Can the Heat be beat inside?

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Thumbnail image for bosh_wade_james.jpgNobody is going to be better than the Miami Heat at the two, three and four spots.

But picture them playing Orlando. Jameer Nelson has the ball (guarded by Mario Chalmers) and Dwight Howard (covered by Joel Anthony) comes out to set the high pick. That is a hard-to-stop P&R combo for any team, and the undersized Anthony is really going to struggle to stop the strength of Howard rolling to the rim. LeBron, Wade and Bosh are going to have a hard time helping out because you can’t leave Orlando’s perimeter shooters (especially when JJ Redick is in for Vince Carter).

Can Orlando beat Miami this way? Can some combination of the O’Neals (Shaquille and Jermaine) along with Kendrick Perkins (when he returns from injury) do the same thing for Boston? Is there a model for beating the Heat?

Center appears the place to attack. But as Ira Winderman points out in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, it’s not that easy.

I think Wade and LeBron, and to a degree even Miller, rebound very well for their positions. Look, you can’t have it all, but I think the Celtics are somewhat of a size exception in the East. And it’s not like they will have more than two bigs on the floor at any time. If they did, it would mean Pierce or Allen or Rondo would be off the floor, which actually might favor the opposition.

Again, I think it’s all about matchups. Against the Celtics, Magloire will play. Against the Magic, the Heat might even try Udonis’ defense against Howard. Look, on most nights the Heat will be overmatched at center. But the opposition also will be overmatched at power forward, small forward at shooting guard. Heck, Michael Jordan’s Bulls often were overmatched at center, and they did just fine.

Only a handful of teams can even dream of matching up with the Heat. Particularly in the regular season, when teams have limited time to prepare and game plan.

What will be more interesting is the playoffs. Orlando and Boston certainly have some personnel that create their own matchup problems, some things to try and exploit. And those are two teams that reached the finals the last two years because their players know how to go right at a weakness.

The Heat have their own advantages to exploit. And that may well more than cover any weakness at the five. The regular season Heat are going to be a lot of fun. The playoff Heat are going to be interesting, because then we will see just how good they really are.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.