Associated Press

Missing 4 starters, Grizzlies stun sloppy Cavaliers 106-103

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CLEVELAND (AP) — When word reached the Cavaliers’ locker room shortly before tip-off that the Memphis Grizzlies were down four starters, LeBron James got an uneasy feeling.

His fears were warranted.

Tony Allen scored a season-high 26 points and the Grizzlies, playing with just one of their starters, stunned the Cavaliers 106-103 on Monday night.

“We’re all in this league for a reason,” James said. “We didn’t respect them tonight and they beat us.”

Vince Carter made four free throws in the final 13.4 seconds to steal the upset by a Memphis team missing Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Chris Andersen, Matt Barnes and had more coaches than players sitting on the bench.

A day after the Los Angeles Lakers shocked the Golden State Warriors, the Grizzlies dazed the Cavs.

“The guys played their hearts out,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “We had guys cramping, but they left it all out there. It’s a happy locker room. The phones are blowing up from everybody in Memphis. All of our guys that (are) back home like Marc (Gasol) and Birdman (Andersen) are jumping and down in their living room right now.”

Lance Stephenson added 17 points and JaMychal Green 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who forced the Cavs into a season-high 25 turnovers and never backed down against the Eastern Conference’s top team.

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Allen returned after missing eight games with a knee injury for Memphis, which only dressed eight players.

“I don’t care who you are playing, if it’s my son’s little league team you’re going to lose when you give up that many points off turnovers,” James said. “We were very careless with our mindset – and with the ball.”

James scored 28 points and Kyrie Irving had 27 – 14 in the fourth. James also moved past Hall of Famer John Havlicek into 13th place on the NBA’s career scoring list.

Perhaps overconfident following weekend wins over Washington and Boston, and against a wounded Memphis team without, the Cavs were outplayed at both ends. Cleveland trailed the Grizzlies the entire game before taking its first lead on Irving’s steal and layup with 2:42 remaining.

Memphis figured to buckle, but the Grizzlies wouldn’t give in and took a 101-100 lead on Mario Chalmers‘ layup with 25 seconds left.

Allen then tied up James on a drive, forcing and winning a jump ball with 17 seconds to go. Chalmers made a free throw and Carter made two free throws before James hit a 3-pointer to bring the Cavs within 104-103.

Carter, who finished with 15 points, made two more from the line and the Grizzlies escaped with an unexpected win when Irving’s 3-pointer at the horn hit the back of the rim.

“I just thought they were tougher than us tonight,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Thought they played hard and out-scrapped us. You got to respect everybody in this league. Everyone gets a paycheck.”

Only an hour before tip-off, Joerger still wasn’t sure who would start.

The Grizzlies initially said only Conley (foot) and Andersen (shoulder) would be out, but then Joerger broke the news that Randolph (knee) and Barnes (hamstring) were also sidelined, making things even tougher on a Memphis team already without Gasol, done for the season with a broken right foot.

The short-handed Grizzlies faced a daunting task, but they weren’t intimidated and nearly led from start to finish.

“This is big time for us,” Carter said. “We had a lot of guys out. When you see shots go down you gain confidence. We did a great job of executing and not getting rattled.”

LEARNING CURVE

James chalked up the unexpected loss to a team still figuring things out.

“We’re a team that’s still learning, man,” he said. “We got some young guys and a group that’s been together for a little over a year. It’s another learning experience for us.”

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Conley underwent an MRI and the team is hoping to have a better sense of how long he will be sidelined later this week. … Memphis has lost more playing time due to injury or illness this season than any other current playoff team. … The four missing starters average a combined 42.9 points.

Cavaliers: James said the chance to play one final game against Olympic teammate Kobe Bryant would not take precedence over any decision for him to sit out and rest. The Cavs visit the Lakers at Staples Center on Thursday night. Bryant is retiring at the conclusion of his 20th season in the NBA. James said he and Lue have discussed possible games he’ll sit but “it’s still day-to-day.”

 

Chris Paul playing cornhole. Luka Doncic trick shots. Welcome to life in the NBA bubble.

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Teams have emerged from quarantine in the Walt Disney World campus in Orlando, getting some run in on the court, and are starting to explore life in the NBA bubble.

Then they are documenting it on social media.

For example, Chris Paul and Darius Bazley played some cornhole.

Dallas’ Luka Doncic was hitting trick shots on the court.

Then Doncic and Boban Marjanovic were doing Disney Channel ads.

Complaints about the food by players have died down, in part because they are out of quarantine and get a choice of restaurants, in part because they saw the backlash and realized the complaints looked elitist. Or maybe it’s just the Mickey pancakes.

Everyone is out and exploring the campus and having fun…

Well, except for Robin Lopez, who sees no reason to leave his room.

Zion Williamson “just went back to square one” with quarantine workouts

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Zion Williamson looks cut — like he spent the entire quarantine doing workouts — and ready to be a force at the NBA restart in Orlando.

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Built for this 💪

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What workouts did Zion Williamson do during the break to get that look? He took everything back down to step one and built it up again working out with his stepfather Lee Anderson, Williamson told reporters on Friday (hat tip Andrew Lopez of ESPN):

“It just felt like I was 5 years old again,” Williamson said Friday. “Just went back to square one, tried to get my body where it needs to be, get my fundamentals back to square one and start from there. So yeah, it was just like starting over at 5 again. It was a great process to learn it all over.”

Williamson did a little more than that. He also had approval from the league to go to the Pelicans practice facility throughout the quarantine and get treatment on his knee, the one that kept him out the first 45 games of the season. So he stayed healthy.

He also worked on other aspects of this game, such as his jump shot. Williamson took 76.7% of his shot attempts at the rim this season, and while getting to the rim is critical to his game, he’s going to have confidence in his shot and knock down jumpers to reach higher levels in the league.

The Pelicans enter the bubble 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed in the West, and with the softest schedule of any team in Orlando (matching their schedule before the interruption), they have a legitimate chance of forcing a two-game play-in series. It’s not easy, but there is a path to the playoffs for New Orleans (setting up a Zion vs. LeBron James first-round showdown that league broadcast partners are drooling over).

A stronger, improved Zion could help get the Pelicans there.

Paul George: “I feel great again,” says Clippers finally fully healthy

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Paul George symbolized the Clippers’ health all season long. George missed the first 11 games of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, then all season long it was still a lingering issue — until the suspension of play gave him time to heal.

“The whole season, all the way up until maybe a month or two ago, I had to always do shoulder rehab stuff, warming the shoulder up,” George said Friday on a conference call with reporters. “Just so much went into stuff I had to do before I actually took a foot on the floor. Now I feel great again.”

It wasn’t just Paul George, the Clippers had Kawhi Leonard managing his knee/thigh issue and an assortment of other injuries that didn’t give Doc Rivers the full arsenal at his disposal. That was until around the All-Star break — after that break Los Angeles went 7-2 with a +11.5 net rating that was best in the league by far.

The season being shut down may have halted that momentum, but it also gave a banged-up Los Angeles roster a chance to get healthy.

“For this team, man, I think our aspirations, again, this time off has given us what we needed,” George said. “We had some guys that was banged up, nagging injuries. The more time gave us more time for us to aid those injuries and to get back to 100.”

Health matters — which is why Montrez Harrell brought his own personal, portable sauna, a secret Reggie Jackson let out of the bag.

Health matters to Rivers, too, but what he wants more is that team chemistry back — and the Clippers have a long way to go on that end in Rivers’ eyes.

“This is not a normal way of starting back,” Rivers said of the mini-training camp all 22 teams at the NBA restart will get in Orlando. “Usually going into training camp, guys have been scrimmaging for three and four weeks, they’ve been playing, shooting on hoops. That’s not happening. This is a group, some of the guys have not touched a basketball or seen a gym until two weeks ago. We got a lot of work to do on both ends.”

The Clippers are not alone, every team is going to take time to find its rhythm again. Pick-and-roll combos need to get used to reading each other (and the defense) again at full speed, defensive rotations will be a step slow, and a few passes are going to head into the bench rather than the player in the corner.

When the Clippers get that rhythm back, with a healthy roster — finally — they again become a legitimate threat to win it all.

First, they just need to navigate the bubble. And maybe borrow Harrell’s sauna.

Atlanta G League affiliate promotes Tori Miller, first female GM in league

Tori Miller
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The Atlanta Hawks aren’t just talking about progress and giving Black women a chance. They are acting.

The College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta’s G-League affiliate, has promoted Tori Miller to general manager. She is the first female GM in the G-League.

Miller, who grew up in Decatur (a city next to Atlanta), had worked for the team in Erie (when they were the Bayhawks) and followed the team with its move closer to its parent franchise. Miller served as an assistant GM last season before being promoted.

G League front office positions can be a stepping stone into an NBA front office.

The Hawks progressive move comes just as the team’s WNBA franchise, the Dream, has players trying to oust co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Republican Georgia U.S. Senator, because she advocated against the league supporting Black Lives Matter. Loeffler has said she will not sell. It’s a problem not going away anytime soon.