Sat May 18 01:50pm EDT
The minds behind Ball Don’t Lie are going to preview each of the parings in the third round, with Kelly Dwyer going against character for a more genial take, Dan Devine bringing his inimitable mixture of both order and bedlam, along with Eric Freeman’s legendary look inside the reputations of some of the series’ key fixtures.
We begin with the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies.
Which team do you think will win the series, and in how many games? Vote here to let us know what you think.
Sat May 18 11:15am EDT
On Saturday morning Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Toronto Raptors were hot to trot for Denver Nuggets personnel chief Masai Ujiri, which is a smart trot to be hot for, considering that Ujiri once worked for the Raptors, and the reigning NBA Executive of the Year. Prior to that news, though, the team was leaning on stranger outfits to guide their search.
The Toronto Raptors had been rumored to be hot on Phil Jackson’s trail, not as a head coach, but for a job running the team’s front office. They’re also trying to figure out the direction of the franchise after yet another year lost to the middling depths of the low lottery, while sussing out a payroll that currently is set to send them into luxury tax territory next season. They also have until Monday, because of a contract deadline, to determine whether or not current general manager Bryan Colangelo will be the man to lead them out of the mess that, um, Bryan Colangelo just made.
It’s clear that Tim Leiweke (the new CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment) needs some help in figuring out what to do with the team his company owns, and any outside help is appreciated. Instead of going with a basketball mind, someone who has been there before or someone who is willing to think in hoop-related terms while minding this mess, MLSE has gone elsewhere. They’ve hired a head-hunting firm, weirdly. From the great Doug Smith at the Toronto Star:
While not officially on the job yet, Leiweke has been given all responsibility to determine Colangelo’s fate. The two men have met and discussed plans for the Raptors future but neither has spoken publicly about their feelings.
Fri May 17 05:35pm EDT
A look around the league and the web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: YouTube.com/NBA. Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t played a game of basketball in a month, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get all of our hearts a-flutterin’ as we look forward to this year’s NBA Finals.
PF: Pro Hoops History. Curtis Harris delves into the career of George McGinnis, who put up some ridiculous statistics in both the ABA and NBA.
SF: Daily Thunder. Thunder super-scribe Royce White discusses the various options Oklahoma City has with disappointing big man Kendrick Perkins.
SG: SB Nation. It wasn’t because of a terrible mismatch, and it wasn’t because he was playing poorly, but Tim Duncan sat out the crucial stages of his team’s series-deciding win on Thursday night. Mike Prada tries to discovery why that was, exactly.
PG: Sports Illustrated. Rob Mahoney also breaks down parts of the same stretch with a focus on Kawhi Leonard, who has been playing brilliant (and somewhat frighteningly-good) ball with Duncan off of the floor.
Fri May 17 12:00pm EDT
If you wanted to say that the Indiana Pacers lost Thursday's Game 5 more than the New York Knicks won it, I wouldn't fight you in a public square. While the Knicks did seem more willing to attack and press the action in taking a 10-point decision, the Pacers frequently seemed unable to get out of their own way, coughing the ball up time and again, failing to take advantage of their trips to the foul line and allowing a Knicks team that still couldn't shoot straight (just 41 percent from the floor in the win) to capitalize on their sloppy play.
Roy Hibbert knew he and his teammates had let a golden opportunity to finish things off and advance to the Eastern Conference finals slip through their fingers. After the game, the 7-foot-2 center — no doubt frustrated by his own pedestrian nine-point, seven-rebound performance in 31 foul-filled minutes — called the Pacers on the carpet and questioned their masculinity, according to Fred Kerber of the New York Post:
“Excuse all the women in here, but we played like p---ies tonight, to tell you the truth,” foul-plagued center Roy Hibbert said. “We didn’t deserve to win this one. I’ll probably get fined for that. I don’t care.”
If you're not sure which letters belong in place of those dashes, Kerber helpfully spelled the NSFW language out on Twitter. Be aware, though: It's the kind of blue talk that'll shock the monocle right out of your eye.
Thu May 16 05:05pm EDT
With every season that ends, for the playoff teams at least, we felt it right to take a look ahead. TNT already has the rights to "Gone Fishin'," and because we're sure that someone, somewhere, still likes that Wyclef song, we're going with "Gone Till November." And, yes, we know the season starts in October. Today? The Oklahoma City Thunder.
Russell Westbrook’s knee injury may have cost his team an NBA title this season, but it could also go a long way towards saving coach and general manager Sam Presti a whole heck of a lot of criticism. To some Oklahoma City Thunder fans, that statement is just piling bad on top of bad.
Scorn for Brooks’ abilities date back two years at this point, and whether they come in the form of complaining about his limited mid-playoff adjustments or overreliance on certain vets, he’s taken quite a bit of heat following two straight five-game finishes to seasons in 2012 and now 2013. Presti, meanwhile, will receive tempered but certain criticism for his choices to ostensibly value contract extensions for Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka over one for Houston Rocket All-Star James Harden.
Both will be back next year, though. Brooks just finished the first year of a four year contract, and Presti has done so well in his first six years with the team that he’s earned several more years of goodwill. Both admirably and staunchly defended themselves (and by extension, the team’s owners) in the wake of the deal that sent James Harden to Houston, allowing for the team’s ownership to skate in the face of paying the luxury tax. On top of that, Westbrook’s season ending injury allows for most to consider the 2012-13 team a once-again championship contender that was just felled by bad luck at the worst possible time.
Thu May 16 10:10am EDT
Marc Gasol didn't have a monster Game 5 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, finishing making just five of his 13 field-goal attempts and grabbing a non-eye-popping seven rebounds in 41 minutes. But the burly center was there when the Memphis Grizzlies needed him most, with six of his 10 points — including a huge 19-footer with 27 seconds left — and two of his three blocks coming in the fourth quarter. And run back the tape on Kevin Durant's closing-seconds miss — check out which 7-foot-1 Spaniard is lurking just beyond the restricted area, ready to pounce on a drive and influencing Durant into pulling up.
Gasol's Game 5 numbers might not have been stunning, but his performance throughout the Western Conference semifinals was everything Memphis could have asked for and more — 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals in 41.9 minutes per game, shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 81.8 percent from the foul line, and anchoring a withering defense that held Durant and the Russell Westbrook-less Thunder to a paltry 94.3 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would've ranked below the Washington Wizards' league-worst offense during the regular season. He was a star, full stop, on both ends of the floor, and is as big a reason as any why the Grizzlies ousted the West's top seed in five games to advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
But he also knows just how good his Grizzlies are, that they were supposed to beat the wounded Thunder, and that Memphis' job isn't done yet. His postgame choice of pop-culture touchstone to illustrate that knowledge was pretty amazing, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne:
Thu May 16 01:55am EDT
When Russell Westbrook went down in Game 2 against the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder knew that their ability to fulfill their championship aspirations would be seriously compromised. It seems as if the severity of Westbrook's loss couldn't communicate just how difficult that path would be.
Despite a late push by the Thunder and several missed free throws by the Grizzlies to give Kevin Durant a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, Memphis escaped Oklahoma City with an 88-84 victory in Game 5 to finish off a 4-1 series win over the West's top seed. They will now move on to the Western Conference Finals to face either the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors for a chance to move on to the NBA Finals.
Thu May 16 12:00am EDT
Well, here's something you don't see every day.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher attempted a 3-pointer with his team trailing by 11 points and just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter of Game 5 of his team's Western Conference semifinals series with the Memphis Grizzlies. As Fisher let his corner 3 fly, Grizzlies guard Tony Allen — who was up out of his seat on the Memphis bench and standing before the ball ever moved to Fisher — raised his right arm.
Maybe he was just reacting to the pass hitting the open man; maybe he was actively trying to distract Fisher to decrease the likelihood that the 38-year-old veteran would knock down the shot. Either way, Allen probably didn't intend what happened next:
Yep, that light blue projectile was Allen's warm-up shirt. He was holding it in his hand, and he inadvertently flung it out onto the court as Fisher was shooting.
Wed May 15 11:50pm EDT
When the Memphis Grizzlies traded small forward Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors in late January, one of the criticisms of the deal was that they had sacrificed much needed scoring and wing athleticism for the more virtual gain of long-term financial health. Veteran Tayshaun Prince, his replacement, was considered a good player on the wrong side of his career.
The Grizzlies' post-trade performance has silenced most critics, but it's still the case that Prince isn't thought of as an athletic dynamo. On Wednesday night, in Game 5 of the Grizzlies' Western Conference Semifinals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Prince proved that his athleticism deserves some notice.
With just over 7:10 left in the third quarter, Memphis point guard Mike Conley turned a long rebound into a 4-on-3 fast break. Although the numbers were roughly even, Prince found a seam down the middle of the floor, took the pass a step outside the free-throw line, and exploded over three Thunder players for one of the flashiest plays of the playoffs so far. Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, and Reggie Jackson have all seen better days.
Wed May 15 05:30pm EDT
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: SB Nation. While we try to figure out what's wrong with the New York Knicks and who's to blame for the 3-1 hole they're in, Paul Flannery takes the radical step of suggesting we take a look at the team that's beating them — the Indiana Pacers, a marvelous collection of defensive monsters and rising talents that's very much for real.
PF: Memphis Flyer. Chris Herrington's got 10 dynamite notes and nuggets to digest before Wednesday's Game 5 between the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, including a doozy about the Grizzlies' "clutch" defense that had me racing to NBA.com's stat tool to double-check it.
SF: The Classical. Whether he's authoring legendary victories, flaming out during horrendous defeats or just vomiting uncontrollably on the bench, it's almost impossible to know precisely what Nate Robinson will do next, which is what makes him one of the most compulsively watchable players in the NBA, as Jim Cavan writes.