Grizzlies eager to build off 2 playoff appearances

Grizzlies eager to build off 2 playoff appearances

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have had just enough success the past two seasons that they are back and craving more.

Much more.

The franchise that simply wanted to win a postseason game two years ago goes into this season with all five starters back and healthy with enough playoff experience to know how much harder they need to work. Knocking off the No. 1 seed as they did in 2011 against San Antonio is not enough anymore, and neither is landing home-court advantage to start the postseason.

``Our expectations are high too,'' Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. ``We just want to take one game at a time. ... We don't want to talk about doing this, doing that. We want to take it one game at a time. ... I think we do that and don't look too far ahead, take steps, let it come to us, we're going to be all right.''

The franchise once known for losing an NBA record 12 straight playoff games without a single win has been rebuilt around Rudy Gay, Randolph, center Marc Gasol with Mike Conley at point guard and guard Tony Allen bringing his defensive focus.

Now they want to put together a season where everyone remains healthy to try to see just what they can do together.

``We haven't had everybody together for the start and finish,'' Randolph said. ``I think if we had that, it'd be a big difference. We're going to have it this year and hopefully everybody stays healthy and shows everybody what we're really like when we're healthy.''

Gay missed the Grizzlies' amazing playoff run in 2011 with a shoulder injury that had him cheerleading as Memphis beat the Spurs, then pushed Oklahoma City to seven games in the semifinals.

Last season, Darrell Arthur missed the entire season after tearing his right Achilles last December, and Randolph hustled back after tearing his right MCL in an injury that kept him out 37 games, yet the Clippers knocked Memphis out in seven games in the first round.

The Grizzlies went 41-25, setting a franchise-record 62.1 winning percentage and clinching the No. 4 seed in the West last season. They also led the NBA with 9.6 steals and 17.1 turnovers last season, becoming the first team to lead the league in both steals per game and forced turnovers per game in consecutive seasons since the Seattle SuperSonics in 1995-96 and 1996-97.

Michael Heisley announced in June he was selling the team to California tech company owner Robert J. Pera, a $350 million sale nearing approval by the NBA. Pera has been busy compiling an ownership group including four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning's wife, Ashley, actor and singer Justin Timberlake, a former congressman and key local businessmen.

General manager Chris Wallace went about trying to fill the Grizzlies' need for a backup point guard and outside shooting.

Wallace let guard O.J. Mayo leave as a free agent to Dallas, re-signed Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur to give Gasol and Randolph time to rest, signed guard Jerryd Bayless to help back up Conley and traded forward Dante Cunningham to Minnesota for guard Wayne Ellington for some outside shooting help. Center Hamed Haddadi is back as well.

Conley said the key is all the newcomers understanding the Grizzlies' style as a physical team.

``We like to punch first and dive on loose balls, play aggressively,'' Conley said. ``Defensively, they've got to buy into that right away. We know we got great shooters in the guys we picked up and great players. We expect them to come in and contribute defensively just like everybody else.''

The Grizzlies open the season Oct. 31 at the Los Angeles Clippers with their home opener Nov. 5 against Utah, the same team they conclude the regular season against on April 17. They host the NBA champion Heat on Nov. 11 with visits from the Lakers on Nov. 23 and Jan. 23.

Coach Lionel Hollins, who is starting his fourth straight season with the Grizzlies, has heard them talk about how driven they are by the last playoff loss to the Clippers. Now he wants to see what they do about that feeling.

``It can make you more dedicated when you've gone through something like that,'' Hollins said. ``It's definitely a positive, but you still have to go do it. You can talk about it. `I have a sour taste.' You can talk about, `I'm more dedicated.' You have to be that, and you have to go do it.''


Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards dominated Game 3 because everybody ate ... literally

The Wizards returned to Washington, D.C. on Friday down 0-2 to the Raptors in their best-of-seven 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series

The team lost a close one in Game 1 and was run out of the building in Game 2. Game 3 was must-win, and the Wizards knew what needed to happen in order for them to secure the victory.

"Everybody eats." 

That's the phrase that has defined the Wizards throughout much of the season They are at their best when John Wall is making players and feeding his teammates.

On Friday night, the Wizards beat the Raptors 122-103 to force at least a Game 5. Wall finished with 28 points and 14 assists.

Bradley Beal finally broke out of his slump for 28 points and  Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and Kelly Oubre all chipped in with at least 10 points.

But the stat sheet wasn't the only place where everybody eats.

Here's Marcin Gortat from Game 3. 

But if pantomiming isn't your thing, here is Bradley Beal actually eating popcorn during Game 3.

So what did we learn in Game 3? Well, for starters: "Everybody Eats" is not just a motto, it is a way of life.





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With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

With Playoff Beal back, the Wizards are revitalized in playoff series vs. Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were only going to hold Bradley Beal down for so long. After two so-so games to begin the Wizards-Raptors playoff series, the All-Star shooting guard was bound to find his way offensively and that arrival came in a Game 3 win on Friday night.

Beal was brilliant and much more in line with what he's shown in the postseason throughout his career. Game 2 was his worst playoff game as an NBA player, he scored only nine points. Game 3 was one of his best on the postseason stage, or at least one of his most timely and important.

The Wizards needed more from Beal to give themsevles a chance in this series. An 0-3 deficit would have been a death sentence. His production is so key to their success that head coach Scott Brooks and point guard John Wall met with Beal in between Games 2 and 3 to figure out how to get him going.

Whether that was the catalyst or not, the results followed. Beal poured in 28 points in 10-for-19 shooting with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. He hit four threes, more than he had in the first two games combined.

Beal wasted no time to make an impact scoring the ball. His first points came on a quick burst to the basket where he stopped on a dime, turned around and banked it in. By the end of the first quarter, he had 12 points in 11 minutes.

“I just wanted to be aggressive, get shots that I wanted which is what they were going to force me to take," Beal said.

After Game 2, Brooks and Beal described how physical the Raptors were defending him. They were holding on to him and staying close, even when he wasn't moving off the ball.

Brooks saw a difference in how Beal responded to that in Game 3.

"Brad came out and was looking to go towards the basket and not just letting them hold him and going along with it. He didn’t want to dance with his opponent, he wanted to get away from them. That was a critical part of his success," Brooks said.

Beal's 28 points were as much as he scored in Games 1 and 2 together and just about what he averaged through four games against the Raptors during the regular season (28.8). By halftime of Game 3, Beal had 21 points on 8-for-11 from the field.

Beal hit two threes in the first quarter and another two in the second quarter. Several of those threes were set up by Wall, who used the meeting with Brooks and Beal to ask how he can set him up better as the point guard.

In Game 3, they were on the same page.

"I do think this man [John Wall] next to me, he creates and facilitates for the whole team and gets everybody easy shots," Beal said. "I talk to you guys all the time and I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a regular catch and shoot three just in a regular half court set. When he came back, I got like three or four off the bat."

What Beal did in Game 3 is what the Wizards are used to seeing from him this time of the year. Despite being only 24 years old, he has a strong track record in the playoffs.

Through 37 career postseason games, Beal is averaging 22.3 points, more than his career average of 18.7 in the regular season. In each of his previous three postseason runs, he has averaged more points during the playoffs than he did in the regular seasons leading up.

That production has earned him the nickname 'Playoff Beal' and when he goes off like he did in Game 3, good things usually happen. The Wizards are 10-6 in the playoffs during his career when he scores 25 points or more.

Wall also boasts impressive career numbers in the playoffs. When the Wizards have both of their stars playing at their best, they are hard to beat. With peak Beal on board, this series looks a lot different than it did not that long ago.





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