Miami Heat v Orlando Magic

Heat’s love affair with the long two-pointer strangling offense

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Miami got back in the win column Friday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. But the numbers from the winning box score are still jarring.

The Heat took 31 shots from 16 feet out to the three-point line — those are long two pointers, the least efficient shot in the game — and another 16 shots from beyond it. That’s 47 long jumpers.

They got 9 shots at the rim.

How is that possible with the incredible driving abilities of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, with the inside game of Chris Bosh? But the game against the Sixers was not some one-off phenomenon, as Surya Fernandez pointed out at Hot Hot Hoops recently.

The only two games where the Heat attempted more field goals closer to the basket than 16-23 feet away was the first two games. Since then, every game has featured more field goal attempts from that distance than any other area of the court. Most games the ratio of long jumpers compared to short or midrange jumpers is not even close.

Part of the issue is pace — The Heat are averaging 93.1 possessions per game, 23rd in the league. Only seven teams are playing slower. This is with Wade and James —two of the most devastating open court finishers in the game, and two ball handlers on the break — on the team. The Heat should be creating turnovers with their defense (they are very average at this) and running. Not running at a Don Nelson pace, but the Heat should be getting points in transition and on secondary breaks off turnovers and misses.

They are not, they are coming down court and setting up a very stagnant, isolation-heavy half court offense.

As has been pointed out here before, James is at his best in the half court when moving off the ball, catching the ball as a cutter and getting into the middle faster than the defense can adjust. Sure, isolate him on the wing on a clear out and he’ll do well, because he has the talent to do anything well. But have him catch the ball on a Rip Hamilton curl route at the elbow and the opposing defense will be close to helpless. We see precious little of that in Miami.

There is not a lot new here — everyone seems to have been screaming this for weeks. Including Erik Spoelstra. But sometimes the numbers jump out at you, as they did after Friday night’s win, to say that they cured the symptom (losing) and not the underlying cause.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: