Grizzlies pull away in Game 4 to even series with Clippers at two games apiece

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The Grizzlies imposed their will on the the Clippers for the second straight game of the series, and as a result, we’re all tied at two games apiece. Memphis got monster performances from both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol that allowed the team to pull away for a convincing 104-83 Game 4 win over the Clippers.

Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

We’d love to break down for you exactly how the first two quarters unfolded, but since we weren’t physically in the building for this one, that would be impossible. Thanks to the Bulls needing three overtimes to take care of the Nets, along with the fact that there was no contingency plan in place from TNT (which had the broadcast rights for each of these games), nobody but those inside the FedEx Forum in Memphis actually witnessed the first half.

It appeared as though Chris Paul came out with a mindset to be more aggressive from the start, after finishing with just eight points and four assists against five turnovers in L.A.’s Game 3 loss. Paul had 14 points and five assists at the intermission, with zero turnovers.

The Grizzlies had some positives in the first half as well, once again getting Zach Randolph going early to the tune of 16 first half points to go along with seven rebounds. Memphis got out to a lead of as many as 12 in the first quarter, but the Clippers had managed to come back to take a one-point lead at the break.

The game remained close throughout the third quarter, but Marc Gasol really got rolling for Memphis, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the period.

Memphis blew it open in the fourth, thanks to a 19-5 run to start the period that lasted the first six and a half minutes. L.A. couldn’t do anything offensively in the final frame, and while they created open looks from three-point distance, they knocked down just 1-8 from beyond the arc in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Paul once again struggled to produce late in the game, and managed just one point, one assists, and one turnover in just over seven minutes of fourth quarter action.

The Clippers missed some open looks, but the lack of attention to detail on the defensive end is really what killed them down the stretch. Randolph and Gasol carried the offensive load over the first three quarters, but it was Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, and Tony Allen who did the damage in the fourth, as L.A. allowed Memphis to shoot 10-of-16 in the final period for 62.5 percent.

The Grizzlies controlled the rebounding battle for the second straight game, grabbing eight more than the Clippers on the offensive end and 17 more in total. Memphis seemed to simply want it more on their home floor, and honestly showed more fight down the stretch than did Los Angeles.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Clippers can get back to what made them successful in the first two games of this series once things shift back home for Game 5. It wouldn’t seem to be as simple as home court advantage, but the way that L.A. fell apart in the fourth quarter while Memphis seemed to see its entire team surge, the Clippers returning to their home floor might allow them to do the same.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.