Grizzlies come from 17 down, take 3-1 series lead with Game 4 overtime win over Thunder

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The Thunder were going to need otherworldly performances out of Kevin Durant in every game they planned on winning against the Grizzlies in this series. And even then, there was no guarantee that victory would be theirs, considering the fact that they’d need at least one other person to step up and deliver an above average performance offensively to get the job done.

Without big numbers and a stellar overall performance from the team’s one remaining superstar, however, Oklahoma City was going to struggle. That ended up being the case in Game 4, as Durant finished 10-of-27 from the field while the Grizzlies came back from a 17-point first half deficit to get the 103-97 overtime victory.

Memphis now leads the best-of-seven series three games to one, and is just a single win away from a trip to the Conference finals.

Oklahoma City began the game by bringing the necessary intensity required to win a pivotal playoff game on the road, and jumped out to an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Durant started by hitting two of his first three shots, and Serge Ibaka, who was much maligned after missing plenty of easy and open shots in Game 3 managed to come out strong with nine points in the opening period, on the way to 13 and 10 rebounds by halftime.

The Thunder looked poised to cruise in this one after getting out to that 17-point lead midway through the second quarter, but Memphis began its comeback by finishing the half on a 19-10 run to cut the OKC lead to single digits.

In the third quarter, the Thunder had briefly pushed their lead back to 12, and had it steady around seven or eight points for most of the period. But those final four-plus minutes were once again a killer, as the Grizzlies finished the period on a 13-4 run to tie the game heading into the fourth.

The final period was tight throughout, and this is where Durant simply couldn’t do enough to get his team over the hump. He had eight shot attempts in the period — as many as the rest of his teammates combined — and connected on only two. One of them was huge, however, coming on a drive and a scoop with the Thunder down two and six seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to an overtime session.

Once overtime began, the Thunder couldn’t hit a shot. Durant was 0-for-5 in the five minute extra frame, and the team was just 1-of-8.

The Grizzlies got big nights out of both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and got enough out of Mike Conley, who finished with a team high 24 points despite his 7-of-21 shooting. But just like every other game in this series, the losing team had their chances to win it in the game’s final few minutes.

It was a fantastic win for Memphis, in what is becoming an increasingly more impressive run through these playoffs. On the Thunder side, Durant just couldn’t do enough on this night to drag his team over the finish line.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.