May 9 (The Sports Xchange) - The Memphis Grizzlies held off a late charge by the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night at FedExForum for a 99-89 victory and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinal series. Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph scored 22 points and center Marc Gasol posted a double-double with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Gasol did most of his work in the first half, but he hit a jumper that beat the shot clock with 2:06 left to hike the Grizzlies' lead to 93-85. Gasol fouled out with 1:45 left. Golden State, which trailed by 19 points early in the fourth quarter, got to within four at 88-84 with 3:15 to play on a Harrison Barnes layup (16 points, six rebounds). But Memphis closed on an 11-5 run to seal the victory. Warriors guard and NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry finished with 23 points and six assists. But Curry was just 8 of 21 from the floor and 2 of 10 from 3-point range. Warriors guard Klay Thompson scored 20 points, going 8 of 13 from the field and 3 of 6 from behind the arc. After making 20 turnovers in the Game 2 loss, Golden State committed 17 more turnovers in Game 3 that led to 22 Memphis points. The Grizzlies had their largest lead with 10:38 left in the fourth quarter when Randolph knocked down a step-back jumper for an 83-64 lead. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, who again played with a mask because of a facial injury, had 11 points and five assists. Guard Courtney Lee finished with 11 points and four assists. When an NBA team takes a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series, that team goes on to win the series 81.7 percent of the time. (Editing by Steve Keating.)
OAKLAND — Warriors forward Marreese Speights underwent an MRI this morning that revealed a moderate right calf strain. The injury occurred last night during the fourth quarter of Game 3 of Golden State's Western Conference Semifinals series versus Memphis. His official injury status will be listed as OUT, and he will be reevaluated in one (1) week.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were in a precarious position Sunday, but LeBron James bailed them out with a game-winning shot. The Chicago Bulls had tied the game late in the fourth quarter and there were only 1.5 seconds on the clock for the Cavs. There was no doubt who would be getting the ball for the last shot, and James delivered from the left corner to give Cleveland an 86-84 victory in Game 4. The series is tied 2-2. In his postgame television interview, James said he told guard Matthew Dellavedova simply, "Give me the ball." Dellavedova did, and the Cavs avoided overtime. James finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, one steal and eight turnovers, shooting 10-for-30 from the field. This is, of course, the second buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper in this series. Bulls guard Derrick Rose won Game 3 with a running 3-pointer. Game 5 is Tuesday in Cleveland.
The Atlanta Hawks are suffering an identity crisis. They've rarely looked like a No. 1 seed through their first nine playoff games. Nor have they looked like the only Eastern Conference team that ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the regular season. There were issues on both ends of the floor as the Hawks' regular rotation went down 21 points to the Washington Wizards in Game 3 of the conference semifinals on Saturday. The third string turned things around quickly before falling victim to Paul Pierce's game-winner, but for the Hawks to even the series and re-gain home-court advantage in Game 4 on Monday (7 p.m. ET, TNT), they'll need to play like that for more than 10 minutes. Multiple Hawks will tell you that they're not playing like themselves. "We got to be who we are," Paul Millsap said Sunday. Being who they are starts on offense. Al Horford said that pace is the key, and that it's about "doing things a little quicker" in the team's half-court offense as much as it's about getting into the offense with more time on the shot clock. "We need to get it up the court faster," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But even more important is that we attack in the half-court, we move the ball in the half-court, we sprint into screens, we come off of screens. "All of those things take pace, also. When we talk about pace, it's not just pushing it down the court. There's so many other areas that we emphasize that need to be and can be better." The Wizards deserve some credit for the Hawks not being themselves. Washington ranked fifth in defensive efficiency in the regular season and shut down the Toronto Raptors' top-five offense in the first round. On Saturday, the Wizards stayed attached to Kyle Korver, not letting him get a shot off in the initial offense (not after an offensive rebound) until the last two minutes of the game. "When he's getting shots and he's getting loose, that helps us," Budenholzer said. "To a certain degree, if they're that focused on taking him away, then it should become a four-on-four game and other people should be able to get to the basket and other people should be getting good opportunities. So it's not totally dictated on Kyle getting shots." The Raptors were unable to deal with the Wizards taking their primary options away. But the Hawks have it in their DNA to move on to secondary options and make the defense pay for aggressive defense on the perimeter. "We strive off of countering," Millsap said. "When teams take something away, we're good at getting to our next options. They've been able get up in us and be aggressive and physical with us. We just got to counter it, do the things we've been doing all year." To counter the Wizards' defense, the Raptors needed to move the ball more. The Hawks, the team that has led the league in assist rate each of the last three seasons, may need to do the opposite. Atlanta's point guards did find some offensive success in the second half on Saturday. But it was by attacking the basket rather than running the offense. Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder combined for 29 of their 36 points after halftime, with 26 of the 29 points coming at the basket (16) or from the free throw line (10). With the Washington bigs out high to pressure the Atlanta bigs looking to set screens and move the ball from side to side, they weren't in the paint to protect the rim. "They're giving us a lot of open lanes to get to the rim," Teague said. "Last night, me and Dennis, in the second half, started doing that. It opened up the floor for us." According to SportVU, the Hawks scored 33 points on 24 drives from Teague and Schroder in Game 3. And though it may defy your Spurs-and-Hawks-influenced values, the Atlanta was more efficient the less they passed the ball. The Hawks scored 1.34 points per possession on 47 possessions on which they passed the ball fewer than three times. They scored only 0.83 points per possession on 46 possessions on which they passed the ball three times or more. Some fast break points are included in the first number, but so are some fourth-quarter buckets from Schroder in which he went straight to the basket on the pick-and-roll. "We were trying to force motion [earlier in the game]," Teague said. "And all we got to do is drive the ball. There were some open lanes, but we were trying to force it. And that was making our offense really stagnant." Game 4 will be the most important 48 minutes of the Hawks' season. Lose and they face a 3-1 deficit that few teams have come back from. Win and they regain home-court advantage against a team that's still likely missing its best player. And to survive, they need to attack.
Washington (AFP) - Paul Pierce banked in the game-winner to lift the short-handed Washington Wizards to a 103-101 NBA playoff victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Pierce's heroics gave the Wizards a two-games-to-one lead over Eastern Conference top seeds Atlanta in their best-of-seven second-round series -- and thwarted the Hawks' bid to rally from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit. There was no such drama in Memphis, where the Grizzlies took a 2-1 series lead over Western Conference top seeds Golden State with a 99-89 victory over the Warriors. In Washington, Wizards coach Randy Wittman could afford to joke when the dust had settled. "Had it all the way, huh?" quipped Wittman after watching his team squander a 21-point lead only to win it at the last gasp. Washington's All-Star guard John Wall, who has five fractures in his non-shooting left hand, watched from the sidelines in street clothes as his team built a comfortable lead, only to see it evaporate in the final 10 minutes as the Hawks, sparked by their reserves, stormed back with a 21-3 scoring run.