Monday NBA grades: Memphis’ point guards get high marks

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while reading the oral history (in twitter form) of Mike Woodson’s path to being fired…

source:  Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies. I saw a couple Grizzlies fans on twitter knocking Conley for a missing a couple free throws late and getting stripped by Thabo Sefolosha for a turnover. Guess what — without Conley’s performance the Grizzlies lose that game by 20. He was fantastic on the pick-and-roll, attacking and pushing into the defense (Marc Gasol would come to an elbow area to create another option, and when Gasol got the ball and the defense helped it opened up backdoor cuts that the Grizzlies exploited all night). The Grizzlies controlled the tempo of the game — a lot of that was the patient Conley. He finished with 19 points and 12 assists, plus did a good job defending Russell Westbrook. Conley is one of the most underrated point guard sin the NBA and he showed why on Monday.

source:  Beno Udrih, Memphis Grizzlies. When Conley sat, Udrih was fantastic. The guy the Grizzlies picked up off the waiver wire and Mike Woodson decided not to use him, Udrih kept the ball moving and finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The Thunder guards would go under picks and Udrih just made them pay every time. It was a blow when Nick Calathes got a 20-game suspension but Udrih made Grizzlies fans forget that for a night.

source:  Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. David Lee cannot cover Blake Griffin, and with Andrew Bogut out the smart help for Lee is gone (no offense intended to Jermaine O’Neal, but it’s not the same). In Game 1 the Clippers couldn’t exploit that because Griffin was in foul trouble from the start. In Game 2 there were no fouls but there was a very aggressive Griffin who was attacking the rim (9-of-11 inside 8 feet shooting) and it was key to the Clippers jumping out to a fast lead in what became a 40-point blowout. Griffin finished with a playoff high 35 points in just 30 minutes of play.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.