Preview: Thunder look to avoid elimination in Game 5 vs. Grizzlies

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After Memphis took care of business at home with two close victories over the Thunder, the Grizzlies lead the best-of-seven series three games to one as it shifts to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Every game in the series has been close in the closing minutes, so we should expect nothing less in one that has the potential to see the Thunder eliminated from the postseason.

The Grizzlies will need to bring the energy from the very start, or things could get out of hand quickly. Oklahoma City got out to a first half lead of 17 points in Game 4, and if that happens in this one Memphis will have trouble battling back on the road, when the Thunder will be playing to keep their season alive.

While the Thunder have needed to get contributions on both ends of the floor from a variety of players to keep each game in the series close, it’s always been about the play of Kevin Durant, and just how far he’s able to carry his team.

Durant was spectacular in the first two games at home, scoring 35 and 36 points, respectively. His numbers dipped to 25 and 27 in the two games in Memphis, although the bigger problem was the lower overall shooting percentage, along with the fact that the Grizzlies were able to shut him down when each of those games were on the line.

In Game 3, nobody on the Thunder could seem to hit a shot — the team managed just 36.4 percent shooting for the game, Durant was held to just 9-of-19. In Game 4, he was just 2-of-8 from the field in the fourth quarter, and 0-for-5 in the overtime session.

Durant will need to return to having a huge statistical impact on the game for his team to avoid being sent home for the summer.

On the Grizzlies’ side, they’ll need a strong overall defensive performance to limit the Thunder’s second and third options from getting going, and they’ll need a high-assist, low-turnover performance from Mike Conley, along with some dominant team rebounding in order to get the job done.

Memphis has shown it has enough to win this game on the road, and it should seize the opportunity — even while knowing that they would have another crack at it back home should things not go their way in OKC.

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?