Tony Allen states the obvious: Memphis better without Rudy Gay

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Remember when Memphis traded Rudy Gay, getting back Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis, and the consensus among television talking heads was this was going to set Memphis way back because they gave up all that shot creation?

What they gave up was inefficient shot creation. What this trade allowed Memphis to do was focus on what it does well. (For the record, I had said it was a good trade for Memphis but that they might take a small step back on the court with Prince on the wing.)

Memphis has now won 14 of their last 15, moved into the three seed, and they look like a team nobody wants to face come the playoffs.

Tony Allen was honest in an interview with Hoopsworld — Memphis is better without Gay (hat tip to SLAM).

‘Well, I just think we turned into the team that we were two years ago, without the guy that we traded. Obviously, we’ve made some additions, but for the most part we’re the same team from that 2010-11 season…. Just Grit and Grind, in and out basketball. Everybody playing hard, playing together.’”

It tends to be a hockey thing to say a team is “built for the playoffs” but in Memphis’ case it applies to the NBA. They have the second best defense in the NBA for the season (behind only Indiana), they have a real Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Marc Gasol, and they want to pound you inside on offense with Gasol and Zach Randolph. The share the ball, they have a couple guys who can create and they play smart. In the last 15 games the Grizzlies offense is 5 points per 100 possessions better than it has been on the season overall — they are scoring more now without Gay.

Nobody wants to see Memphis come the playoffs, and that includes the squads in Oklahoma City and San Antonio that would still be favorites over them.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.