Winderman: Miami Heat get to coast into playoffs


Wade_dunk.jpgAs NBA teams jockey for playoff position these final two weeks of the season, expect some sort of formal protest from the Bucks, Bobcats and the other teams jostling for position in the second tier of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Somehow, the Heat is being allowed to close out its season in the D-League.

Not only does no team have as forgiving a finishing run as the Heat, but also each of the eight remaining games the Heat plays comes against teams at least 20 games below .500.

Yes, you read that right, at least 20 (two-oh) games below .500.

The closing run:

Wednesday at 23-57 Detroit.
Friday at 27-47 Indiana.
Saturday at 14-60 Minnesota.
April 7 home against 26-47 Philadelphia.
April 9 home against 23-57 Detroit.
April 11 at 26-47 New York.
April 13 at 26-47 Philadelphia.
April 15 home against 10-64 New Jersey.

The Heat, of course, is saying all the right things.

“We don’t look at who we play,” center Jermaine O’Neal said. “We have not talked one time about teams’ schedules. We have not talked that. We have not talked about teams’ records. We’ve talked about us and what we needed to do.”

Still, for the mathematically challenged, the Heat closes out its schedule against competition that is 231 games below .500.

How could you not notice that?

“We’re not looking at anything like we’re good enough,” forward Quentin Richardson said. “We’re not the Lakers or Cleveland, where we could look at teams and try and look past them. I don’t even think those teams do it, either, but we definitely know we need to focus one game at a time.”

True, this is a team that has already lost at home to the Timberwolves and Wizards, as well as on the road to the Clippers and Bulls, but having won 11 of its last 14, this also has become a different team since then.

Can you say fifth seed in the Eastern Conference?

The schedule seems to be saying as much.

Now whether this is the best way to prepare for the Hawks or Celtics in the opening round is an entirely different story.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Dwight Howard posts just second 30-30 game in last 36 years

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Dwight Howard never played for the Nets. He almost got traded to Brooklyn by the Magic, but the deal never happened.

Which puts a dent in Dennis Schroder‘s theory Howard gets up for games against only his former teams.

Howard dominated Brooklyn for 32 points and 30 rebounds in the Hornets’ 111-105 win tonight. That’s just the second 30-30 game in the last 36 years, Kevin Love notching the other in 2010.

All 30-30 games since Wilt Chamberlain, who had a ton:

  • Dwight Howard (Charlotte Hornets, 3/21/2018): 32 points, 30 rebounds
  • Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, 11/12/2010): 31 points, 31 rebounds
  • Moses Malone (Houston Rockets, 2/11/1982): 38 points, 32 rebounds
  • Swen Nater (Milwaukee Bucks, 12/19/1976): 30 points, 33 rebounds
  • Elvin Hayes (Capital Bullets, 11/17/1973): 43 points, 32 rebounds

Howard helped Charlotte erase a 23-point second-half deficit and a 10-point deficit with four minutes left. The Hornets are playing out a lost season, and Brooklyn has looked overmatched most of the year, particularly at center. But no matter the situation, Howard says he still feels super-sized expectations.

Tonight, he exceeded them by leaps and bounds.

Giannis Antetokounmpo leaves Bucks’ loss to Clippers with ankle injury (video)

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The Bucks lost, 127-120, to the Clippers tonight.

More importantly, Milwaukee lost Antetokounmpo to an ankle injury.

He limped off in the second quarter and didn’t return. The Bucks called it a sprain.

Any more time Antetokounmpo misses would be a huge loss. Hopefully, he recovers quickly.

No matter how many other good players – Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe – Milwaukee has put on the floor, the team has struggled without its star. Antetokounmpo is a commanding force offensively who just does so much, and his defense impresses.

The Bucks (37-34) are eighth in the East. They’re safely in playoff position, five games ahead of the ninth-place Pistons. But this hurts Milwaukee’s chances of avoiding a first-round matchup with the excellent Raptors – though the way Toronto has regressed in the playoffs in previous years, that might not be so bad. Still, the Bucks should probably chase the seventh-place Heat, who are up 1.5 games on Milwaukee, and a likely first-round matchup with the injury-ravaged Celtics.

Obviously, a healthy Antetokounmpo would be central to that pursuit.

Cavaliers beat Raptors, become first team in 27 years to surrender 79 first-half points and win


The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.

But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.

Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.

LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.

And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.

It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate

Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.