Watch Marc Gasol score career-high 42 points in Grizzlies’ win over Raptors (video)

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Marc Gasol scored a career-high 42 points, including the deciding two free throws with 36 seconds left, as the Memphis Grizzlies sent Toronto to its fifth straight loss with a 101-99 victory over the Raptors on Wednesday night.

Gasol’s final free throws ended a 12-0 run by the Raptors that tied the game at 99. Kyle Lowry‘s fadeaway 28-footer from the left wing bounced off the rim as time expired, saving Memphis from wasting Gasol’s career effort.

Zach Randolph finished with 16 points for Memphis, while Tony Allen had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Conley had 11 points. Gasol converted 14 of 25 shots, including going 5 of 10 from 3-point range.

Lowry led the Raptors with 29 points, including 14 points in the fourth quarter, to lead Toronto’s final charge. Norman Powell had 21 points and Cory Joseph finished with 15 points.

The teams were close until the latter stages of the third quarter as Gasol continued to score both inside and from distance. He had 13 points in the third. The Grizzlies outscored Toronto 14-7 over the final minutes of the period, carrying an 87-77 lead into the fourth.

The Memphis lead would reach 12 – the Grizzlies largest of the game — after Conley’s floater to start the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies rallied behind Lowry, scoring 12 straight. He had 10 of those points, including a 4-point play.

The Toronto rally tied the game at 99 with 1:31 remaining. But Gasol’s final free throws meant the difference.

TIP-INS

Raptors: The Raptors suffered their first five-game losing streak since Feb. 21-28, 2015. .Starting G DeMar DeRozan missed his second game with a sprained right ankle suffered in fourth quarter of Sunday’s against the Suns.He did not travel with the team to Memphis. .Lowry finished the game 11 of 21 from the field, including 4 of 10 from outside the arc. . C Jonas Valanciunas had 12 rebounds. He has grabbed at least 10 rebounds in eight of the last nine games.

Grizzlies: Forwards Chandler Parsons and JaMychal Green, both of whom have started for Memphis, sat out with knee injuries. That meant the Grizzlies dressed only nine players. … Gasol recorded his 20th game this season with multiple 3-pointers, and his fourth game with at least 30 points. . Vince Carter was assessed a technical foul for a slap to Lowry’s head on his shot from beyond midcourt at the end of the first half. Lowry made the free throw before the start of the second half.

QUICK STARTS

Both teams got out quickly with accurate shooting. Gasol made his first six shots, including three from outside the arc. By the final minutes of the first quarter, Memphis had made 11 of 14 to start the game, and Toronto was 11 of 16.

VINCE THE ELDER

Carter, the oldest active player in the NBA, turns 40 Thursday. Carter, who spent his first six years in the NBA in Toronto, also has had stops with the Nets in New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix and Dallas before arriving with the Grizzlies in 2014. The crowd sang Happy Birthday to Carter in the break between the first and second quarters, leading to a smile and a wave from the reserve forward when he returned to play at the start of the second.

PACK YOUR BAGS

Memphis sets out on a 10-day, six-game road trip after the game. The journey is the longest for the Grizzlies since they were gone for six games between March 24 and April 1, 2007.

UP NEXT

Raptors: Toronto returns home Friday to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the first of a three-game homestand.

Grizzlies: Start the six-game road trip Friday in Portland against the Trail Blazers

Report: Rockets becoming “increasingly serious threat” to sign Chris Paul

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The Houston Rockets are one of only a handful of teams in the NBA with a legitimate ability to add a couple of key pieces and try to make a run at the Golden State Warriors.

Chris Paul would be that kind of piece, and the Rockets are ramping up efforts to land him.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets have emerged as an increasingly serious threat in the chase for soon-to-be free agent Chris Paul, according to league sources.

The Rockets still have work to do in terms of clearing sufficient salary-cap space to make a representative offer for Paul, but sources told ESPN that Houston star James Harden has been advocating hard in favor of the Paul pursuit and has made his interest in teaming with the Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard known directly to Paul.

Sources say Houston also remains at the heart of the trade hunt to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, despite the fact George is only under contract through next season and is known to be angling to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in July 2018.

The challenge in all of this is the Rockets have just about $10 million in cap space this summer, which is about a third of what it will take to land Chris Paul. That means they need to trade Ryan Anderson and his $19.6 million owed next season and take no salary back, and while there are a few teams in a position to be able to take on that salary — Philadephia, Brooklyn, Sacramento and others — they are going to want a young player or first-round pick as a sweetener. The Rockets also are considering moving Lou Williams and his $7 million salary, or Patrick Beverley and his $5.5 million. However, even moving both of the later two is not getting near the salary Paul will demand.

Chris Paul met with the Clippers front office on Tuesday to talk about the future, but he’s expected to meet with a number of teams in free agency, with the Rockets and Spurs being key suitors. The question is, will any of these teams bring him closer to toppling the Golden State Warriors, and is it worth it to take less money for that chance? Especially after he got the CBA changed so that as of July 1 the “over 36” rule becomes the “over 38 rule” so the Clippers can give him one more five-year max contract.

How much will Dion Waiters earn as a free agent?

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Dion Waiters had the best season of his career last year at age 25 in Miami. The Heat pushed Waiters to get in the best shape of his life (just check out his Instagram), and combine that with the fact that Justise Winslow went down Waiters got the ball in his hands more with a chance to create for himself, and you had a little rush of scoring. He’s still not the most efficient player ever (to be kind), but he’s close to average.

Waiters opted out of his $3.2 million he is owed next season, and he is now a free agent. How much is he will he get now on the open market? Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote this:

One scout said he would be surprised if the bidding for Waiters soars much above $10 million, if that, because of his small sample size of high-level play this past season. One prominent agent who does not represent Waiters predicted he would get $8 million to $10 million annually.

That number seems about right, if it’s a two-year deal (or a team option on the third year). The league average salary will be around $8.5 million, and that’s where Waiters should fall next year.

Whether Miami has that money to spend comes down to whether they land a big free agent such as Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin (both max guys). If so, the Heat will not have the money, and what they do have would be more focused on keeping James Johnson. However, if the Heat strike out then Waiters could be back in Miami.

One way or another Waiters is going to get a raise. That doesn’t mean teams are not still leery.

Report: Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose

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Were they watching the games last year?

Derrick Rose put up decent numbers last year — 18 points per game, PER of 17, true shooting percentage of 53 — but was a mess defensively and does not fit in the triangle offense. He’s a decent point guard now, a replacement level player who can help in the right system.

Since the Knicks point guard rotation right now consists of rookie Frank Ntilikina plus whoever the team signs this summer, turns out Rose is not out of the picture, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

The New York Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose, league sources familiar with the matter said….

The Knicks’ interest in the point guard is dependent on several factors, including his health and his asking price. When asked last week about New York potentially re-signing Rose, team president Phil Jackson said “we’re listening.”

Money will be the key — it’s not going to be anywhere near the $21.3 million Rose made last season. No team is going to offer that.

Can the Knicks get him for less than $10 million? Will another team come in and offer $12 million or more for him? The market for point guards this summer is going to be interesting because after the big name on the free-agent market — Chris Paul (we’re not counting Stephen Curry, he’s not leaving) — there are some quality players out there that can help teams such as Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Patty Mills, Jeff Teague and Shaun Livingston. There aren’t that many teams with money to really spend on free agent point guards, so while a couple (Holiday, maybe Lowry) re-sign with their old teams there are a number of guys who may find the market softer than they expected. Rose is among them.

And that’s where the Knicks come in. Rose is far from a perfect fit, but if the soft market drives his price down closer to the midlevel ($8.4 million) or just above, that may be worth it for the Knicks for a year while they try to develop the rookie.

Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1

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Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.

Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.

Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.

He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.

If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.

If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.

If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.