Memphis Grizzlies guard Allen and Memphis Grizzlies forward Randolph celebrate during the second half of NBA basketball action in Memphis

Grizzlies advance to the second round with Game 6 win over Clippers

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It was more of exactly what we’ve seen over the last three games of this series between the Grizzlies and the Clippers in Game 6, and that meant the end of the season for Los Angeles.

The particulars changed slightly, but the level of confidence from Memphis and disarray from the Clippers remained constant. The Grizzlies advanced to the second round of the playoffs with a 118-105 victory that was every bit as comfortable for much of the second half as the final score would indicate.

Blake Griffin didn’t start for the Clippers, and was limited to just 14 minutes of action off the bench. The sprained ankle that he suffered in advance of Game 5 was still too swollen for him to be able to be as productive as was needed in an elimination game on the road, and the word was that the severity of the injury would have sidelined him for three weeks had it occurred during the regular season.

With Griffin sidelined, that left Vinny Del Negro, in what may very well have been his final game roaming the Clippers’ sidelines, scrambling with his lineups. One of Del Negro’s biggest criticisms has always been his inability to manage minutes and player rotations for maximum effectiveness, and in a move of desperation, played Eric Bledsoe less than 10 minutes and Jamal Crawford just 12 in favor of Grant Hill and Willie Green, who had barely seen the court at all previously in the series.

Del Negro repeatedly said afterward that he was trying to go small to get an advantage, but it was the Grizzlies’ guards — not Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol — who did the bulk of the damage offensively. Mike Conley and Tony Allen finished with 23 and 19 points respectively, and combined for more free throw attempts between the two of them (28) than the Clippers had as a team (24) for the entire game.

The referees called this one tightly throughout, and Memphis tallied 20 free throw attempts in the first quarter alone on their way to a 47-24 advantage. This wasn’t a one-game problem for the Clippers, however, as they’ve been whistled heavily for personal fouls, far above their season average, over the course of this series. Veteran official Joey Crawford played fast and loose with both the technical fouls and the flagrant calls in this one, and actually ejected both Chris Paul and Zach Randolph in the game’s final few minutes for seemingly innocuous actions in completely separate incidents.

The Grizzlies move on to face the Thunder in the second round of the playoffs, and that series begins in Oklahoma City on Sunday.

As for the Clippers, things are much more complicated — Paul becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Del Negro is not under contract for next season.

Add Kobe Bryant to don’t change hack-a-player crowd

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant gestures after hitting a three point shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LeBron James is already there. So is Kevin Durant. Same with a lot of other old-school GMs and coaches around the league.

Their response to the rapid rise in hack-a-player (shouldn’t it always be hack-a-Shaq?) instances is “tell the guy to hit the free throws.”

Add Kobe Bryant to their ranks, reports Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is starting to feel differently. He realizes he runs an entertainment business and a parade of guys to the free throw line without because of a non-basketball play — you can’t begin to tell me fouling a guy 50 feet from the ball is a basketball play in the spirit of the rules — is bad for that business. It is unwatchable. And while every coach in the NBA “I hate to do it” they all do it with more and more frequency, there will be more than twice as many instances this season as there were a year ago, with more and more players involved. Because it works, and because they are paid to win, not play beautiful basketball.

Change is coming. Old-school types always bemoan change, and that’s not just a basketball thing. But the rest of the world has rules in place to stop this because they realize it’s not basketball, it’s gaming the system. And it needs to change.

Timofey Mozgov with maybe “best” missed dunk of the season (VIDEO)

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On this play the Sacramento Kings played defense like only they can — and you wonder why George Karl’s job is in danger — and gave Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov a wide-open lane right down the middle for an easy dunk.

Ooof.

LeBron James had a triple-double (the 40th of his career) and the Cavaliers got a needed easy win, but this is the play you’ll remember.

Karl-Anthony Towns with nasty poster dunk on Dante Cunningham (VIDEO)

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Karl-Anthony Towns is a beast.

While the Timberwolves have plenty of question marks around him, but Towns has been exceptional. Coming into Monday night, he was averaging 21.6 points (on 59.9 percent shooting) and 12.7 rebounds a night in his last 10 games.

Then Monday he did that to Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans went on to win the game 116-102, but Towns continues to play well.

Report: Come 2017, Knicks have real shot to land Russell Westbrook

during the first half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Russell Westbrook
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The summer of 2016 is all about Kevin Durant — and we don’t know what Durant is going to do as a free agent because Durant doesn’t yet know what Durant is going to do as a free agent. Stay in Oklahoma City, bolt to the Bay Area or maybe Washington D.C.? These playoffs, meetings with teams and his advisors, plus personal factors all will play a role in Durant’s decision. Which he will get around to announcing in early July sometime.

But the sense around the league is that while Durant may very well stay in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook was drawn to the bright lights of big markets. If an elite player were to bolt OKC, this was the more likely guy. Westbrook is a free agent in 2017.

In an article about Phil Jackson and the Knicks in the wake of Derek Fisher’s firing, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports said the Knicks have a real shot at Westbrook in a couple of summers.

The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.

Come 2017, expect Westbrook to meet with a number of big market teams on both coasts, and then make a decision. The summer of 2017 is a couple of NBA lifetimes away, it’s impossible to say what Westbrook will do (he may well decide to stay in OKC if they win enough), but the big market teams looking for a star will get their turn in the batter’s box.

Which is why I still think Durant signs a 1+1 deal this summer to stay in Oklahoma City for another season — he’s going to give everything another chance to come together for the Thunder, then when the salary cap is at its peak in 2017 (an estimated $108 million) he makes his peak seasons decision. He and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka will all be free agents at the same time, and they can make their calls.

And the Knicks could be involved in all of it.