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John Carroll graduate Montez Mathis endearing himself to fans, Rutgers men’s basketball

After every home game for the Rutgers men’s basketball team, Montez Mathis joins his teammates in the locker room underneath the RAC in Piscataway, N.J., for their postgame meeting with the coaching staff. And once those meetings end, the freshman guard is back out on the court greeting young fans, signing autographs and posing for photos.

Mathis, a Baltimore native and John Carroll graduate, could head into the showers and go home. But he remembers a time when he attended Lake Clifton games and followed former standouts such as Will Barton, who went to Memphis and plays for the Denver Nuggets, and Josh Selby, a cousin who attended Kansas and played for the Memphis Grizzlies.

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“They write me a lot and all that,” Mathis said of the youth at Scarlet Knights games. “They just tell me that they’re going to be at the games and all that. So I just try to make sure that I get a chance to see them after the game and talk to them a little bit because I know that will probably make their day. It made my day when I was younger and used to go to college and high school games and I looked up to older guys and they gave me pictures and stuff. I just want to do the same.”

Mathis’ fan club has been growing since he arrived at Rutgers. After coming off the bench for the first eight games of the season, Mathis has started in the last 22 games and has played 23.2 minutes per game, which ranks third on the team.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Mathis also ranks third among the Scarlet Knights (14-16 overall and 7-13 in the Big Ten) this winter in scoring at 8.7 points per game, double-digit outputs at 13, and games in which he led the team in that category at six. He also ranks second in dunks at 14, is tied for third in steals at 21, and ranks fourth in assists at 32.

Road Recap: Collins too much for Grizzlies in Hawks’ lopsided win

ATLANTA — John Collins knew the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t want to play a fast-paced game, so the Atlanta Hawks needed to keep pushing the ball up the floor,

“I think they have a little bit more a slower tempo, and I think we were able to take advantage of that and attack that,” Collins said. “We like to get up and down. A lot of transition buckets. Open 3s. We were able to just execute on offense.”

Collins had 27 points and 12 rebounds, Trae Young added 22 points and Atlanta snapped the Grizzlies’ three-game winning streak with 132-111 victory on Wednesday night.

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It marked the most points that Memphis, cheap nba jerseys for men medium
the NBA defensive scoring leader, has allowed this season, seven more than it gave up in an overtime win Nov. 30 at Brooklyn.

C.J. Miles scored a season-high 33 points and Mike Conley finished with 20 for the sluggish Grizzlies. Atlanta, which had 35 assists on 52 field goals, never trailed in a matchup of teams buried in the standings.
Though Young threw an alley-oop pass from deep in Memphis’ end for his dazzling dunk in the second quarter, Collins saved his best moves for early the fourth. He hit a runner and then had a strong athletic move against Jonas Valanciunas, who blocked Collins’ shot but still let Collins get off a second attempt — a reverse right-handed move — before his feet touched the floor to make it 116-92.

“I felt like he blocked the shot and I had a little extra air time to just flip it up,” Collins said. “I haven’t actually seen the play back yet myself, so hopefully I’ll get as excited as you guys.”

The Grizzlies began the game with the NBA’s best scoring defense since the All-Star break, but they allowed 72 points, a season high for the first half and trailed by 11 at intermission. Atlanta began the game with the league’s best scoring offense since the All-Star break.

“Some games we come out and play a certain way, and sometimes it’s different,” Young said. “The way we played tonight, we’ve played like that most of the year. We just haven’t been able to finish out games.”

Whenever Memphis pulled within a couple points of the lead, the Hawks would force a turnover or a poor shot and pull back ahead by double-digits. Miles had a season-high five 3-pointers and 17 points by the midway mark of the second, but he couldn’t keep the Grizzlies close enough.

Atlanta spread out its offense to get good spacing and used screens and dribble penetration to keep Memphis on its heels.

“This group hasn’t had a night like this before,” Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Some nights you have these nights. We just can’t repeat it. Tonight we laid an egg, plain and simple. You could feel it. We were loose on both ends of the floor.”

Young and Taurean Prince each launched a long 3 on consecutive possessions to make it 80-62 early in the third, and the lead swelled to 23 on Collins’ fast-break dunk at the 8:07 mark.

Memphis pulled within 15, but Kevin Huerter hit a 3 before Vince Carter passed from the corner to Alex Len for an alley-oop dunk that made it 110-87 in the last minute of the third.

TIP-INS
Grizzlies: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff had 11 players available. F Kyle Anderson (shoulder soreness), G Dillon Brooks (toe injury) and F Jaren Jackson Jr. (thigh bruise) did not make the trip.

Hawks: C Dewayne Dedmon returned to the starting lineup for the first time in four games. He missed two games with a right knee contusion and came off the bench in Sunday’s win over New Orleans.

Will Grizzlies’ Jonas Valanciunas take $17.6 million player option and return?

Fans wanting to see Jonas Valanciunas with the Grizzlies again next season have a couple of factors working in their favor.

For one thing, the bruising center with a $17.6 million player option for the 2019-20 season talked after Sunday’s win over the Magic about laying a foundation for the future.

“We want to prove that we can be good (in) preparation for next year,” he said. “We still want to make the playoffs, but if not, we’re preparing for next year. We’re preparing for big things, building the winning habits. That’s the most important thing.”

This summer’s class of free-agent centers also is shaping up as one of the strongest in several years, which could influence Valanciunas’ decision.

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DeMarcus Cousins, Nikola Vucevic, Deandre Jordan, Brook Lopez and Enes Kanter all are slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer, meaning Valanciunas would not cheap nba jerseys china
be the hottest name on the center market if he opted out of the final season of his contract.

Ultimately, Valanciunas will make his decision on the heels of a stretch run with the Grizzlies that is proving just how productive he can be in a featured role.

The 26-year-old Lithuanian bruiser is averaging 25 points per 36 minutes. The only NBA centers averaging more points per 36 minutes at the beginning of the week were All-Stars Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid.

Each of them are slated to make more than $27 million next season.

“Deals, option year, whatever,” Valanciunas said. “It’s going to be summer. Right now, we’re trying to figure out the basketball part and compete as much as we can together and get better every practice, game, shootaround, whatever, every time we’re on the court.”
What Jonas Valanciunas thinks of the Grizzlies
The direction of the franchise could have an impact on Valanciunas’ decision.

If the Grizzlies accomplish the front office’s stated goal of conveying a first-round draft pick owed to Boston this season and choose to pivot toward a full rebuild, it could make the Grizzlies a less-attractive long-term destination.

But Valanciunas likes what he’s seen so far.

“Everybody is humble. Everybody wants to win,” Valanciunas said. “We have a goal. Maybe somebody is going to put the pistols down and wait for the season to end. But not us. We’re still fighting for something. That impresses me and puts me in a good mood.”

Memphis Grizzlies ‘race to convey’ FAQ: Explaining why Grizz don’t want a first-round pick

Beyond the obvious uncertainty of playing for a new team, Valanciunas had plenty of personal issues to worry about when he was traded from Toronto to Memphis last month.

Knee issue for Heat’s Jones minor; Dragic, Olynyk added to injury report

Having missed eight games with bone bruises on his left knee before returning to appear in four, Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. again is dealing with pain in that knee after aggravating it during Thursday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets.

The team, however, said the news was positive Friday, with Jones expected to be back in action in Saturday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at AmericanAirlines Arena.

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“It’s the same knee,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He banged knees, so I’m sure it’s pretty tender right now.”

The Heat initially expected Jones to be out twice as long after the initial injury sustained in the Jan. 27 victory over the New York Knicks. He instead has returned to play a regular rotation role amid shoulder soreness that has sidelined James Johnson.

But in addition to Johnson being listed as questionable for Saturday, the Heat also have entered that designation on the NBA’s injury report for Goran Dragic (left calf strain) and Kelly Olynyk (sprained right ankle).

Another stride
Spoelstra viewed Thursday’s 21-point performance off the bench by Dragic as another step forward by the veteran point guard in his fourth game back since returning from December knee surgery.

“Sometimes it just comes down to having some guys that make some plays against good defenses, and that’s what Goran brings you,” Spoelstra said. “He brings you that out-of-the-box playmaking. You don’t need to necessarily design a specific play for him to shake free.”

Spoelstra has played off the bench in each of his four games back, playing 24:54 Thursday, with 21 points, five assists, at a team-best plus-15.

The Memphis Grizzlies are better off without Marc Gasol | Giannotto

Mike Conley wasn’t even willing to entertain the hypothetical Sunday night after his team won three-straight games for the first time since before Thanksgiving.

What if, Conley was asked, the Memphis Grizzlies had their current roster for an entire season?
It’s a question coach J.B. Bickerstaff was at least willing to admit he thinks about, and then almost as quickly got back on message and praised the effort of the players who left Memphis at the NBA’s trade deadline last month.

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Joakim Noah said the answer to something like that usually involves concepts that can’t be measured in statistics, like chemistry and enthusiasm. And in the Grizzlies’ case, he noted, “it’s pretty obvious that it’s changed” in recent weeks.

But none of them would come out and just say it, so I’ll say it for them.

Now that this franchise is suddenly oh-so-close cheap nba jerseys
to conveying its draft pick to the Boston Celtics while playing an increasingly entertaining, and effective, brand of basketball, there’s not really a debate anymore.

The Memphis Grizzlies are better off without Marc Gasol.
They’re better off with Jonas Valanciunas bulldozing his way through defenders, and Avery Bradley knocking down mid-range jumpers, and Delon Wright gliding to the basket, and C.J. Miles knocking down 3-pointers.

They’re better off playing at a faster pace, with more spacing and more players who can create their own shot and take the play-making burden off Conley.

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It’s why Conley is back to being Captain Clutch in the fourth quarter and just had his first 40-point game.

It’s why the Grizzlies just beat two Western Conference playoff contenders (Portland and Utah) and an Eastern Conference team fighting for its playoff life (Orlando) with Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks all sidelined by injury.
It’s why Memphis, as of Monday, now has the eighth-worst winning percentage in the NBA, as opposed to the sixth-worst, and might just convey that first-round draft pick they owe to the Boston Celtics after all.

It’s why a season that seemingly had all the joy sucked out from it suddenly seems worth watching again.

“We have all the reason in the world to lay down and not be into the games right now and you can see the energy,” Conley said after Sunday’s win over the Magic.

It was energy that had gone missing during Gasol’s final days on this roster, when his presence seemed to cast a pall over this team.

This is not to say it’s entirely Gasol’s fault. It’s actually mostly the fault of a front office that didn’t put adequate pieces around him, that cast him in a leadership role he was never suited for, that bungled the transition from the Core Four era so badly their only move was to trade him.

But as heartbreaking as it was to see a franchise pillar like Gasol go, it’s becoming clear now Memphis needed him to go in order to reboot.

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley named Western Conference Player of the Week for first time in career

For the first time in his 12-year NBA career, Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is the NBA Western Conference Player of the Week.

Conley averaged 31.3 points and 7.7 assists while shooting 55.6 percent from 3-point range in three straight Grizzlies wins last week.

The prolific stretch was highlighted by Conley’s first career 40-point game in a Tuesday win over Portland and standout fourth-quarter play.

“I think the game has opened up for him, and we’ve asked him Wholesale nba jerseys
to try to get 18 to 25 shots a night,” Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “He’s gone out and he’s tried to get it done.”

Conley attempted 18 shots from the field in all three games and averaged 15.3 points in the fourth quarter of the three games.

The Grizzlies (28-40) have won four of their past five games, the only loss coming at Oklahoma City on March 3 in a game Conley missed over general soreness.

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“Really, it’s my coaches and teammates,” Conley said. “They’ve really set the table and believe in me. They’re getting me open and constantly pushing me and telling me to be more aggressive. They think I’m too unselfish.”

Since the Grizzlies parted ways with Conley’s close friend and fellow franchise legend Marc Gasol at the Feb. 7 trade deadline, Memphis has found its way with a new mix of players who have brought some offensive life to the team.

“I think we’re a good mix of guys and character right now,” Conley said. “It makes it easy to make those shots when you know you have the whole team behind you wishing you the best.”

The Grizzlies front office hopes the team wins enough games down the stretch to finish ahead of eight other teams in the final NBA standings so the team can convey a draft pick owed to the Boston Celtics.

With Conley playing some of the best basketball of his career, it’s a goal that appears increasingly realistic.

“You’ve got to set a good screen,” new teammate Jonas Valanciunas said. “That’s all you need to do. That’s what I’ve found about him.”

Reach Grizzlies beat writer David Cobb at david.cobb@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @DavidWCobb.

Game Recap: Memphis Grizzlies 114, Utah Jazz 104

The Utah Jazz looked like a team in need of a point guard on Friday night as the one they considered trading for last month starred once again.

Three nights after becoming the third-oldest player in NBA history to notch his first 40-point game, Mike Conley led the Grizzlies to a 114-104 win at FedExForum.

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With point guard Ricky Rubio out because of cheap nba jerseys from china
a hip injury, the Jazz (37-28) relied heavily on 3-point shooting.

The Grizzlies (27-40) countered with a heavy dose of Conley and center Jonas Valanciunas, who combined for 55 points.

Thirteen of Conley’s team-high 28 points came in the fourth quarter.

Conley’s floater from the free-throw line with 2:02 remaining put Memphis up 108-98. On the team’s next trip, he nailed a pair of free throws to seal the team’s third win its last four games.

How far back are the Grizzlies?: NBA standings

Big names: In his ninth game with the Grizzlies, Valanciunas reached double figures for the ninth time. His 27 points were the most he’s scored since joining the team, and they came against reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert.

Conley notched his seventh 20-point, 10-assist game of the season, a career-best for the 31-year-old.

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The Grizzlies needed every bit of his effort because of the standout performance from Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz’s second-year star scored a game-high 37 points.

Conley leads the way as Grizzlies rally to beat Magic 105-97

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mike Conley scored 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and the Memphis Grizzlies crafted a late rally to beat the Orlando Magic 105-97 on Sunday.

Avery Bradley added 21 for Memphis in its third straight victory, the first time the Grizzlies put together a streak of three wins since mid-November. CJ Miles finished with 13 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 12.

Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Terrence Ross added 15 points. Orlando has lost three of its last four, again failing to work its way into the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.

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With time running out and the game out of reach, Magic coach Steve Clifford let his displeasure with the officiating known, drawing two technicals. Clifford had to be restrained as he left the court as he continued going after official Rodney Mott.

The Magic made only one field goal, a 3-pointer by D.J. cheap nba jerseys 
Augustin, in the final 7:57, allowing Memphis to overcome a seven-point Orlando lead.

Conley, as he has in most of Memphis’ latest games, led the comeback. He scored 10 points in the final 2:52. His 12-footer with 14 seconds left pulled Memphis ahead 100-97. On the ensuing Orlando possession, Conley stole the ball from Ross along the Orlando baseline to put the game out of reach.

TIP-INS

Magic: Endured a tough-shooting first quarter, connecting on four of their 21 shots and ending the quarter at 24 percent. Aaron Gordon missed all five of his shots and Vucevic was 4 of 12 in the first. .Evan Fournier left with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter, drawing two quick technicals for complaining about calls. . Vucevic has scored at least 20 points 38 times. .The loss left Orlando a game behind the Miami Heat for the eighth playoff spot in the East. The Heat lost to Toronto early Sunday.

Grizzlies: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff celebrated his 40th birthday on Sunday. . Miles reached 8,000 career points with a 3-pointer in the first quarter. .Bradley’s five highest-scoring games of the season have come since he joined the Grizzlies at the trade deadline. . Are 15-7 when hold opponents under 100.

3 takeaways from the Utah Jazz’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies

MEMPHIS — The Utah Jazz lost to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies for the third time this season on Friday night, falling 114-104.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

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— The Grizzlies entered Friday averaging a Wholesale nba jerseys
league-worst 101.4 points per game, but the Jazz struggled to get stops for most of the night. Memphis shot better than 51 percent from the field and finished with 60 points in the paint.

—Utah committed 13 turnovers, five of which came during a crucial second quarter in which the Grizzlies opened up a seven-point lead.

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—Memphis then scored the first seven points of the third quarter as the Jazz missed a couple of open shots and then couldn’t get stops. Utah cut the deficit to four late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get over the hump.

Playoff picture

The Jazz are now just a half-game ahead of the seventh-place San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and two games behind the fifth-place Houston Rockets.

Solving the Memphis Grizzlies’ Wing Depth

As a team, the Memphis Grizzlies have everything you could ask for.

They have:

An elite point guard capable of going off for 30 points on any given night.
An elite, two-way big man you can run an offense through and build a defender around.
A 19-year old rookie that’s way ahead of schedule and that’s already being dubbed as potentially the best prospect in the past 5 years.

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A two-way combo forward with a unique offensive skillset and All-Defensive team potential.
A top-5 defense
Great position in the wild Western Conference.
There’s just something missing though,cheap nba jerseys from china
just one thing that can catapult the Grizzlies into “home-court advantage” territory. If there’s one thing the Grizzlies need to fix, it’s their wing depth issue.

Don’t get me wrong, the Grizzlies’ have decent-to-good wings, but there are some flaws.

We know the deal with Chandler Parsons — it’d be quite surprising if he suits up in a Grizzlies uniform again. Kyle Anderson is an outstanding defender, but until the Grizzlies figure out how to utilize his captivating offensive skillset, he’s sort of a minus offensively. Garrett Temple has been a godsend thus far, considering they got him for the team’s two worst players, but his numbers suggest he’s coming back down to earth. Omri Casspi is more of a 4 than a 3.