forward.’’
This could explain why Rondo got a one-game suspension for throwing a towel at a coach when Markieff Morris, who was already feuding with the Suns, got two games just last year (as could the fact that Chicago is not Phoenix and can administer discipline differently).
Player-coach feuds happen over a long season. The reaction is often telling. Some get ignored. Some result in suspensions.
The Bulls are treating this like an isolated incident from an otherwise model player – but a situation serious enough to warrant a suspension. Rondo will eventually prove that approach right or wrong.
New York police reportedly want to question Kings forward Matt Barnes over a nightclub fight early this morning.
What happened between Barnes, teammate DeMarcus Cousins and other clubgoers?
A rep for the NBA star tells us … Barnes was having a good time at Avenue Nightclub with his teammate, DeMarcus Cousins, when he went to sit at his VIP booth and accidentally “butt bumped” a woman who was at the next booth over.
Barnes claims the woman reacted by slapping him in the face, hard — and that’s when all hell broke loose.
Barnes claims the woman’s crew — which included several men — jumped in and began to get violent. Barnes was knocked to the ground in the melee and one of the men began to choke him.
We’re told Barnes got physical in an effort to protect himself. Cousins also jumped in to defend Barnes.
We spoke with Barnes’ attorney Alex Spiro who tells us, “We do not believe a crime was committed and are hopeful no charges will be pressed.”
By this telling, it sounds as if a crime was committed – with Barnes as the victim. I have no idea whether this account is accurate – what else would Barnes’ representation say? – and it’s reasonable for Barnes not to desire charges even against the other side. But it’s a little strange to hear Barnes’ lawyer give the other side such a quick reprieve while Barnes’ camp circulates this story of Barnes as a clear victim.
Starting for an injured Rajon Rondo, Jerian Grant had 18 points and five steals in the Bulls’ 25-point win against the Trail Blazers last month.
Grant will likely get another crack to start against Portland tonight.
Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
Chicago’s net rating with each starter on the court is lowest with Rondo:
But I doubt that’s the detrimental conduct the Bulls are referring to.
Chicago’s other starters have been dynamite with Grant instead of Rondo, outscoring opponents by 28 points per 100 possessions (relative to +10.6 with Rondo, still a robust mark). That’s a small sample with Grant, but we’ll get another opportunity to learn how this team meshes without Rondo.
Remember, though it started with a team-imposed one-game suspension, the Mavericks eventually told Rondo to stay away.
Joakim Noah kept his hands on DeMarcus Cousins after getting called for a foul, and that – and/or the Kings heading toward their third straight loss – agitated Cousins into pushing the Knicks center.
Remember, Cousins and Noah have a history.