Stephen Curry scores 38 in Warriors’ blowout win over Grizzlies (VIDEO)

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If you’ve regularly checked the standings all season long, the Grizzlies have been the second-best team in the West somewhat consistently.

But when considering the way they’ve been playing since the All-Star break, a first round loss in the playoffs wouldn’t really come as that much of a surprise.

Memphis is just 9-9 in its last 18 games, and the last two — tests against two of the league’s best — have been ugly home losses.

The Grizzlies were taken apart by the Cavaliers on Wednesday, in a game they dropped by 22 points. Against the Warriors on Friday, the final margin was even worse, after Stephen Curry scored 38 points (17 in the third quarter alone) to lead his team to a 23-point win in a game that was essentially over once the third quarter was finished.

Memphis may not actually lose in the first round of the playoffs, mainly because it’s looking more and more like they’ll face the Mavericks, who have been just as inconsistent themselves, and may be without their leading scorer for a period of time. But I would take any of the other five teams ahead of Dallas in the standings to beat the Grizzlies in a seven-game series.

The Warriors, meanwhile, just keep rolling.

Kevin Love finds LeBron James for huge alley-oop slam (VIDEO)


NEW YORK — After the Nets beat the Cavaliers on Friday, both LeBron James and his head coach cited energy lapses as one of the reasons why.

“We didn’t come with our normal passion and our normal energy, and I didn’t think we played particularly smart today,” David Blatt said. “I didn’t think we played properly, and Brooklyn did a good job taking advantage of that.”

“It was spotty,” James said of his team’s energy. “At times we were flying around, and other times we were kind of in a trance. One thing we can do is try to control how hard we play, and how much we communicate out there. We didn’t do that to our capabilities tonight.”

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There was certainly no lack of energy from James on this play, where he got way up to throw down an impressive alley-oop slam from Kevin Love, and did so once the game had already been decided.

LeBron after Cavaliers fall to Nets: ‘You don’t chalk up losses’


NEW YORK — The Nets are fighting desperately just to make the postseason, while the Cavaliers have already clinched.

That didn’t necessarily explain why Brooklyn was able to come away with a 106-98 victory over Cleveland on Friday, especially after the Cavaliers looked so good in dismantling the Grizzlies in Memphis two days earlier by a whopping 21 points.

But despite the loss being relatively harmless for Cleveland as far as the postseason is concerned, it’s never something that’s going to become acceptable to LeBron James.

“You don’t chalk up losses,” he said, after finishing with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting, to go along with nine assists, five rebounds and five steals.  “It’s too hard to win in professional sports. You don’t chalk up none of it.”

The Atlanta Hawks clinched the number one playoff seed in the East with Friday’s win over Miami in combination with the Cavaliers’ loss, but Cleveland has known that would be likely for quite some time — so much so that head coach David Blatt said publicly that he was focusing on finishing in second place.

Cleveland had its chances in this one. The game was tied after three, but got away from the Cavaliers as their offense uncharacteristically devolved into possessions that began with either LeBron or Kyrie Irving dribbling at the top of the three-point arc, and ended after a failed attempt at running a pick-and-roll, or simply a forced jumper or a wild drive to the basket.

“It’s not one quarter,” Blatt said. “We just didn’t play well. I didin’t think we played as we normally do. It’s really hard to sit here and point out one thing, there were a lot of things that we didn’t do well. I didn’t think we played like ourselves today. And we paid for it.”

The Nets, meanwhile, played just as they’ve been now for much of the last eight games — six of which have been victories. That surge has helped them keep pace with the three other teams they’re fighting with for one playoff spot, a battle that likely won’t be over until the regular season is 100 percent finished.

Things are different, though, for these Cavaliers.

There are championship aspirations in Cleveland, and while a two-seed isn’t guaranteed, it is likely based on the way the standings look at the moment, with only eight more games left on their schedule.

But even though the success of this campaign won’t be determined for quite some time, LeBron simply refused to be dismissive of a relatively meaningless regular season loss.

“We’ll see the ways at the film (session) tomorrow what we didn’t do so well, and how you can get better from that,” James said. “But it’s too hard in this league to ever chalk up a loss.”

Shaquille O’Neal says he regrets leaving Magic for Lakers


Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame on Friday, and the ceremonies evidently had him feeling all kinds of sentimental.

O’Neal began his career in Orlando, but bolted in free agency for the Lakers after only four seasons.

He expressed regret over the decision, even though all of his greatest career achievements — the four championships, three Finals MVP trophies and one league MVP award — didn’t come until after he was gone.

From Kyle Hightower of the Associated Press:

“Do I regret it? I never fully answer it. I regret it sometimes. Is this where I started and should have stayed? I actually wish they made it a law that whoever drafts you, you gotta stay there your whole career.” …

O’Neal said the DeVos family deserves “a couple” of championships and that the Magic’s 1995 Finals team, which also featured a core of Penny Hardaway and Anderson, had a chance to get back.

“That’s why I kind of regret it, because we had a young, fabulous team,” O’Neal said. “We really did. And it’s a shame that we got torn apart. But I think about that all the time. I try not to live my life now on ‘ifs’ or ‘would’ve, should’ve,’ but do I regret leaving here in ’96, yes I do.” …

“I wish I would have had more patience,” he said. “I wanted to be protected from the bashing. What I mean by that is I wanted to win then. Even when I got (to Los Angeles) I still got bashed, it took four years to win. But I was very impatient. I was very young and I thought that if I go there, with those guys out there I could win right away and that wasn’t the case.

O’Neal was able to leave after his first contract, and the league later changed free agency rules to allow for restricted free agency, where the team that originally drafted a player could match any offer he received.

The Magic undoubtedly would have done so where O’Neal was concerned, but either way, it’s nice to hear him speak positively of the franchise where he got his NBA start.

[via Sporting News]

Rockets say Donatas Montiejunas out 1-2 weeks with back issues


The Rockets have dealt with plenty of injuries this season, and even though Dwight Howard recently returned from a 26-game absence, other players key rotation players seem to be disappearing just as fast.

Patrick Beverley suffered a torn ligament in his wrist that may require him to miss the remainder of the season, and now comes word that big man Donatas Montiejunas is going to miss time, as well.

From the team’s Twitter page:

Donatas Motiejunas was evaluated after having lower back pain, will be removed from basketball activities for 1 to 2 weeks & reevaluated.

This close to the playoffs, with only 11 regular season games left, teams would like to try to solidify lineups and chemistry as much as possible.

For the Rockets, they’ll be scrambling to simply find players who are serviceable to eat up those minutes as replacements instead.

Montiejunas is averaging 12 points and 5.9 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game, and has started in 62 of his 71 appearances this season.