Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two

Mike Conley outshines Kevin Durant as Grizzlies take Game 2 from the Thunder

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There were multiple areas that the Grizzlies needed to focus on in terms of adjustments heading into Game 2 against the Thunder. The one they needed the most was made, in the form of point guard Mike Conley returning to, and then exceeding the stellar form he displayed for much of the second half of the season.

Conley put in a dominant all-around performance, and finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in leading the Grizzlies to a 99-93 victory to steal the home court advantage in this series.

Game 3 is in Memphis on Saturday.

One of the keys for the Grizzlies in their surge into the playoffs and then through their first round takedown of the Clippers has been the play of Conley, who elevated his averages in every major statistical category once the postseason began. He was largely absent in Game 1, and in addition to his 13 point, three assist, two turnover performance on 5-of-15 shooting in that one doing his team no favors, the floor presence he normally brings in leading his team’s offense simply wasn’t there.

Things changed dramatically for Conley in Game 2, as he attacked with dribble penetration to force the action. Instead of taking what the Thunder were willing to give, he took what his team needed from them in order to distribute the ball and get a balanced scoring attack from his teammates.

Conley’s game was so special that we haven’t even mentioned Kevin Durant yet, who controlled the game offensively for his team and did everything he could to drag them to victory. Durant finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists, and was essentially unstoppable for long stretches of this game.

But without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are going to need multiple players step up when facing a Grizzlies team that’s as focused and engaged as they were in this one. Derek Fisher provided an offensive spark off the bench with 19 points in a strong outing, but the Game 1 scoring boost of Kevin Martin disappeared almost entirely. Martin finished just 2-of-11 from the field for six points, after pouring in 25 points in the first game of the series.

Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka chipped in 10 and 11 points respectively, but the points came sporadically, and neither was considered a consistent threat by the Grizzlies’ defense.

Memphis killed the Thunder in some important statistical categories, outrebounding them by eight total, with the difference coming entirely on the offensive glass. It helped the Grizzlies outscore their opponent by 17 in second chance points, and by 20 in points in the paint.

The Grizzlies played their game for most of the night, and while Conley hit two huge shots with under two minutes to play to help his team pull away, Memphis swarmed on Durant defensively late to ensure they wouldn’t see a replay of the way things ended for them in Game 1.

As great as Durant was all game long, he was 0-for-3 with a turnover in the game’s final 3:10, thanks to the Grizzlies’ team effort on him defensively with the game on the line.

The good news for the Thunder is that this was anybody’s game with under three minutes to play, despite the Grizzlies’ statistical edge. The bad news, however, is that Durant can’t really be expected to do much more than he did in this one. If the Thunder can’t find a way to get consistent production out of a couple of other guys to aid Durant’s effort, or, at the very least, make sure to limit the Grizzlies’ efforts on the boards, they could be in serious trouble heading back to Memphis.

Joel Embiid was dunking, blocking, leading Sixers past Bucks (VIDEOS)

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Joel Embiid is making his case to be in the All-Star Game in more places than Twitter.

He made it on the court Monday with a dominant second half — 18 points on six shots — to lead the Sixers to a 113-104 win over the Bucks. The Sixers are 5-2 in 2017, and this gives them a couple of quality wins.

Embiid was both throwing it down with authority — as you can see above — and he was racking up blocked shots as well. He was also showing Jabari Parker you need to go strong to the rim against him, or you get sent home without lunch.

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Carmelo Anthony says he hasn’t spoken to Jackson, wants to remain a Knick

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks during a stop in play against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. 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  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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When Phil Jackson (sometimes through his surrogates) starts working his mind games, things are not often clear. However, out of the whole “trade Carmelo Anthony saga” circa 2017 (there have been 2014, 2015, and 2016 versions), two things should be clear:

1. Carmelo Anthony isn’t looking to leave the Knicks.

2. He would rather talk to management and end this rather than have a back-and-forth with the press as conduits.

Anthony reiterated as much Monday at Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks had a heartbreaking loss to the Hawks (where New York got hosed on the last call, but Anthony missed a bunny or the game winner). Via Al Iannazzone of Newsday and Ian Begley of ESPN.

Carmelo Anthony was asked about how “much” he wants to remain a Knick and about his loyalty to the franchise: “I think I’ve proven that. I don’t have to speak on that. I think I’ve proven that over the years day in and day out.” Anthony says he’s shown that by being a professional every day in his approach and handling the duties of being the public face of the franchise every day. He’s handled that well, in my opinion.

Anthony chose New York (and a few more wheelbarrows full of cash) over his other free agency options, and he didn’t do that looking to bail. He wants to win in New York.

It’s fair to question if Anthony can win in New York with the direction the Knicks are headed. It’s fair to suggest Anthony should be moved and this team rebuilt around Kristaps Porzingis, but then that should have happened last summer. Instead, the Knicks brought in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also, because Anthony has a no-trade clause and doesn’t actually want to be traded, the Knicks would need to put together a nearly impossibly perfect deal — with a contender in a major market willing to pay ‘Melo’s massive salary — for a trade to get done.

Anthony and the Knicks are frustrated. Monday’s loss to the Hawks isn’t going to help that.

Jackson and Anthony should sit down and talk it out. I’d say that’s what happens in a well-run organization, but in a well-run organization it would have already happened. Will it happen in New York? This is the Knicks, they pretty much live in “the upside down” so who knows.

Report: Heat say Hassan Whiteside not available in trade

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, right, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 98-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Hassan Whiteside is the Heat’s franchise player.

But Miami is also 11-30, and Heat president Pat Riley has acknowledged a need to rebuild.

Where does that leave Whiteside with a potential trade?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

This is likely based on the Heat’s understanding of the trade market. If another team offered a favorable return for Whiteside, I bet Miami would trade him in an instant. The Heat just haven’t gotten – and seemingly don’t expect – a suitable offer.

Whiteside gives Miami a starting point. It will be more difficult to build through free agency with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement giving greater incentive for stars to stay with their current teams, but what choice do the Heat have but to try? They can still offer a state without income tax, warm weather, nightlife, a winning history and – if they keep Whiteside – a star teammate.

Goran Dragic is the Miami player more likely to be traded.

Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony miss on Knicks’ controversial final possession against Hawks (video)

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Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony scored the Knicks’ last eight points, but on New York’s final possession, the Hawks found a way to stop them:

A lot of contact and a little luck.

Paul Millsap blocked/hacked Rose on the guard’s drive, but the referees swallowed their whistles. Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek was rightly irate afterward, and the NBA’s two-minute report is now highly anticipated.

The ball still trickled to Anthony, who missed his point-blank follow-up without any similar excuse. Joakim Noah even got a tip attempt, though that had little chance.

After those three misses on New York’s final possession, Dennis Schroder‘s 3-pointer stood as the game-winner in Atlanta’s 108-107 victory: