Associated Press

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

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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.

Patrick Beverley reportedly gloated to LeBron James about Kawhi Leonard signing

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The NBA has decided to change how they regulate tampering. Whether those harsher rules will lead to real change or simply to different circumvention is still yet to be seen.

Meanwhile, we have heard all the stories about how the Los Angeles Clippers landed both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Leonard was of course a major Los Angeles Lakers target, and it was disappointing for those in Lakerland that they didn’t land him.

Of course, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley was probably pretty happy about how things went, and now we have a story to back that up.

Speaking on Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast this week, Brian Windhorst relate a story that he heard about Beverly celebrating around LeBron James after his team snagged Leonard.

As Windhorst tells the story, there were several groups of NBA players in private dining rooms at a restaurant in Las Vegas during summer league. Paul George was in one room, and James was in another. After hearing the news that the Clippers landed Leonard, Beverley walked into several rooms containing NBA players to gloat.

Via Woj Pod:

And so the deal actually gets done. [Adrian Wojnarowski reports] that Kawhi has not only agreed to sign with the Clippers, but the Clippers are trading half their future for Paul George, it’s a stunning development. And it all goes down while those players are at the same restaurant in various private rooms.

The story that I heard was that Patrick was making a beeline down the hallway of private rooms — sticking his head into all the rooms gloating about the Clippers’ giant haul — including into LeBron’s room.

This feels like it’s right on brand for Beverley.

Now the Clippers will need to prove they’re better than the Lakers on the court (and not just on paper).

Collin Sexton says he’s going to wear fan-designed shoes this season

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Cleveland Cavaliers second-year point guard Collin Sexton is already a fan-favorite in northeastern Ohio. This year, it appears that Sexton is trying to deepen that connection.

In a message posted to Twitter on Sunday, Sexton reached out to his followers to design a new set of shoes for him this year. The Cavaliers sophomore said that he will take the top five designs that fans submit and then wear them throughout the course of the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season.

Via Twitter:

This is a pretty cool idea, and a great way to have a direct link between fans and players. Social media is in an era of extreme personal branding, and even if this is a thinly-veiled Nike marketing thing, it at least has a twinge of genuineness to it.

The only thing left now is to see what designs people submit, and whether Sexton’s taste is any good.

James Harden plays in Rico Hines games at UCLA and destroys people

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Elite NBA defenders, with a team and a game plan behind them, can’t slow down James Harden.

So imagine what happens when he shows up for an open run.

One spot a lot of NBA players head in the summer to get some games in is Rico Hines’ games at UCLA. Harden showed up and, well, you know what comes next. Via Ball is Life.

The man is so smooth, so under control, and just able to get buckets however he wants. It’s just fun to watch. Unless you’re an opposing coach.

Could Kevin Durant return from torn Achilles, play for Nets this season? Maybe…

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Every case is different, but many players return from a torn Achilles in about nine to 10 months. Kobe Bryant pushed and did it in eight. Other players will take a full year.

If Kevin Durant returned in nine months it would be March, enough time to get in game shape and be ready for the Nets’ playoff run.

There’s a growing sense from teams we could see just that scenario, and Spencer Dinwiddie talked about it with Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Though Nets GM Sean Marks refused to rule Durant out for the season, the feeling within the league is trending toward him potentially playing this season.

“I know KD is taking the rehab process ultra-serious. He wants to come back as soon as it’s appropriate, and healthy and the right decision for him, and then also subsequently that would also be the right decision for,” said Dinwiddie, who points out that even a slightly-diminished Durant could still be a superstar.

“The beautiful part about this is, the man is 7-foot and one of the best shooters of all time. At worst you get Dirk [Nowitzki], and Dirk was a monster. So we’re ready for him to come back whenever he wants to and whenever he’s ready to do so, and we know that he’s going to be a phenomenal major piece of our roster.”

Durant is an intense competitor who wants to get back on the court. He pushed to get back from a calf injury and play in the NBA Finals only to suffer the Achilles tear. He’s smart enough to be sure he’s all the way back before he steps on the court, if that means he sits out a full season so be it. However, he absolutely could return this season.

If he’s back, the Nets go from interesting team to potential threat to the Bucks and Sixers at the top of the conference. Durant was the best player in the world the past couple of years and he could return to that status quickly, and lift Brooklyn up with him.