AP

Grizzlies pull within 2-1 of Spurs with 105-94 win

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Mike Conley scored 24 points and handed out eight assists as the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 10-game postseason skid against San Antonio by routing the Spurs 105-94 on Thursday night.

The Grizzlies pulled within 2-1 in this first-round Western Conference series, giving first-year coach David Fizdale his first postseason victory. This also marked the Grizzlies’ first win over the Spurs in the playoffs since April 2011, when Memphis beat San Antonio in six games.

Game 4 is Saturday night.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each scored 21 points for Memphis, which outscored San Antonio 31-17 in the third quarter and led by as much as 22 in the second half.

Kawhi Leonard, who scored 32 and 37 in the first two games, was held to 18. LaMarcus Aldridge added 16, and Kyle Anderson had 15 as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich benched his starters for most of the fourth quarter.

Memphis fans roared when Fizdale came onto the court before the game following his rant against officiating in Game 2, which cost him a $30,000 fine from the NBA. And they stayed on their feet much of the night, funneling their frustration into yelling for the Grizzlies and against the officials.

In this game, the Spurs had a big edge at the line in the first half (10 of 15) compared to the Grizzlies, who took only four free throws the entire first half. The crew of James Capers, Courtney Kirkland and Pat Fraher whistled the Spurs for only one foul in the second quarter – with 10.9 seconds left.

But Randolph scored 11 points in the second quarter, and the Grizzlies took a 50-46 lead into halftime. Then they really took control, opening the third by hitting 10 of their first 14 shots. They also played much better defense, harassing the Spurs into missing 11 of their first 17 in the quarter.

Popovich tried pulling his starters completely at one point, then simply sat down at others.

TIP-INS

Spurs: Manu Ginobili became the first second-round draft pick to play 200 career playoff games. … The Spurs shot an NBA-best 87.7 percent at the free throw line through the first two playoff games. They finished 16 of 28 (57.1 percent).

Grizzlies: Fizdale stuck with the lineup that worked in the second half of Game 2 when Memphis outscored the Spurs 45-40 despite losing. That meant Randolph and James Ennis both starting. This was just the sixth start for Randolph, who had 19 double-doubles off the bench during the regular season. He scored 11 points in the second quarter and even had a rare dunk.

GAME 3

The Spurs have dominated the postseason against Memphis, sweeping all three of the series San Antonio won with the exception of 2011. The third game of each series has been tight with three decided by single digits, and Game 3 of the 2013 West finals went to overtime before the Spurs won 104-93. The Grizzlies’ lone win in that span in the third game of any series with San Antonio came in 2011 when they won in six games.

More AP NBA: apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.