Marc Gasol

Grizzlies win clinches playoff spot for them, eliminates Suns


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.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.