Grizzlies eliminate Blazers despite strong performance from Portland’s bench

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Say this for the Blazers: they never quit. In the final seconds of their season-ending 99-93 loss to the Grizzlies, they kept playing the fouling game to try and cut the deficit. But despite a huge scoring night from C.J. McCollum off the bench, it wasn’t enough to stop the Mike Conley-less Grizzlies from advancing to a second-round matchup with the Warriors.

Playing without Mike Conley (who was shown a few times on the TNT broadcast, and I would not wish on anyone what’s going on with his fractured face), Memphis turned in a solid, balanced effort that included the resurrection of Courtney Lee (20 points) and a big night from Marc Gasol (26 points and 14 rebounds).

And 38-year-old Vince Carter did this:

Even with Conley’s injury, the Grizzlies were always going to have the upper hand in this series. The Blazers haven’t been the same at either end of the floor since losing Wesley Matthews for the season in March. Arron Afflalo has struggled stepping into a starting role, and there isn’t much else on the wings. They were depending on huge series from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, and Lillard in particular came up short, shooting just over 40 percent from the field and an atrocious 16.1 percent from three-point range.

McCollum was one of the few bright spots for the Blazers on Wednesday, putting up 33 points and showing legitimate promise as a piece of Portland’s core moving forward. What the rest of that core will look like remains to be seen, and now the big question begins in earnest: has Aldridge played his final game with the Blazers?

In the meantime, we get Warriors-Grizzlies, hopefully with a healthy Conley.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.

Report: Jon Leuer expected to return to Pistons by start of season

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Pistons big Jon Leuer underwent meniscus surgery, leaving plenty of doubt about his availability for next season.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

After losing Anthony Tolliver in free agency (to the Timberwolves), Detroit needs Leuer as a stretch big off the bench. Unless Henry Ellenson is ready for rotation minutes, which…

If Leuer isn’t quite ready for the start of the season, Stanley Johnson could play small-ball four, but that weakens wing depth.

The Pistons’ best hope is Leuer getting healthy on schedule.