Grizzlies win clinches playoff spot for them, eliminates Suns

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Last Friday night the Suns played the San Antonio Spurs tough but lost. Saturday night they played the Dallas Mavericks tough but fell by three.

Monday night they played well again, desperate in a must-win game, but the Memphis Grizzlies played a little better. Memphis rode its grinding style and it reined in what Phoenix wanted to do..

The win guarantees the Grizzlies a playoff spot and locks the Suns out of the postseason. That despite winning 47 games (with one more to go), that despite being one of the biggest surprises and most entertaining teams in the NBA this season.

The Grizzlies are the eight seed now but if they win on Wednesday against the Mavericks then Memphis moves up to the seven seed — and they want that. Badly. Memphis has struggled mightily the last couple seasons with San Antonio (the top seed), they think they stand a better chance against the Thunder (the two seed).

Memphis raced out to an early lead behind Zach Randolph, leading by a dozen in the first quarter. Memphis struggled at points in the game — turning the ball over on 20 percent of your possessions, one if five trips down the court, will do that — however their grinding style threw Phoenix off its up-tempo style. Both teams staged mini comeback that set the tone for the close fourth quarter.

Then down 91-90 with 1:27 after a Mason Plumlee tip in, the Grizzles scored the final seven points of the game to get the win. In started with a Mike Conley three, then saw Zach Randolph make the steal, get down the court and finish at the rim in transition. Suddenly the Grizzlies were in control. Channing Frye missed a three, Goran Dragic did on the next possession.

You could fee it slipping away and Conley free throws with 21 seconds left sealed it.

Randolph finished with 32 points to lead Memphis, Mike Miller had 21 off the bench, going 5-of-6 from three.

Markieff Morris led five Suns in double figures with 21 points.

Phoenix should be congratulated — before the season most people (myself included) thought they would be in the tanking mix. But GM Ryan McDonough made some smart plays — the trade for Eric Bledsoe for one, the hiring of Jeff Hornacek for another. This is a team with picks and cap room coming in future years, Phoenix is in a great position going forward.

But Memphis — who battled back from a rough 10-15 stretch in the middle of the season when Marc Gasol was out — is in a playoff position this year. And they are one dangerous team as the playoffs start.

Report: Duke guard Frank Jackson undergoes foot surgery before NBA draft

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Duke guard Frank Jackson declared for the 2017 NBA draft with an outside shot of going in the first round and a likelihood of getting picked in the second-round.

This won’t help his stock.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Duke’s Frank Jackson, a well-regarded point guard in the 2017 NBA draft class, underwent right foot surgery and is expected to be fully recovered sometime in July.

When Jackson recovers will determine whether he plays in summer league, and that can affect transition to the pros as a rookie.

The bigger questions: Will this hinder his athleticism long-term? Does this put him at greater injury risk?

Jackson, a 6-foot-4 scoring guard, relies on a strong first step to attack the basket and high elevation on his jumper.

Report: 76ers, with No. 3 pick in NBA draft, like PGs De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.

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If there’s consensus on the top prospects in the 2017 NBA draft, it’s:

1. Markelle Fultz

2. Lonzo Ball

3. Josh Jackson

That squares nicely with the Celtics picking Fultz No. 1 and the Lakers taking Ball No. 2.

But what about the 76ers, who pick No. 3? They already have a playmaking forward with a shaky jumper in Ben Simmons. Jackson isn’t the cleanest fit. Even if they plan to deploy Simmons at point guard, they could still use a traditional point guard for support/insurance.

Enter De'Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith Jr.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

https://twitter.com/SBondyNYDN/status/867526157184491521

The 76ers could also get a workout with Ball. There will be point guard options.

I’m just unsure any of them, assuming Ball is off the board, trump Jackson.

Philadelphia’s starting small forward is Robert Covington – a nice player, but not someone who should influence draft decisions. We can lightly pencil Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons into the 76ers’ starting lineup the next time the team gets good, but the rest of the lineup is open. Pondering Jackson’s fit into a half-blank canvass is overthinking. Embiid is an excellent outside shooter for a center, and Philadelphia’s eventual guards (or shooting guard and power forward if Simmons plays point guard) could be good shooters.

The 76ers’ should draft the best prospect available. If that’s Jackson, so be it. They should consider Fox’s and Smith’s fit only if those point guards are in the same tier as Jackson.

That said, don’t rule out the possibility of Fox and Smith working their way into that level. They’re intriguing players.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.