NBA Playoffs: Dwyane Wade isn't quite ready for his season to be over, goes bonkers in the fourth to down the Celtics in Game 4

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Dwyane Wade had six turnovers, missed eight shots, and botched five free throws in Game 4 against the Boston Celtics. Other than that, he could do no wrong. An enormously impressive 46-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance stands testament to that, and Wade’s performance was capped off brilliantly by scoring 17 of Miami’s 30 points in the fourth quarter.

To put in perspective just how impressive Wade and the Heat were in the fourth:

  • Miami went scoreless for a little over three minutes in the fourth…and still outscored Boston 30-15.
  • The Heat had five straight three-point possessions, and six over the course of nine possessions (H/T: NBA.com’s John Schuhmann)
  • Wade went 4-of-4 from three-point range in the final frame, with three of those makes coming within the quarter’s first three minutes.
  • Miami went on a 19-3 run over the first five minutes of the fourth.

Wade and the Heat played like a team desperate to survive, and for once Dwyane had a little help: Quentin Richardson became the first non-Wade Heat player to score 20 points in a game this series, and Michael Beasley dropped 15, including an invaluable tip-in with 1:27 left in the game.

Oddly enough though, both teams played out the game’s final minutes as if they wanted to lose. Ray Allen — a 91.3% free throw shooter this season — missed three of four from the foul line in the game’s final minutes. Dorrell Wright and Mario Chalmers were forced into impossibly difficult shot attempts as the Miami offense was slow to develop. Rajon Rondo missed a wide open layup that could have brought Boston’s deficit to two at the 2:17 mark. Dwyane Wade looked to push the ball after a Celtic turnover and ended up giving Boston the ball right back. Neither team looked particularly polished to finish out a pretty close game, but the Heat were able to rely on incredible production from Dwyane Wade and just enough scoring, defense, and hustle from the rest of the rotation.

The Celtics still isn’t too much to worry about, though. Boston’s defense was very impressive for much of the game, and barring Miami’s dominant transition game in the first quarter (mostly due to flurry of Celtic turnovers), the C’s were able to lock down defensively and make things awfully difficult in a half-court setting. Even the subs were relatively strong in that regard, or at least strong enough to not surrender any substantial advantage to Miami. Boston withstood a hell of a first quarter from Miami and still came back to make the game competitive, and that should make an already confident Boston team even more so.

After all, Rajon Rondo (23 points, nine assists, three turnovers) was able to deep into the paint with ease, even against Miami’s pressure defense. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett combined for 49 points on 54% shooting, but they just didn’t have the scoring volume to keep up with Wade’s fourth quarter surge. If not for that explosion, this game easily goes to Boston, and that’s worth remembering. Wade had a 20-point night from a streaky teammate, 15 points from the inconsistent Beasley, a solid team defensive effort, and a decent night from Mario Chalmers, and he still needed to put up one of the finest performances of the season to pull out a victory much closer than the nine-point final margin indicates.

A win is a win, and the Heat have certainly saved some face in avoiding a sweep. That doesn’t change the fact that Boston is the superior team, and while watching Wade completely dominate the final quarter is a joy in itself, it’s not indicative of some series-changing swing. 

76ers second-rounder Jonah Bolden signs in Israel

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Jonah Bolden – No. 16 on my draft board – slipped all the way to the 76ers at No. 36 in the NBA draft. An impressive summer league has raised his stock significantly.

But Philadelphia won’t reap the rewards this season.

Bolden signed a three-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, the team announced. The club also said the deal contained NBA outs and the 76ers helped facilitate his move from his previous team, Red Star in Serbia.

This is a helpful arrangement for Philadelphia, which is running out of roster spots. Bolden will develop elsewhere while allowing the 76ers’ to maintain his exclusive negotiating rights.

Bolden must get stronger and more adept at handling physicality. The athletic stretch four can also continue developing his burgeoning perimeter skills.

Then, next year, maybe the 76ers will have room to sign him themselves.

Anthony Davis does #DriveByDunkChallenge (video)

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If you’re not up with what the kids are doing, the cool thing this summer is the #DriveByDunkChallenge – driving to random houses, running out of a still-running car, dunking on their basketball hoop, running back into the car then driving off.

It sounds like a lot of fun for those who can dunk (and don’t get accosted by startled homeowners). An example:

Pelicans star Anthony Davis took his turn:

Report: Thunder signing Dakari Johnson two years after drafting him

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Two seasons ago, Dakari Johnson was the youngest player by more than two years on the D-League’s All-Rookie team. Last season, Johnson was the youngest player by more than a year on an All-D-League team – and he made the first of three teams.

Now, Johnson – who the Thunder drafted No. 48 in 2015 and whose rights they continued to hold – is finally moving up to the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Thunder have already used the full taxpayer mid-level exception, so presumably Johnson will get the minimum – $2,128,226 over two years. That, plus two years of meager D-League salary, will be Johnson’s return for granting Oklahoma City four years of his services.

He could have forced the Thunder’s hand either of the previous two years by signing the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – a team must extend to retain a draft pick’s rights. Accepting the tender would have meant Johnson earning an NBA salary (and gaining a year of service) if Oklahoma City kept him past the preseason. Or, if they waived him, he would’ve been an unrestricted NBA free agent. He still could have developed with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate while available to any NBA team.

Instead, Johnson repeatedly rejected the tender, allowing Oklahoma City to maintain exclusive negotiating rights.

At least the Thunder helped develop him. A strong 7-footer, Johnson has improved his mobility and skill level. He’s still an old-school center in a league moving away from that style, but he’s now more equipped to keep up.

Whether he’s ready enough is another question. Johnson will fall behind Steven Adams and Enes Kanter on the depth chart. At just 21, Johnson is still a decent developmental prospect.

Johnson gives the Thunder 16 players on standard contracts, one more than the regular-season maximum. They could waive Semaj Christon, whose salary is unguaranteed, but I’d be leery of having only Raymond Felton behind Russell Westbrook at point guard. Nick Collison at least provides insurance at center.

So, there’s no guarantee Johnson sticks into the regular season. One thing working in his favor: His salary will be luxury-taxed at the rookie minimum, because the Thunder drafted him. Christon or any other player acquired through free agency would be taxed at the second-year minimum.

No matter how it shakes out, Johnson is at least finally getting significant money in his pocket.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey: DeMar DeRozan to play some point guard

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The Raptors gave away backup point guard Cory Joseph to save money. So, who will play behind Kyle Lowry?

Presumably, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet will each slide up a spot on the depth chart. The third-year Wright looks ready to join the rotation, and he deserves at least the opportunity.

But Toronto also has another – unexpected – option at point guard: DeMar DeRozan.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Bryan Meler of Sportsnet:

“DeMar DeRozan, have him handle the ball a bit more as a point guard, a facilitator, a passer. Kyle Lowry moving the ball a bit more, spacing up. We don’t want to give our whole ‘what we’re going to try to do next year’ away, but again it comes down to passing the basketball and better spacing more so, than we know, one-on-one play.”

“Everyone and their brother knows we want better ball movement,” said Casey.

DeRozan didn’t play point guard at all last season.* So, this is a pretty big shift.

*Defined as playing without Lowry, Joseph, Wright or VanVleet.

Known as an isolation player, DeRozan has quietly improved as a distributor. I don’t think his ability to run an offense is at a point-guard level, but I’m also not sure that’s the point.

The Raptors are trying to change their style and promote more ball movement. This could help in the long run.

I supported the Timberwolves playing Zach LaVine at point guard as a rookie even though it was clear he should be a shooting guard. Playing point guard was a crash course that helped him develop skills useful at shooting guard, skills he couldn’t have as easily developed while playing off the ball.

The same could be true with DeRozan. Some rocky minutes at point guard could better equip him to play with Lowry in better-passing units come playoff time.

It was more conventional to play a 19-year-old on a bad team out of position to focus on skill development than it is for a 28-year-old on a good team. But he we are.

The Raptors have achieved enough success in the regular season and not enough in the playoffs. Experimenting during the long regular season is a good plan.