Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers 11/26/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Memphis Grizzlies looked to continue their torrid start to the season on Wednesday night, when they took on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies had won two straight and six of their last seven, and they faced a Lakers squad trying to end its two-game skid.

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Memphis Grizzlies: Most Complete Roster in Franchise History

For anyone doubting the 12-2 Memphis Grizzlies, think again. Fresh off crushing Western Conference foes Houston Rockets 119-93 and L.A. Clippers 107-91, the Grizz are feeling good about themselves. In fact, the Grizzlies are 7 points away from being undefeated. It seems as if the only thing that can slow this team down is the flu. Are the Grizzlies just hot? Or is this the real team we should expect for the rest of the season? After a few games, I would have said they were just hot. But 14 games into the season and showing no signs of slowing down leads me to believe this is just the way this team plays. They really are that good.
The Grizzlies recently in action vs the Celtics
What separates this year’s team from previous seasons? Finally, the Grizzlies solved the issues restraining them from breaking through these past few seasons. Primarily, I’m talking about the role players on the wings. The Grizzlies finally have what they need: consistent, efficient shooters. These players are crucial in the

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Memphis Grizzlies’ Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for December

For those wondering if the Memphis Grizzlies can prolong their run as one of the Western Conference’s top teams after a hot start, December will provide some clarity. The Grizzlies will face a tougher slate that month, testing their mettle for contention.

The end of the calendar year brings a series of games against the NBA‘s most serious teams. Eleven of the Grizzlies’ 14 games will pit them against surefire playoff teams, including seven from the West. Memphis faces the San Antonio Spurs three times and the Houston Rockets twice.

The Grizzlies will play four back-to-backs.

On the other hand, this stretch provides a couple soft aspects. Only five contests will be on the road. Memphis will enjoy four periods with multiple days between games.

The following is a week-by-week breakdown with win-loss predictions for each segment of the second stage of the Grizzlies’ season.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies 11/23/14: Video Highlights and Recap

A potential Western Conference playoff matchup took place on Sunday as the conference-leading Memphis Grizzlies took on the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Grizzlies looked to continue their red-hot start against a Clippers group that has yet to truly find its stride at 7-4 on the campaign.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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No. 11 Wichita State handles Memphis

Ron Baker scores 21 to lead No. 11 Wichita State to 71-56 win over Memphis

      
 

 

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19 Years Later: Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies Meet at the Top of the NBA

When the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies meet inside the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, the old rivals might have a hard time recognizing one another.

It’s been a little less than two decades since the pair shared the distinction of being the new kids on the NBA block in 1995. For a while, the two were also linked by locale (as the league’s first franchises based outside of the United States).

But, as many young companions often do, the two teams grew apart over time. The Grizzlies relocated from Vancouver to Memphis in 2011, ending their annual preseason battles with the Raptors for the Naismith Cup. They still cross paths twice a year, but it’s hard to see traces of their old bond anymore when they do.

Frankly, it’s hard to see any remnants of the teams these used to be, given how both are playing at the moment. The Grizzlies (10-1) and Raptors (8-2) are both off to their best starts in franchise history. More importantly, both are sitting alone atop their respective conference standings.

It’s been a wild ride to the top for both sides. It should be an even more exciting one going forward.

 

The Raptors’ Highs, Lows and In-Betweens

The Raptors were the first of the two to land a franchise talent. In fact, they seemed to strike gold every time the draft came around early on.

During their first four years, they used their opening-round selections on Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady and Antawn Jamison (who was moved on draft night for Vince Carter).

Though the Raptors knew how to identify talent, keeping it around was a different story.

Camby was traded after two seasons in Toronto. Stoudamire was sent out during his third. McGrady, who was drafted straight out of high school, started to emerge during his third season (15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds), but his real breakout didn’t come until the following year—after he had left the Raptors and Carter, his cousin, behind to sign with the Orlando Magic.

Carter stuck around the longest and played the biggest role in putting Toronto on the basketball map. He was an 18.3 points-per-game scorer as a rookie—a number he bumped to 25.7 the following season. He made his first All-Star Game appearance as a sophomore, but he turned the most heads the night before the exhibition with an electrifying performance in the slam dunk contest.

The Raptors followed Carter’s rise and qualified for postseason play three straight years from 2000-02. But those three trips only produced a single series victory, as Carter could not connect on a buzzer-beater in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Raptors were an exciting team, but they could have been something more substantial had their young talent stuck around.

“In hindsight, looking back, obviously I wish I had stayed in Toronto,” McGrady told the Toronto Star‘s Dave Feschuk in September of 2013. “There’s no doubt we could have contended for a championship.”

McGrady, of course, didn’t stay, and Carter wouldn’t for long, either. After missing out on the playoffs in back-to-back years, the Raptors traded Carter to the then-New Jersey Nets early in the 2004-05 season. The deal would later be called “the worst trade in Raptors history [and] one of the worst trades in NBA history” by the Toronto Star‘s Doug Smith.

In return for Carter, by that point a five-time All-Star, the Raptors received Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, two mid-level first-round picks (one of which became Joey Graham) and Alonzo Mourning, who was not expected to play in Toronto and never did.

Fortunately, the Raptors already had their next franchise face on the roster. Toronto nabbed Chris Bosh with the fourth overall pick in 2004.

Once again, the Raptors had a leader, but putting pieces around him wasn’t easy.

Toronto burned the eighth pick of the 2004 draft on Rafael Araujo, who was out of Toronto two years later and out of the NBA after the following season. The Raptors had the top pick in 2006 and tried their luck with 7-footer Andrea Bargnani, but his Toronto tenure wound up being defined by inefficient scoring (15.2 points on 43.7 percent shooting), poor rebounding (4.8 per game) and a host of injury problems.

Toronto made two playoff trips with Bosh on board (2007 and 2008), but it never made it out of the first round. After seven seasons with the team, Bosh left town in 2010 to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat.

 

The Grizzlies’ Slow Climb Up the Ladder 

To say that the Grizzlies sputtered out of the gate would be like saying Kobe Bryant could use a little more help on offense this season. Both assertions are true, but severely understated.

The Grizzlies were severely hurting for talent out of the gate, which would be a constant theme throughout their six-year stay north of the border.

Some draft picks were solid (Shareef Abdur-Rahim at No. 3 in 1996, Mike Bibby at No. 2 in 1998), but none were game-changers. Other draft picks were just wasted: Bryant Reeves at No. 6 in 1995, Antonio Daniels at No. 4 in 1997 and a clearly disgruntled Steve Francis at No. 2 in 1999 (who was traded before ever suiting up for the Grizzlies).

The Grizzlies collected a pennies-on-the-dollar return for Francis in the form of Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington, Brent Price and two future picks (only one of which was a first-rounder).

Without a stable foundation in place, the franchise could not survive a hit like that. The Grizzlies’ six-year record in Vancouver was an anemic 101-359. That .220 winning percentage is worse than the unashamedly tanking Philadelphia 76ers posted last season (.232).

But things got better from nearly the moment they arrived in their new home. They left the 2001 draft with Shane Battier (taken sixth overall) and their first real building block Pau Gasol (acquired in a trade from the Atlanta Hawks).

With veteran coach Hubie Brown on the sidelines, the Grizzlies rattled off 50 wins and made their first ever playoff appearance in 2003-04. The roster had young and old talent, and the team struck a similar balance in efficiency (seventh on the offensive end, 11th at the opposite end).

Gasol gave the Grizzlies a go-to option, but they lost their coach only 12 games into the following year. Brown walked away after citing “unexpected health-related issues” as the reason behind his decision, per The Associated Press (via the Los Angeles Times).

Memphis grabbed Mike Fratello as its next head coach, and the Grizzlies rebounded from a 5-11 start to post a 45-37 record and make their second straight playoff trip. They won 49 games the next year and booked another playoff trip.

But all three postseason trips ended the same way—a first-round exit by way of a sweep. There would not be a fourth.

Prior to the start of the 2006-07 season, Gasol fractured a bone in his left foot while playing in the FIBA World Championships. By the time he made his debut, Memphis held a 5-17 record. Once the record became 6-24, Memphis axed Fratello.

Gasol was sent packing the following year as part of a five-player trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies missed the playoffs that season—and each of the next two—but that deal helped them down their rebuilding road.

 

Different Paths To the Top

Memphis’ redemption story is one of patience, foresight and the building of an identity.

While shipping out Pau, the Grizzlies brought back his brother Marc, who has since developed into a Defensive Player of the Year and an offensive hub. In 2007, Memphis took point guard Mike Conley with the fourth overall pick, giving them both an offensive general and pesky defender.

The powerful Zach Randolph arrived in a 2009 trade, and perimeter stopper Tony Allen came via free agency the following summer. The Grizzlies have now assembled a defensive juggernaut with a balanced, versatile offensive attack.

Memphis has outscored its opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions, the fifth-best net rating in the league. The team’s defense is as fierce as ever, and the offense looks just as powerful.

As Bleacher Report’s Tom Firme observed, the Grizzlies appear to have found the formula for crashing the elite ranks:

The Grizzlies are more than the bruising defensive force they’ve been the past few years. 

… With Gasol becoming more assertive offensively, Memphis poses problems for opponents on that end. Now, any member of the core trio is liable to light up the scoreboard.

Gasol’s drive has helped ensure that the Grizzlies have multiple sources of volume scoring as Conley works out shooting issues. 

Such a balanced attack cements the Grizzlies’ place among the Western Conference’s best teams.

The Raptors’ rebound has been largely an in-house project.

Three of their top four scorers were drafted by the franchise: DeMar DeRozan (ninth in 2009), Terrence Ross (eighth in 2012) and Jonas Valanciunas (fifth in 2011).

It’s hard to overstate the importance of hitting on high picks. And Toronto has had similar success on the trade market.

The Raptors landed a centerpiece in Kyle Lowry by sending out Gary Forbes and a future first-round pick (later used on Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams). They picked up uber-valuable glue guy Amir Johnson in a 2009 trade for Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic. They moved Rudy Gay and filler for key reserves Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson.

All of the dealing and drafting has led to the creation of a deep roster with two-way talent. The Raptors sit fifth in offensive efficiency, eighth on the opposite end and fourth in net rating (plus-8.4 points per 100 possessions).

As early as it is for such statements, Toronto looks as if it could be a force all season.

“Consistency. Continuity. Balance. These are the qualities the Raptors engender,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale. “And if there was ever a year to believe those qualities hold serious weight, it’s this one—the same one in which prolific rises, however early, mean everything within an Eastern Conference that is ripe for the taking.”

The Grizzlies and Raptors—two teams that faced different but similar paths to respectability—are now eyeing something so much greater than that.

When the old rivals lock horns Wednesday night, one will be looking to polish its resume with a win over an elite NBA team. And both should be thrilled to now qualify as such after what they encountered these past 19 years.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Memphis Grizzlies Deliver Statement Win and Monday NBA Takeaways

Monday’s marquee matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets was over long before Jarnell Stokes checked into the game with 6:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, but the rookie from Tennessee’s first NBA minutes drove home the thoroughness of Memphis’ message.

The Grizzlies crushed the Rockets, wire-to-wire and in such top-to-bottom fashion that the Grizz had the luxury of giving a hometown favorite, Stokes, former Tennessee Volunteer, a half-quarter of courtesy playing time.

Memphis blitzed the Rockets early, running out to a 34-18 first-quarter lead behind 10 forced turnovers that led directly to 18 points. Houston had no answer for the Grizzlies’ size and defensive intensity; not even Tony Allen’s early foul trouble slowed down Memphis’ smothering attack.

What happened after that stunning opening period was largely academic. The Grizzlies amassed a lead as large as 36 points, had seven players reach double figures and concluded the evening with a 119-93 win.

Mike Conley led all scorers with 19 points, while Courtney Lee chipped in 15 of his own on just seven shots.

James Harden connected on just one of his eight attempts from the field, and his overall field-goal percentage on the year fell to 37.3 percent. Houston made just 34 shots against 21 turnovers on the night.

Memphis’ defense was to be expected; the team’s entire identity is wrapped up in its time-tested ability to shut opponents down. But the scoring attack was something of a surprise—especially against a Houston team that came into the game leading the league in defensive efficiency.

The Rockets narrowly retained that distinction, per NBA.com, but there was little doubt after the contest which team’s early stinginess (Memphis checks in at No. 4 in defensive efficiency) was more legitimate.

Maybe it was the turnover-fueled run-outs that got the Grizzlies going. Or perhaps it was the open shots afforded by an immediately dispirited Rockets defense. Whatever the case, Memphis couldn’t miss.

On the night, the Grizz hit 53.5 percent of their field goals, 41.2 percent of their threes and 90.9 percent of their foul shots. Basically, the entire Grizzlies team shot like a prime Steve Nash.

Also, this happened:

Houston found a little intensity as the game slipped further and further away, but it wasn’t the productive kind, and it came altogether too late:

The Grizzlies (10-1) now sit alone atop the West, solidifying their status as contenders with a statement that should resonate throughout the conference.

 

Around the Association

The Trap Game Strikes Again

The Cleveland Cavaliers had been looking better lately, stringing together four consecutive victories and scoring at least 110 points in every one of them.

The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, came into Cleveland absolutely reeling. Losers of seven out of their last eight and playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road, there wasn’t much room for hope. 

So of course the Nuggets pulled off the 106-97 upset. That’s how trap games work.

Cleveland’s defense, a problem all year, was basically nonexistent. Ty Lawson got to the middle at will, piling up 24 points and dishing out 12 assists as the Cavs stood around and watched.

Thanks to Lawson’s penetration, Denver got loads of open looks on the perimeter, converting 38.7 percent of its 31 three-point attempts on the night.

LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving each scored over 20 points, but none did much to stem the Denver tide on offense. With the San Antonio Spurs coming up on Wednesday, the Cavs will have to get things in order quickly—and head coach Davd Blatt knows it:

Rest assured: The Spurs’ best is a very, very different thing than the Nuggets’ best.

 

Anthony Davis: Doing Undoable Things Since 2012

LaMarcus Aldridge has made a career out of high-release, hard-to-bother jumpers. They’re accurate, reliable and precedent shows they’re nearly unblockable. Anthony Davis, it seems, cares very little for precedent. 

The Brow continued his assault on our conceptions of what’s possible on a basketball court in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 102-93 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, stuffing Aldridge’s trademark jumper and then turning away Wesley Matthews’ 16-footer after the Blazers guard recovered the loose ball.

Two blocks. Both jumpers. Same play.

Davis also put together a highlight alley-oop finish and a chase-down stuff within one minute of each other in the first quarter, before his incredible sequence against Aldridge and Matthews in the second.

New Orleans fell to 5-4, but Davis filled up the stat sheet with 31 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks on 14-of-20 shooting. He couldn’t possibly have done more for his team, which failed to get him the ball down the stretch and wilted against a 34-10 closing run from the Blazers.

And if you think precedent dictates a league MVP can only come from a team that makes the playoffs (as has been the case every year since 1975-76)…well, AD can tell you where to stick your precedent.

 

Brooklyn’s Slide Continues

Despite squaring off against a Miami Heat team missing Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng (not to mention playing its second game in two nights), the Brooklyn Nets extended their losing streak to four, dropping a 95-83 decision at home.

Bojan Bogdanovic was the Nets’ lone bright spot, scoring 22 points on just 11 shots. His clever cuts and smooth perimeter release stood out in stark contrast to the struggles of the rest of the starting lineup; Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez combined to shoot just 10-of-34 from the field.

Credit Miami for logging a grind-it-out victory at less than full strength. Mario Chalmers, in particular, pulled his weight, scoring a team-high 22 points and getting to the foul line 13 times.

And also credit the Nets’ nosebleed section for some frank (if somewhat hasty) advice:

Williams offered some slightly more measured analysis:

The Heat, now 6-5 on the year, will get two days off before facing the Los Angeles Clippers on the road. The Nets, reeling, have a Wednesday home tilt against one Jason Kidd and his Milwaukee Bucks (fun!) before hitting the road for three straight.

This is going to be good.

 

Dirk Makes History, Mavs Roll

Not a lot to see here, but there were a couple of things worth mentioning from the Dallas Mavericks’ 107-80 dismantling of the floundering Charlotte Hornets.

First, Dirk Nowitzki became just the fourth player in NBA history to crack the 27,000-point barrier for a single franchise:

Nowitzki finished with 13 points in 25 easy minutes.

Second, the Mavericks offense has officially gone from “good” to “scary.” Dallas was cooking from the get-go, assisting on 21 of its 26 first-half buckets and reaching the 60-point mark before the break for the sixth time this season. The Mavs cruised home from there, and they sit atop the league with a whopping 115.5 offensive rating through their first 11 games, per NBA.com.

The ball was hopping all night, and a Hornets team with a real issue giving up open shots found itself up against an opponent uniquely suited to exploit its weakness. Dallas shot 51.2 percent from the field.

These are two teams heading in opposite directions.

 

The Bulls Like It This Way

Long odds, short bench, banged up and on the road. Sounds like a recipe for a 105-89 Chicago Bulls win to me.

What seems like a death-sentence for most NBA teams hardly bothers the Chicago Bulls, who’ve been fighting adversity and injury for the entirety of Tom Thibodeau’s tenure. This time, Chicago took it to the Los Angeles Clippers without Derrick Rose (hamstring, long-term self-preservation) and Pau Gasol (calf) in the lineup.

And just to increase the degree of difficulty, the Bulls, of course, fell behind early.

No matter; Joakim Noah bounced around, hustled like crazy and even hit a couple of unlikely jumpers en route to a final line of 11 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.

Jimmy Butler provided some highlights, staunch defense and clutch finishes to bolster the case that this is his breakout campaign. He finished with 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

The Bulls stayed undefeated on the road and ran their overall mark to 8-3. Hopefully, they’ll get healthier as the season goes on. But we know they’ll be fine even if things get worse.

The hard way has become the Bulls’ way.

  

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Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies 11/13/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The red-hot Memphis Grizzlies looked to keep their strong start to the season rolling on Thursday when they took on the Sacramento Kings. The Grizzlies had won seven of their first eight, but they faced a tough test from a surprising Kings squad that had dropped two straight after winning five of its first six games of the season. 

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Memphis Suffers 74-70 Exhibition Loss to Division II Christian Brothers

If Wednesday’s exhibition was any indication, Memphis basketball is in for a very long year.

In a game typically reserved for one team to work the kinks out against an inferior opponent, the Tigers lost at home to Division II school Christian Brothers, 74-70, on Wednesday night.

The Commercial Appeal‘s L. Jason Smith put it simply:

Shaq Goodwin had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis, but the Tigers failed to score in the final 2:23 of regulation, allowing the Buccaneers to force overtime. In the extra period, CBU led nearly the entire way to secure the upset.

Unsurprisingly, the jokes began to flow:

Now, most knew that Memphis, which has been to the NCAA tournament the past four seasons and eight of the last nine, was in for a down year. Although Josh Pastner has brought in an impressive recruiting class, he also lost Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, among others.

Goodwin and Austin Nichols were both named to the Preseason All-AAC First Team, but after that, things get extremely thin in terms of experience. There is only one senior on the team, and outside of Goodwin and Nichols, Nick King is the only returning player who averaged more than 10.0 minutes per game with the Tigers last year.

Speed bumps are inevitable in a transition year.

But come on. It’s a Division II school. No matter how young this team is, and no matter how little this game counts, the Tigers shouldn’t be losing games of this nature. They are too talented.

It’s a terrible tone to set with the regular-season opener against No. 11 Wichita State just six days away. If Pastner doesn’t get his team organized, Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Co. are going to have a field day in Sioux Falls.

Fortunately for the Tigers, things can only go up from here. Just not very far up if they continue to bring this kind of effort.

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

The Los Angeles Lakers hit the “Grindhouse” Tuesday as they visit the Memphis Grizzlies, who are coming off a surprising 93-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday.

This matchup features two teams that could not have had more disparate starts to the season, with the Grizz tied atop the Western Conference at 6-1 and the Lakers only just able to notch their first win in the season’s sixth game.

Kobe Bryant will try to compile a modest two-game win streak for his sputtering Lakers, but he’ll have to contend with a tough defensive side that includes Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, not to mention the “Grindfather” himself, Tony Allen.

The game tips off at 8 p.m. ET. SportSouth and TWC SportsNet have the local TV feeds. 

Keep it right here for all the action before, during and after the game. 

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