ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — I suppose there are two ways to look at what DeMarcus Cousins got into last night. On the one hand, Cousins has a history of expressing his temper in the wrong ways and drawing technical fouls, so it’s nice he showed he wasn’t thrilled while avoiding picking up a T. But on the other hand, maybe you don’t want to show your discontent by kicking a chair…
(BTW, watch the face of the woman just behind the bench. Such a perfect reaction.)
Then, a few minutes later, Memphis forward Zach Randolph squared off against Cousins, and accidentally caught him with not one but two elbows…
But the best news for Cousins? The Kings hung on for a 102-90 win.
Monday saw James Harden torment the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves for 31 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and four blocks. The world focused on the triple-double, the fourth of his career, and rightfully so. That last line, the four swats, is also a cause for recognition.
Why? Among NBA guards, Harden has the third-most blocks (46), behind only K.J. McDaniels and Danny Green. There aren’t any clamoring for him to get an All-Defensive team nod (except maybe Clyde Drexler and Daryl Morey), but his effectiveness defending the ball has ratcheted up a notch.
How is he racking up his swats? Smart weak-side help, strong hands, deceptive closeout speed, long arms, timing, timing, timing and strength. The same traits that make him a terror with the ball have emphatically caught DeMarcus Cousins, Zach Randolph (and others) off guard on the other end.
Harden has 26 games to finish off his best season and MVP submission. If he sustains his new-found tendency for rejections (his 46 blocks already are a career high), it will be harder to keep the Maurice Podoloff Trophy off his mantle. Especially with moves like this:
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Joey Crawford has been an NBA referee since 1977, which means he’s probably forgotten more about the NBA than most of us know. It also means he’s had plenty of time to develop a few signature moves when making a call. Take last night, for instance, during the Kings/Grizzlies game, when Crawford whistled an offensive foul against Zach Randolph and went into a full-on dance step…
Courtney Lee’s mental clock must tick smooth like a Rolex … a real one!
Because the Memphis Grizzlies swingman didn’t miss a beat with his buzzer-beating heroics in his team’s epic 111-110 comeback win over the Sacramento Kings Thursday night at the FedEx Forum.
Lee’s beautifully-timed work not only secured the Grizzlies’ rally from a 22-point first quarter deficit that sent fans onto Beale Street feeling giddy about their Grizzlies, it also landed him a prime position on the Horry Scale.
Welcome, Courtney Lee, to the pantheon of clutch shot-makers who have helped make the modern highlight (and the game-winning bucket) the staple it has become in our daily sports diet.
Around here, such plays are evaluated according to difficulty, game situation, importance and celebration. Then they get an overall grade, represented with 1-5 Robert Horry stars, in honor of the vagabond marksman who helped the Rockets (two), Lakers (three) and Spurs (two) capture seven titles in his years with them.
Again, the Horry Scale does not measure only a game-winning shot; the Horry Scale measures several facets of a GWBB. So we’re talking about not only the shot, but also the play that creates the shot, the situation and the drama, the celebrations … basically, the total package
Catch and shoot. It was the only option with so little time (:00.3 to be exact) on the clock. Well, try catching it under the basket and getting a reverse layup to go in over your head with the game on the line. It helped that the Kings fell for each and every jab step and head fake from each and every Grizzlies player, thus freeing Lee up to get to his spot unabated for the game-winning shot attempt.The catch and shoot part of it all was on Lee, and that was plenty difficult, considering the body contortion necessary tor completion of the play. The getting there, however, was courtesy of the Kings … who are clearly in a giving mood this week. This was their second straight come-from-ahead-loss of the week. They led Dallas by 18 points after the first quarter Tuesday and wound up losing 106-98. They are the first team in NBA history to lose back-to-back games that they led by 18 or more points in the first quarter.
Perhaps everyone was still in shock that the Grizzlies had come all the way back. How else do you explain them having those precious .3 seconds to work with on a do-or-die shot? If Vince Carter’s pass is off every so slightly, it’s game over. If a defender knocks Lee off course as he makes his break to the basket, there’s no way he gets his hands on the ball and gets that shot off in time. The play worked in real time exactly the way Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger scribbled it up on the whiteboard in the huddle. Marc Gasol set the perfect screen on Darren Collison. When Jason Thompson and Collison crashed into each other trying to recover, it was already too late. Lee gathered himself and was in the air with his arms outstretched. He grabbed the ball and kissed it off the glass all in the same motion. Game over.
For a Grizzlies team trying to stay atop of and set the pace in the Western Conference standings, stealing this game was huge. No team with designs on a top four seed in the playoff chase can afford to let a game like this slip away. Coming all the way back and not finishing the deal would have been a crusher.
It’s hard to tell if the look of disbelief on Lee’s face was based on his acrobatic layup going in ahead of the final buzzer or because he got completely wide open on the play. The crowd, already on its feet, went bonkers as the ball went off the glass and through the net. Lee made the rounds from the corner of the floor all the way to the Grizzlies bench, hopping in and out of the arms of his teammates along the way. It wasn’t the nifty leap onto the the scorers table we saw from Lance Stephenson. Lee had to get to the bench and watch the review on the jumbotron. He and Tayshaun Prince looked skyward and Lee raised both hands like a boxer who had just heard his name called as the winner.
Courtney Lee is an unlikely hero on a Grizzlies team with several more high-profile options. It’s a testament to this Grizzlies team that no one minds sharing the glory. It could have just as easily been Tony Allen or even Zach Randolph on the receiving end of that pass from Carter…
Given the early deficit, the comeback and the extreme degree of difficulty on that final play, the catch and the kiss … off the glass, it’s hard to give anything high marks to Lee and the Grizzlies for a game-winning play that makes its namesake proud. Give it four Horrys.
When the Clippers marched into Memphis for a Friday night clash, the stakes were obvious. Prior to the contest, defensive stalwart Tony Allen was on the shelf for 21 straight games with a sprained left wrist. But when the Clippers, the Grizzlies’ first-round playoff opponent the last two years, came calling, he wasn’t going to sit out any longer.
The game lived up to its physically demanding, plenty of trash talk billing. Z-Bo, Marc Gasol and Allen made an impact, for sure, but it was the guy who was signed out of the D-League in December who beat the loudest drum.
A man who is no stranger to the spectacular, James Johnson arrived into the Grizz’ locker room December and has been wowing since. He is a nightly highlight machine, giving a hard-hat bunch a creative playmaker from the wing, thus another dimension as they get set to make a playoff push in the second half.
On a night the organization honored him by giving fans a temporary “GRIZZLIES” neck tatoo (Johnson has his son “NAYMIN” inked around his neck), he flat out showed out, executing a play that will be remembered in the Top Plays Theatre for the foreseeable future:
At tipoff of the vaunted meeting between Grizzlies and Pistons today, there were six left-handed players at center court.
Michael Conley, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, and Josh Smith played a part in history. Never before has there ever been this many non-right-handed players to start an NBA game.
OK, maybe that’s not true. But if it has happened, I’ve never seen or heard of it. As a fellow left-handed practitioner, I won’t complain. It’s about time.
So how did the lefties fare? As the 112-84 score indicates, the odd ones in Memphis reigned. The Grizzlies’ southpaw quad — Conley, Ed Davis, Prince, Randolph — combined for 63 of their 112 points. The Pistons’ trio — Jennings, Monroe, Smith — put up 36 of their 84 points. Jennings struggled, scoring four points, but led both teams with 11 assists.
To cap off the seminal clash, Davis gave a lefty send-off to the diminished Detroit crowd:
Who starts on your 2013-14 All-Lefty team? My starting five: Conley (slight edge over Goran Dragic), James Harden, Manu Ginobili (maybe a stretch to play at the 3, but I’ll chance it), Randolph and Chris Bosh. There are a few to choose from in addition to the names above, including David Lee, DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Thaddeus Young.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Memphis Grizzlies have taken the NBA postseason by storm, winning eight of their last nine games and grit-and-grinding their way right into the Western Conference finals. And, of course, no good postseason run by a sports team is complete without a theme song to go along with it.
The Grizz’s new song comes courtesy of a couple of Memphis-born hip-hop luminaries: Rapper/producer Drumma Boy, teaming up with Three 6 Mafia co-founder DJ Paul. The song is titled “We Don’t Bluff,” which has a dual meaning: It’s a nod to the city of Memphis’s longtime nickname, “The Bluff City” — Memphis was settled on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. But it also references Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, who after an altercation with Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins back in November, said, “There’s a lot of bluffin’ going on the court, that’s all, you know. And I don’t bluff.”
And as we’ve seen this postseason, neither do the Grizz. -
While many NBA players have different interpretations of high fashion and the latest trends, some are sticking with basic suits, while still mixing it up a bit. Perhaps the most important facet of today’s suit is an ability to break up the pieces and wear them with other items in your wardrobe. Let’s take a look at several different styles, including trends that can become part of any closet. Keep up with the conversation using #NBAStyle.
THE EXPERTLY TAILORED SUIT
Derrick Rose, Amar’e Stoudemire and Zach Randolph are in favor of finely tailored, slim cuts.
Each day until the end of the NBA Finals, we’ll be taking a look at the conventional wisdom of the moment — which team is currently the favorite to win it all, and which team should be ashamed to still be putting on their jerseys.
Here’s how it looks for the weekend of May 14-15.
Start planning the parade:
You might think a long layoff between games might make the Mavericks rusty, but seeing as the core of their team is almost exclusively on the wrong side of 30, I’d say it plays right into their hands.
Whichever team wins Sunday’s Game 7 between Memphis and Oklahoma City is going to be drained come the start of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday, all the more so if it’s the Grizzlies, who will presumably stay on the road and head straight for Dallas.
Meanwhile Dallas gets to rest up, particularly helpful for a guy like Peja Stojakovic, who has been huge off the bench this postseason for the Mavs but generally speaking is as brittle as uncooked pasta.
Give it up already:
Oklahoma City Thunder
A friend of mine sent me an amazing statistic yesterday. The combined average age of OKC’s top four players in terms of minutes played is 21.5 years old. The combined age of the University of Pittsburgh’s top four this season was 21.75 years.
This is a young, young Thunder squad, and under the harsh lights and scrutiny of a Game 7 situation, that inexperience will lead to the team’s unraveling. That, and their continuing inability to hold double-digit leads.
The Grizzlies have shown themselves to be fighters in this postseason, and though Oklahoma City slowed Zach Randolph in several games in this series, he was back in full beast mode in Game 6 (30 points, 13 rebounds) and will keep it going on Sunday.
There is a bright future on the horizon for the Thunder, but it’s at least another year away.
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