Grizzlies pull away in Game 4 to even series with Clippers at two games apiece

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The Grizzlies imposed their will on the the Clippers for the second straight game of the series, and as a result, we’re all tied at two games apiece. Memphis got monster performances from both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol that allowed the team to pull away for a convincing 104-83 Game 4 win over the Clippers.

Game 5 is Tuesday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

We’d love to break down for you exactly how the first two quarters unfolded, but since we weren’t physically in the building for this one, that would be impossible. Thanks to the Bulls needing three overtimes to take care of the Nets, along with the fact that there was no contingency plan in place from TNT (which had the broadcast rights for each of these games), nobody but those inside the FedEx Forum in Memphis actually witnessed the first half.

It appeared as though Chris Paul came out with a mindset to be more aggressive from the start, after finishing with just eight points and four assists against five turnovers in L.A.’s Game 3 loss. Paul had 14 points and five assists at the intermission, with zero turnovers.

The Grizzlies had some positives in the first half as well, once again getting Zach Randolph going early to the tune of 16 first half points to go along with seven rebounds. Memphis got out to a lead of as many as 12 in the first quarter, but the Clippers had managed to come back to take a one-point lead at the break.

The game remained close throughout the third quarter, but Marc Gasol really got rolling for Memphis, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the period.

Memphis blew it open in the fourth, thanks to a 19-5 run to start the period that lasted the first six and a half minutes. L.A. couldn’t do anything offensively in the final frame, and while they created open looks from three-point distance, they knocked down just 1-8 from beyond the arc in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Paul once again struggled to produce late in the game, and managed just one point, one assists, and one turnover in just over seven minutes of fourth quarter action.

The Clippers missed some open looks, but the lack of attention to detail on the defensive end is really what killed them down the stretch. Randolph and Gasol carried the offensive load over the first three quarters, but it was Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, and Tony Allen who did the damage in the fourth, as L.A. allowed Memphis to shoot 10-of-16 in the final period for 62.5 percent.

The Grizzlies controlled the rebounding battle for the second straight game, grabbing eight more than the Clippers on the offensive end and 17 more in total. Memphis seemed to simply want it more on their home floor, and honestly showed more fight down the stretch than did Los Angeles.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Clippers can get back to what made them successful in the first two games of this series once things shift back home for Game 5. It wouldn’t seem to be as simple as home court advantage, but the way that L.A. fell apart in the fourth quarter while Memphis seemed to see its entire team surge, the Clippers returning to their home floor might allow them to do the same.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.