Spurs take 3-0 series lead, beating shorthanded Grizzlies 96-87

Associated Press
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 96-87 on Friday night to take a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

The Spurs are a win away from their ninth postseason series sweep and third against Memphis. They finished the game on a 13-6 run in the final 3:41, and Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, scored 13 points in the quarter as he shot 11 of 22 for the game and 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili each added 11 points for San Antonio.

Zach Randolph led Memphis with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-21 shooting. Matt Barnes added 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Vince Carter had 11 and JaMychal Green was 5 of 5 for 10 points.

Game 4 is Sunday.

Data curated by PointAfter

With Jarell Martin out with an injured left foot, Memphis had only 10 players available, and the 6-foot-7 Barnes jumped the opening tipoff at center. A fan summed up the Grizzlies’ season by holding up a towel with the slogan: “So proud of my team … All 28 of you” in honor of the NBA-record number of players Memphis used this season.

The Spurs so dominated the first two games in San Antonio that Memphis led only once, by a point and for 25 seconds. This time, the teams swapped the lead eight times with seven ties. Memphis not only took its second lead of this series, the Grizzlies also won consecutive quarters, outscoring San Antonio 25-18 in the second to trail only 44-43 at halftime and 28-26 in the third.

Memphis coach Dave Joerger stuck with his starters much of the game, with Barnes leading the Grizzlies with more than 41 minutes and Randolph on the court more than 39. Leonard played a game-high 42 minutes, 23 seconds.

The Grizzlies led for more than 2 minutes in the third quarter, taking their biggest lead at 51-48 after a 3-pointer from Carter and a pair of free throws by Tony Allen. That set up a taut quarter where neither team led by more than three, and Memphis led 71-70 going into the fourth.

Boris Diaw scored as the shot clock was running down to put the Spurs ahead to stay with 7:47 left, starting the 7-0 run. Memphis last got within 83-81 on a tip-in by Barnes. Leonard hit a free throw off a defensive 3-second call on Allen with 3:41 to go, and the Spurs finished off the win forcing five turnovers in the quarter.

TIP-INS

Spurs: With this win, Duncan tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for third in career playoff victories with 154. Duncan trails Robert Horry (155) and Derek Fisher (161). Duncan already tied Horry for second with 244 postseason appearances. Fisher also leads that category with 259 playoff games. … Kevin Martin did not play because of illness. … The Spurs had a 17-12 advantage in fast-break points.

Grizzlies: Memphis went 4 of 18 beyond the arc, outshot by Leonard individually and the Spurs, who went 12 of 26. … The Grizzlies outrebounded the Spurs 48-39 and outscored them 44-28 in the paint. … They also had an 18-1 edge in second-chance points, taking advantage of 15 offensive rebounds.

Reports: Kyrie Irving demands trade before Feb. 9 deadline

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Kyrie Irving‘s agent tried to spark contract extension talks with the Nets recently, but Brooklyn felt no rush to dive into those talks, and the offer they did make — not for a full four years and filled with guarantees for Irving to meet — increased Irving’s frustration with the organization.

Irving responded with a bombshell, demanding a trade before the Feb. 9 deadline. Shams Charania of The Athletic was first with the news, but Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report have since confirmed it.

 

So much for a quiet trade deadline.

There are so many angles to this bombshell, but the sense of Irving feeling disrespected by Nets management and ownership is not new. Charania added this detail in his story at The Athletic:

The Nets recently offered Irving an extension with guarantee stipulations, according to league sources, an offer which was declined.

Irving wants a four-year, full max extension, no stipulations, Charania reports. That’s also what he wanted when he pushed for a contract extension with the Nets last summer, but after a couple of seasons of disruptions and him missing a lot of games due to his COVID vaccination status, the Nets were not interested in cementing their relationship long-term (Irving did look around for a new home, but that went nowhere).

The disruptions carried over into this season when Irving was suspended for what became eight games due to a Tweet promoting an antisemitic documentary. Through all this, the Nets fired Steve Nash as coach.

Whatever has happened off the court, when Irving has been on the court he has been his elite playmaking self, averaging 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Fans voted him in an All-Star starter, and he has carried the Nets while Kevin Durant has been out.

While the Nets don’t want to give away Irving in a trade, if he’s gone this summer as a free agent they need to find a deal to get something in return (and ideally keep their status as a potential, maybe fringe, contender in the East). The Nets are not wrong that all the places Irving would want to go as a free agent will require a sign-and-trade, which gives Brooklyn some leverage. Irving has some leverage here, too: If Team X comes up with a trade the Nets like but Irving lets it be known he won’t re-sign there as a free agent, it limits what teams will offer.

When checking with league sources,  the first name on everyone’s lips are the Lakers, with a package centered around Russell Westbrook and both of the Lakers’ unprotected future picks (a trade that was discussed last summer). Adding Irving to the mix with LeBron James and Anthony Davis does make the Lakers a threat to come out of a West with no dominant team, and Los Angeles might be willing to extend or re-sign Irving to a four-year max, they are all in on winning now.

Other teams that come up in conversations are the Heat (a team looking for point guard help and a spark, but does Irving fit the Miami team culture?), the Mavericks need another star next to Luka Dončić, and the Clippers are always active and aggressive at the trade deadline. Other teams looking to make the leap up to contender status may try to throw their hat in the ring. Considering Irving’s reputation as a challenge for coaches and front office staff, it will be interesting to see how many and what would be offered.

But expect the Irving trade rumors to fly for the next six days.

 

Damian Lillard reportedly to take part in 3-point contest All-Star weekend

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The All-Star Saturday night 3-point contest has passed the Dunk Contest in watchability because the stars still do it. Look at this year’s Dunk Contest, there are some interesting athletes involved, and maybe it becomes a memorable event. Still, there will be no Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, or Anthony Edwards (the way that Jordan, Kobe, and other greats took part in the contest back in the day).

However, the stars turn out for the 3-point contest. This year, that starts with Damian Lillard, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT.

The coaches selected Lillard as one of the All-Star Game reserves, he was already headed to Salt Lake City. This is Lillard’s third time in the 3-point Shootout.

Over the coming week, expect a lot more big names to jump into the 3-point contest — the best shooters in the game want to do this event (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have each done it multiple times, although whether they will this year is unknown).

All-Star Saturday night: Come for the 3-point Shootout, hang around for the Dunk Contest.

Lakers reportedly exploring Westbrook trade in talks with Jazz

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This feels like a “let’s leak this so our fan base thinks we’re trying” report rather than something that will come close to happening.

The Lakers have re-engaged the Jazz in Russell Westbrook trade talks, reports Chris Haynes at Bleacher Report.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz have had exploratory conversations centered around star guard Russell Westbrook, league sources tell Bleacher Report. However, the Lakers are said to be in communication with most teams to sift through the most reasonable and logical options available.

If the Lakers couldn’t pull off a trade like this over the summer, what has changed now?

The Lakers would be more than happy to move on from Westbrook and bring in more shooting and depth, but this is Danny Ainge they’re dealing with — the price would be both the 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, likely unprotected. The Jazz would send back some combination of Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Kelly Olynyk — do any three of those players make the Lakers title contenders this season? Are the Lakers willing to give up those two picks to be a team that could make the second round of the playoffs?

Now, if the Raptors get in the trade game, would the combination of Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. get the Lakers to surrender Westbrook and both picks? John Hollinger at The Athletic says that scenario is floating around, although everyone continues to wait to see if the Raptors are going to jump into the trade market with both feet.

The smart money is on the Lakers making a smaller move close to the trade deadline, likely involving Patrick Beverley and some second-round picks. Something similar in size to the Rui Hachimura trade, although the Lakers want — or at least are going to project they want — to hunt bigger game.

The Lakers continue surveying the market for premium shooting. Detroit Pistons sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanović remains a principal target, but there is league-wide skepticism on whether the Pistons are really willing to unload the nine-year veteran. It’s been reported that it would take at least an unprotected first-round pick to get the Pistons’ attention.

The belief within the Lakers’ organization is that they need to make at least one more move by the Feb. 9 trade deadline to give themselves a legitimate shot at competing for a championship, sources say.

Road wins over the Knicks and Pacers have the Lakers thinking they are a player away from contending? Los Angeles is unquestionably better with Davis back, and there is reason for some level of optimism in a flat Western Conference. But we’re talking “we can make the playoffs” optimism, there is still a chasm between these Lakers and contending — the gap between their second and third-best players (and the rest of the roster) is just too great.

Still, look for some kind of Lakers trade at the deadline. They are one of the more active teams out there. Just don’t expect it to be Westbrook.

Dončić leaves game with heel contusion, could miss games

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Luka Dončić was in control — he scored 21 points in the first quarter — and the Mavericks were cruising to a win.

Then Dončić went for a dunk, Brandon Ingram slid in for the block from behind, and Dončić hit the ground. Hard.

Dončić tried to stay in, but after one more play went back to the locker room and did not return due to what the team called a heel contusion. He could miss a game or two of the upcoming Mavericks’ five-game road trip — which starts with a nationally televised game Saturday in Golden State — according to Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes.

There likely will be more information from the team over the next 24 hours.

How much the Mavericks need Dončić was on display the rest of this game. The Pelicans stormed back and might have had a chance to tie the game with 3.4 seconds left when a blown call by the referees — Ingram blocked an inbounds pass but was ruled out of bounds in doing so, when he wasn’t — robbed them of that opportunity. Larry Nance Jr. took his shot at the officials for that.

With this win, the Mavericks moved into fourth place in the West (ahead of the Clippers, who fell to the Bucks Thursday).