Spurs need overtime in Game 2 to beat Grizzlies, take a 2-0 series lead

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The Spurs looked every bit as dominant through three quarters of Game 2 against the Grizzlies as they did in completing a rout of their opponent in the first game of the series. Memphis couldn’t score, Tony Parker was carving up the Grizzlies’ defense on the way to a career-high 18 assists, and San Antonio had managed to keep Zach Randolph bottled up for the second straight game.

Then, the Spurs stopped scoring, and the Grizzlies smelled blood.

A furious fourth quarter comeback by Memphis sent the game into overtime, where the Spurs had just enough left in the tank to finish the job. Behind the career night from Parker and Tim Duncan scoring six of his team-high 17 points in the overtime session, San Antonio came away with the 93-89 victory to take a two games to none lead in the best-of-seven series.

As expected, this game was much closer at the start. After hitting 14 three-pointers in Game 1, the Spurs were hounded defensively and chased off the line early, and were 0-3 from distance in the first quarter. Marc Gasol was every bit the Defensive Player of the Year he was named this season in the opening period, blocking three shots and grabbing six rebounds, while helping his team hold the Spurs scoreless over the final 4:25.

But the Grizzlies couldn’t take advantage of their defense just yet, thanks to the Spurs defending just as well. In the second quarter, San Antonio found its offense, while Memphis continued to struggle. Parker started to create havoc with some brilliant passing, the Spurs started hitting some threes, and opened up a lead of as many as 16 points while the Grizzlies finished the half with just 31 points on 25.5 percent shooting.

Both teams came out hotter offensively after halftime, but the Grizzlies seemed more focused and energetic. Even though they cut just three points off the halftime lead by the end of three, Memphis outrebounded the Spurs 10-2 in the period and got to the free throw line 10 more times. Most importantly, the Grizzlies finished the quarter on a 10-4 run to cut an 18-point lead down to a very manageable 12 heading into the final period.

The Spurs seemed to run out of gas in the fourth, while the Grizzlies found a second wind. As San Antonio couldn’t make a shot on the way to 21.1 percent shooting (including 1-of-8 from three-point distance) in a quarter where they managed to score just nine points, Memphis turned up the defense and forced five turnovers while putting together a 15-2 run over the final 8:12 to send the game into overtime.

The Grizzlies wouldn’t have gotten there without a key flagrant foul call with under 30 seconds remaining. After Manu Ginobili turned it over, Tony Allen ended up streaking to the basket the other way, before Ginobili pulled him down by his arm as Allen went up for the shot.

It might have been ruled a flagrant anyway, but they way Allen grossly exaggerated the contact once he hit the deck certainly didn’t hurt his cause. Allen hit both of his free throws, and then Mike Conley scored to tie the game and send it to the extra session.

Once they got there, it was Duncan who did the damage. He had six of his team’s eight points, scoring on two layups and a floater to give his team just enough of a push to come away with the win.

For the Grizzlies, they’ve been here before. In the first round against the Clippers, they lost big in Game 1, then at the buzzer in Game 2, before righting the ship once the series shifted back to Memphis. As we move forward the question will be whether or not Memphis found a way around the dominance the Spurs showed over the first seven quarters of this series, or if San Antonio simply blinked for a moment and took its foot off the gas.

Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac, probable top-10 pick, declares for NBA draft

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Jonathan Isaac explored bursting through a loophole to declare for the 2016 NBA draft straight out of high school.

Instead, he went to Florida State. Now, he’ll enter the 2017 draft.

Isaac:

If he doesn’t hire an agent, Isaac can maintain college eligibility, but this message seems pretty final. Expect Isaac to remain in the draft, and expect him to go in the top 10.

What I like most about the 6-foot-11 forward: Despite being so lanky, he was an elite defensive rebounder. That shows an underlying technical proficiency and physicality that should serve him well.

And then there are the drool-inducing flashes – his ability to go up and get alley-oops above the rim and a sweet-looking jumper.

He’s still a work in progress, and he deferred a lot at Florida State. But he’s just 19, and he has the tools to do more. I’d love to get him on my team as he learns to assert himself.

Report: Clippers sort of resent Austin Rivers’ favored status

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The Clippers faced a potential crisis this summer.

They had already agreed to re-sign Austin Rivers to a three-year contract worth more than $35 million, and Jamal Crawford was threatening to leave. Losing the then-36-year-old Crawford would’ve been costly, but it wouldn’t have been devastating. The bigger issue would have been the image: keeping the coach’s son over the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers calmed the brewing storm by giving Crawford a three-year, $42 million deal.

But apparently the underlying tension hasn’t completely dissipated.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

The in-house resentment toward Austin Rivers being favored as Doc’s son, according to team sources, still very much exists, but it isn’t out of control.

Know what the Clippers truly resent? Losing. They’ve gone 8-9 since the All-Star break, and they’re clearly feeling the slump.

That brings lingering issues, like Austin’s place on the team, to the surface.

And other Clippers are reasonable to show suspicion about the dynamic, a complication Doc should have considered when he traded for Austin.

Austin has explained his never-that-warm relationship with Doc, who was busy coaching while Austin was growing up. These two claim this is far more a coach-player than father-son relationship, and I believe they believe that. I also believe it’s mostly true, though their familial ties probably intrude more than they realize.

That said, Austin has worked himself into a legitimate backup guard after a horrendous start to his NBA career. It’s worth a reminder just how bad he was in New Orleans because that shows how even his modest role now is a sign of tremendous growth. Austin has improved his shot, and his 6-foot-4 frame is an asset in some defensive matchups (probably not as many as Doc believes, judging by Austin’s assignments).

Does Austin deserve 28 minutes per game? Probably not, though he also handles garbage-time minutes so older teammates don’t have to. Does Austin deserve his $11 million+ annual salary? Probably not, though the capped-out Clippers had no recourse beyond minimum contracts to replace him, so he had leverage (ditto Crawford). Does he deserve to so often speak for the team? Probably not, though bigger stars Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan might not mind the occasional break.

Austin’s biggest problem is that, despite his improvement, his gaffes are still so blatant. That makes it more difficult to take him seriously, even when the totality of evidence says we should.

And for all the examples of Doc’s Clippers favoring Doc’s son, Austin was still the player who got left in the game with a concussion. That’s just dangerous, not nepotism.

There isn’t out-of-control resentment for Austin, because there’s isn’t out-of-control favoritism for him.

But there is some favoritism, and the more the Clippers struggle, the more they’ll look for a place to point the finger and occasionally land on Austin.

Report: Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, determined to become NBA head coach, offered Florida women’s job

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Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is the NBA’s first female full-time coach.

She could also become the next Florida women’s basketball coach.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon is considering a lucrative offer to leave the NBA and become the University of Florida women’s basketball coach, league sources told The Vertical.

The financial offer would be a considerable raise, especially considering that she’s still a young, behind-the-bench assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff. Nevertheless, Hammon is grappling with the decision, because she has been determined to stay on course to become the NBA’s first female head coach, league sources said.

Hammon is blazing a trail in the NBA and might eventually become a head coach in the league. She has Gregg Popovich’s endorsement, praise from San Antonio players and success in limited opportunities.

But the path for a woman coach in men’s basketball is extremely narrow. It’s not fair, but Hammon faces hurdles others wouldn’t.

And the glass ceiling becomes exponentially thicker for a woman in women’s basketball who’s trying to jump to men’s basketball. Women’s college basketball is not a pipeline to the NBA, especially not for a woman. If Hammon goes to Florida, the paradigm changes. It would renew questions about her playing experience coming only in women’s basketball and her limited time with the Spurs.

Hammon wouldn’t be blackballed from the NBA, but she’d be setting up more obstacles for herself to clear to become a head coach in the league.

In one respect, I don’t envy her decision. However, she has positioned herself to choose between a promising path and an excellent job. Even if deciding is difficult, she’ll wind up in a good place.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

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The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.