Curry, Hollinger, Bledsoe and more around the league react to accomplishments and failures as season winds down

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Marc GasolAfter a season-long battle to see who would end up with the eighth and final seed of the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies proved to be the winner of the coveted position – relatively speaking – on Monday after beating the Phoenix Suns 97-91.

Unlike teams in the East, where some barely over .500 or even under it made it into the playoffs, the Suns will go home early despite an impressive 47-34 record – good enough to be the fifth best team in the East. They overcame many odds to get to this point, but none bigger than a whopping 40 games missed from Eric Bledsoe. In all likelihood, another team would be on the outside looking in had the speedy guard not been out for so long. The same can arguably be said of the Grizzlies, who had to play without their defensive anchor Marc Gasol for 23 games.

At least Memphis is healthy going into the playoffs, which is a luxury that the Golden State Warriors, who clinched the sixth seed after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, suddenly don’t have after learning of Andrew Bogut’s devastating rib injury.

SH Blog: Phil Jackson meets with Lamar Odom; Kyrie Irving says he doesn’t deserve the media barrage

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ShabazzNapierIt’s only been a week since I last wrote here at Sheridan Hoops, but it feels like a lot longer. Finishing a degree and switching countries will do that.

Earlier today, UConn knocked off Florida to advance to the national championship game. Their coach, Kevin Ollie, is drawing lots of buzz as a potential NBA coach (he was the first guy Bobby Gonzalez mentioned as the next Brad Stevens), and their star point guard, Shabazz Napier, is looking like a future NBA player. But let’s not forget the ultimate cautionary tale of overvaluing success in the tournament: former LSU player Tyrus Thomas. Napier is an entirely different player, of course, but this tournament could go down in history as synonymous with his name, just like the 2006 edition was with Thomas (and George Mason’s Jai Lewis, but he was never an NBA prospect).

Napier is a great player: he’s a smart, heady point guard who basically runs an NBA offense already (thanks again, Kevin Ollie), and he could be an NBA rotation player. But if he jumps into the lottery, somebody’s probably paying too much attention to tournament games.

Now let’s get to the NBA’s latest news:

SH Blog: Paul George must improve offensively in order to save Pacers’ season, Kyrie Irving cleared to practice

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Paul George

By now, we all know that the Indiana Pacers have some major issues on the offensive end. If you don’t, check out the previous blog. What exactly are they doing wrong and who is the main culprit for killing their offense? Our friend coach Nick of Bbballbreakdown gives his take on the situation, and it mainly involves Paul George and how badly he has fallen off since the beginning of the season:

I’m sure Nick isn’t trying to say that George is to blame for everything, but as stated in the clip, his struggles when the Pacers lose sticks out like a sore thumb. Given that he is undoubtedly the most important player on the team, it makes sense that his struggles directly correlates with the team’s struggles. If part of the issue is, indeed, that he has gone away from the mechanics that helped him succeed tremendously in the early going, this could turn out to be a lost season for George because that’s not something he can fix at this point of the season – it would have been fixed by now otherwise.

George’s shooting percent has gone down every single month. He shot 47.2 percent in November and 46.8 percent in December, but hasn’t shot above 41 percent in any month since, bottoming out at an atrocious 37.2 percent in March. In the last nine games, he has shot below 29 percent five times and managed to shoot above 40 percent just once. That’s reaching Harrison Barnes status. To be fair, George is not the only major player on the team to see a steep drop in production. Roy Hibbert, who had averaged around 12 points and seven rebounds for much of the season, has seen his numbers drop to 9.7 points on 42.2 percent shooting and 4.6 rebounds in March without a decrease in playing time – simply inexplicable for a supposedly-dominant center. Hibbert has pointed out that the lack of ball movement from his guards may be the primary culprit for his struggles, but nothing excuses 4.6 rebounds from one of the tallest and strongest centers in the league. 

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SH Blog: Two college stars decide to enter draft; Mark Jackson denies looking at other jobs

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How great was last night’s Pacers-Heat game?

Enough to make up for an entire season of lackluster basketball from the rest of the Eastern Conference? Probably not.

Enough to get even the most casual fan’s appetite whetted for a playoff showdown between the defending champs and the rising stars? Absolutely.

SH Blog: What’s wrong with the Pacers and Heat? Shaq investigated on assault; Mark Jackson in trouble in Golden State

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Paul georgeAs the NBA regular season finally hits the home stretch before what promises to be a highly entertaining two months of playoff basketball, a few of the leagues elite teams find themselves riding the struggle bus.

The two-time defending champion Miami Heat needed a strong finish against Portland on Monday just to avoid a sub .500 March. Bad losses to Boston, New Orleans and Denver were all contributors to this stretch of underwhelming play. 

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