Game of the Weekend: The Heat are starting to figure it out.


The takeaway from the Miami Heat’s throttling of the Nets is not that the Heat cruised to a 101-78 win. Some version of that is going to happen a lot this season.

The takeaway is that the Heat are getting better. They are figuring out what works, they are correcting their mistakes. The fact they are winning by 23 and still figuring things out is what should scare people.

The Heat’s issues so far have been on offense, and that is where you are seeing the vast improvement.

First and foremost, against the Heat the really tried to push the pace. They ran on every miss, and there were a lot of those from the Nets.

That running was fueled by a Nets strategy to really crash the offensive glass — and it worked, the Nets recovered 35 percent of their missed shots with offensive rebounds (that number was up over 40 percent before garbage time). They got a lot of second chance points which kept the game as close as it was. But with all those bodies going forward to the glass, when the Heat did get the rebound there was nobody back to stop them. Add to that the fact that LeBron dribbling the ball is still faster than most of the Nets roster just running and you had some easy and spectacular transition points for the Heat.

In the half court, the Heat clearly mad a point to go at the rim. They did not against Orlando a couple nights before, but they were drilling the midrange jumpers so they won easily. Miami attacked the rim, with very interesting sets like Wade coming off a double high screen (LeBron and Big Z) then just driving hard as Wade does. LeBron went to the rim hard, too. By the second half there were kickouts to a wide-open Carlos Arroyo for midrange jumpers and threes.

The Nets tried a zone for a while, which worked for about three straight possessions, but the Heat just kept attacking, got inside the zone and went on a run. They went on a lot of runs.

The Heat also tried some new looks like posting up Dwyane Wade.

It all worked. The Heat had an offensive efficiency of 117.4 for the night (points per 100 possessions), which is very good.

The Heat defense on the perimeter is still good, and still forced a lot of turnovers. The Nets tried to counter by going to Brook Lopez inside early and often — he had 11 of the team’s first 14 points and he finished with 20 points on 8-17 shooting) but it was not enough. Lopez absolutely pushed around Chris Bosh for a while.

It’s not all bad for the Nets, Derrick Favors put up his first double-double (13 and 13) and the guy already looks like a beast on the boards. He is not efficient but he is learning, and you really can see the potential the Nets fall in love with.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.