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Dwyane Wade in the middle of everything wrong with Miami

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Dwyane Wade remains the beating heart of the Miami Heat. He remains the focus, the center of the storm. The Heat are struggling in part because he is struggling — with his shot, with how to play along side LeBron, with the offense, and maybe with this coach.

And until he figures it out, the Heat as a team will not.

Quotes that have come out of Wade in the last 48 hours sound like a man who is frustrated — with losing and with his game. Those two struggles are interlinked.

Wade is struggling with his shot, and he is down across the board with it. Last season he shot 67 percent on shots at the rim, this season it is down to 55.7 percent (via hoopdata). He’s been good in the shorter midrange, but from beyond 16 feet things get worse, with him shooting 18 percent from 16 feet out to the arc and 25.5 percent beyond it. Both numbers are well down from last year. His percentage of shots assisted on has dropped as well.

Why is that? Well for one, Tom Haberstroh of ESPN got Wade to say some interesting things about his thought process on the court.

“We’re both kind of similar players,” Wade said of LeBron after practice last week. “On the court, we’re thinking too much. When we have the ball, we’re thinking about the other guy — we’re thinking about the other guys.”

And then he said something that no coach wants to hear from one of the most potent scorers in the league: “You don’t want to take two shots in a row.”

Yes you do. Do you think Kobe has qualms about taking two shots in a row? (Do you think Kobe has qualms about taking 15 in a row?) Do you think Dirk Nowitzki has that concern? Kevin Durant? Paul Pierce? And that’s just a handful of guys — the best couple scorers on 29 other teams (and a few who are not the best and should shoot less) don’t have those qualms.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has taken criticism for part of that hesitant Heat mentality, it is Spoelstra’s offense in which Wade is struggling. It is too reliant on pick-and-rolls. Wade even seemed to tell ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz he’d like to see more pure isolation over more P&R.

I think, at times, we get into a space where we let the whole team guard us because we run a lot of pick-and-roll. And we are letting guys off the hook. I want to see someone guard LeBron [James] one-on-one three or four times in a row down the court, because I know what they are thinking: “Somebody please help.”

I want to see them do that to Chris. I want to see them do that to me. So it’s about how we do it in spots in games, if all of us can be involved together. And it’s about how you do it where we are getting other guys involved as well.

Wade is right there — the constant 1/5 pick-and-rolls is allowing opposing big men to help put pressure on the ball. Opposing centers don’t fear getting beat by whomever is playing center for the Heat like they do Wade and LeBron, so you know where the focus goes. Add in the heavy ball-pressure defenses of teams like the Celtics and you have a problem for Miami. Pure isolation (four guys along the baseline, one guy out top) makes it harder to help and can open up passing lanes for a disciplined team. But are the Heat really that disciplined? Isolation is not really an efficient offense for anyone.

What’s interesting is Wade seems to — for the first time, really — have backed away from Spoelstra. Look at what he told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel.

“Players and coaches, it’s always that kind of weird type of relationship. You don’t look at him and say, ‘That’s my guy right there,’ in the sense of me. Yeah, I came in when Spo was early in his coaching career. He wasn’t even on the bench when I first came in. He’s grown to know me; I’ve grown to know him.”

And now?

“He’s a different person and I’m a different player than when we came in,” Wade continued. “So, I’m not going to say he’s my guy, but he’s my coach, you know. We listen to him and try to execute a game plan and sometimes players and coaches get into disagreements. In general, that’s life with people. It’s the nature of sports…”

“Right now, in my opinion, no one is doing a good job, we’re 9-8,” Wade said. “We’re all in this together. Players not doing a good job; coaches not doing a good job. As a whole. When success comes, we win as a whole. We win four in a row, Coach is going to look great.”

These comments are notable because Wade used to be the guy with Spoelstra’s back no matter what. But now the losing comes and nobody seems to have anybody’s back in Miami. There are people close to the players — and most likely from either LeBron’s entourage or CAA, the agency that represents all of the Heat’s Big Three — saying that the players are unhappy and Spoelstra is the reason. Of course, those same people have to put the spotlight on the coach, so as to keep their players looking good. Shift the blame.

But there is enough blame for everyone. The Heat don’t look good and Wade is right in that everybody can step up and accept a helping of blame.

That includes Wade. Because more than anyone else he is right in the middle of everything with the Heat.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nic Batum lead Hornets past Nets 112-105

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 04:  Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets in action against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Barclays Center on November 4, 2016 in New York City. 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.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nic Batum has certainly had better shooting nights.

But the eight-year NBA veteran from France was feeling pretty good after making two clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Charlotte Hornets defeat the Brooklyn Nets 112-105 on Saturday night for their third straight win.

“I missed some easy that I need to make,” Batum said. “So I feel like when it’s a close game like that, I need to make some big plays and I did.”

After letting a 17-point first half advantage slip away, Charlotte grabbed the lead for good with 3:21 left in the game when Batum got a fadeaway 3-pointer to fall after the ball bounced lazily on the rim four times before going in. Batum, who was fouled on the play, added the free throw to complete the four-point play.

Batum added a 3-pointer from the left wing on the next possession to push the lead to 104-98. Kemba Walker then sank a leaning 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Charlotte some extra breathing room.

Coach Steve Clifford said he has no idea how Batum shoots the ball so well off-balanced.

“He’s done it since before he got in the NBA,” Clifford said. “He’s got great balance and hand-eye coordination.”

Batum finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Hornets.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Charlotte, which avenged a 120-118 loss to the Nets on Dec. 26 in which Randy Foye beat them with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Brook Lopez had 24 points for the struggling Nets, who have lost 12 of their last 13 and failed in their quest to become the last NBA team to reach double digits in wins this season.

“We came in and we were exhausted from last night and had a bad first quarter, but we responded to that,” Lopez said. “We came in the second half and definitely made it a game and that’s the way we’ve got to play every night.”

TIP INS

Nets: Jeremy Lin remained out with a hamstring injury. … Attempted 41 3-pointers in the game, making 17. … Lopez had his 15th 20-point game this season. … Quincy Acy had a season-high 14 points off the bench. … Had a season-high 30 assists.

Hornets: Shot 54.5 percent in the first half from the field, including 6 of 13 from 3-point range to build a 60-46 lead. … Marvin Williams has made a 3-pointer in 18 straight games.

TOUGH FIRST QUARTER

The Hornets jumped out to a quick 16-4 lead as the Nets missed 11 of their first 12 shots from the field. Clifford called it the team’s best first quarter of the season, considering the Nets put up 143 points against New Orleans the night before.

“They’re hard to guard,” Clifford said. “They have so many ways to drive the ball. They’re very difficult to guard. I thought our guys battled hard.”

3-POINT SHOOTING

Charlotte, which made 14 of 29 3-pointers, had seven of those in the fourth quarter.

“Two of them were off our turnovers,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “You turnover, you have to sprint back, matchup and find 3-point shooters. Credit to them, they made some huge shots.”

SCHOOL IN SESSIONS

Here’s a rarity this season: Ramon Sessions, Charlotte’s backup point guard, had 17 points and actually outscored All-Star candidate Kemba Walker, who had 16 points.

“Kemba carries us every game, so when we can step in and give those guys a rest,” Sessions said. “Last game, he didn’t have to play in the fourth quarter, so during the season if we can get those stretches where he doesn’t have to play as many minutes that will be good for us in the long run.”

UP NEXT

Nets: Host the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.

Hornets: Play their third game of a five-game homestand Monday night against the Washington Wizards.

Paul Millsap, Dwight Howard help Hawks pull away from 76ers 110-93

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ATLANTA (AP) The young Philadelphia 76ers are on the rise, but the Atlanta Hawks’ experience and attention to detail made the difference Saturday night.

Paul Millsap scored 22 points and combined with Dwight Howard to dominate on the boards as the Hawks beat the Sixers 110-93 for their ninth win in 11 games.

Howard grabbed 15 rebounds in addition to scoring 13 points, Millsap added 10 rebounds and Atlanta used a 48-38 rebounding edge to beat Philadelphia for the sixth straight time.

The Sixers (15-27) lost for just the third time in 11 games, done in partly by 21 turnovers that led to 17 Atlanta points.

Nothing mattered more than the way the Hawks (26-18) were shooting in the second quarter. They made 16 of 23 shots and outscored the Sixers 37-29 in the period to take a 62-54 halftime lead.

“We got into a good rhythm,” said Millsap, who shot 9-of-14. “We were moving the basketball, playing with each other, all the things that make us successful.”

Ersan Ilyasova led the Sixers with 21 points, and when Robert Covington (15 points, 10 rebounds) made two free throws with 6:46 left in the game, Philadelphia had whittled an 18-point third-quarter deficit to a 94-87 Atlanta lead.

The Hawks cruised from there to win for the 11th time in 13 games. They are a season-high eight games over .500, and a half game behind the Celtics for the No. 3 spot in the East.

WRONG END OF RUN

In the second game of back-to-backs, the Sixers looked as if they ran out of gas in the second quarter about 24 hours after their 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers.

“There was an energy that wasn’t with us tonight,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said. “I think the second group struggled. I thought that the energy and the activity of that second group tonight wasn’t what it has been.”

HOWARD’S HEROICS

When the Atlanta Falcons play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC championship game in the Georgia Dome, which is less than a mile from Philips Arena, Howard said he’ll be cheering like mad.

“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I said before the season the Falcons and Patriots would be in the Super Bowl,” the Atlanta native said. “Go Falcons! Rise up!”

TIP-INS

Sixers: Saturday was to be a rest day for center Joel Embiid anyway, and while he didn’t play against the Hawks his availability is unclear after he suffered a knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. Brown said Embiid will be further assessed upon the team’s return home. … Backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez did not play for just the fifth time in 42 games, including 30 starts. Brown said he’s trying different combinations.

Hawks: Backup big man Mike Muscala missed his fourth straight game with a left ankle sprain. … Atlanta has scored 100 or more points in six of the last seven games.

KEEP PUNCHING

Although the Sixers scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-16 shooting, they made a game of it with late defense. Atlanta missed seven of its first nine shots in the quarter as Philadelphia cut the deficit to seven points.

“I think the last time we played them, we came out at halftime and the game was pretty much over from there,” said point guard T.J. McConnell, who finished with eight points, a game-high 11 assists and three of Philly’s eight steals. “But this time, they punched us in the mouth again and we didn’t go away. We’ve kind of been showing that resiliency.”

UP NEXT

Sixers: have a day off and then practice Monday before playing host to the Clippers, who will be without point guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, on Tuesday.

Hawks: The Clippers will stop in Atlanta before heading to Philadelphia, meeting the Hawks for the first time this season on Monday night.

Sam Dekker scores career-best 30 leading Rockets past Grizzlies

Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) congratulates forward Sam Dekker (7) after Dekker scored 30 points in an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. The Rockets won by a score of 119-95. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Sam Dekker scored a career-high 30 points, James Harden added 29 points and 10 assists and the Houston Rockets leaned on their usual 3-point offense to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 119-95 on Saturday night.

Eric Gordon added 21 points as the Rockets built the lead to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter before easily coasting home.

Dekker, making his first career start in place of the ill Ryan Anderson, made 12 of 19 shots, including 6 of 11 from outside the arc. Houston shot 51 percent overall and 38 percent from distance.

Marc Gasol scored 32 points and Mike Conley added 15 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the third time in the last four.

Memphis struggled shooting the entire night, finishing at 37 percent and unsuccessfully tried to follow the Rockets’ long-range attack but converted only 9 of 34 from outside the arc.

Even with Dekker starting instead of his normal reserve role, the Houston bench outscored the Memphis subs 44-29 as the Rockets dominated most aspects of the game.

Houston took the lead in the first half and never really let up the rest of the night in bouncing back from a home loss to Golden State on Friday.

After missing their first seven 3-point shots to open the game, the Rockets converted a trio late in the first quarter to run the lead to double digits.

Meanwhile, the Rockets’ aggressive defense gummed up Memphis’ offensive flow. Houston defenders double-teamed Memphis and closed out on jumpers, resulting in the Grizzlies shooting under 30 percent in much of the second quarter.

That helped Houston stretch the lead to as many as 16 in the half before holding a 58-49 advantage at the break. Dekker already had 16 points to lead the Rockets, connecting on seven of his nine shots, missing only one of his three shots from outside the arc.

Gasol had 17 points to lead Memphis.

By the third quarter, the Rockets stretched the advantage to 91-72, and even when Memphis put together a bit of a rally in the fourth, it never cut the deficit to single digits.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Anderson missed his third game with the flu. He sat out two games and tried to play in Friday’s loss to Golden State before leaving after nine minutes on the floor. .The Rockets used their 10th different starting lineup this season. .Despite the slow start from outside the arc, the Rockets ended the night 16 from 42 from 3. Houston has failed to connect on at least 10 3-pointers in only four games this season.

Grizzlies: Reserve G Troy Daniels sat out with a right knee injury suffered in the Friday night’s win over Sacramento. . F Chandler Parsons, who sat out Friday’s win over Sacramento for rest, returned to action, scoring 12 points.

BACK-TO-BACKS

The game featured two of the most successful teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Houston is now 11-1, while the Grizzlies, who beat the Kings on Friday, dropped to 8-3 on the second night of back-to-backs.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Play the second game of a five-game road trip on Monday against the Bucks in Milwaukee

Grizzlies: Close out a three-game homestand against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

Heat beat Bucks 109-97 to earn season-best 3rd straight win

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MIAMI (AP) When Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic barely beat the shot clock with a 28-footer to seal Saturday’s win, he retreated upcourt waving his arms, eager to coax more noise from the modest crowd.

Riding a three-game winning streak for the first time since last March, the Heat and their fans finally have something to cheer about.

Dion Waiters tied a career high with 33 points and Dragic added 25 to help the last-place Heat to a 109-97 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, who are headed the opposite direction.

Bucks coach Jason Kidd shook up his lineup, but they lost their fifth game in a row and second in as many nights. Following a defeat Friday at Orlando, the Bucks held a long players-only meeting that became heated at times.

“We have a lot of games to be played,” Kidd said after the latest loss. “There’s no reason to panic.”

Waiters went 12 for 19, including 5 for 8 from 3-point range. Backcourt mate Dragic went 8 for 13 and had six assists.

“Those guys were making so many shots I almost shot a 3,” center Hassan Whiteside said. “They take our team to another whole level when they play like that.”

Whiteside added 16 points and 15 rebounds while missing one shot. The Heat made 53 percent, just shy of their season high.

“Guys are playing better,” Whiteside said. “I don’t know what really got into guys, but I like it. We’re hitting shots we were missing earlier in the season.”

Miami improved to 14-30 thanks to its modest winning streak.

“It feels better than 0-3,” coach Eric Spoelstra said.

Kidd said the Heat’s record affected the Bucks’ performance.

“One of the things that we struggle with is looking at the team’s record and not coming out with that same intent if we’re playing Cleveland, if we’re playing Golden State,” he said. “That’s something we have to get better at.”

Following Friday’s players-only meeting by the Bucks, forward Jabari Parker said he wasn’t well received when he expressed his point of view. Parker was held out of the starting lineup Saturday for the first time this season for violating a team rule. Kidd declined to discuss the violation.

Parker had 16 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.

“It’s just a challenge, and I just try to be as positive as possible,” he said.

“I thought he did a great job,” Kidd said.

All-Star starter Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Milwaukee.

The Bucks led early, but Rodney McGruder and Dragic sank 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put the Heat ahead 68-56 midway through the third quarter.

Waiters barely beat the 24-second clock with a 3-pointer that made it 103-91 with 2 1/2 minutes left. Dragic’s buzzer-beater with 1 1/2 minutes to go put Miami ahead 106-94 lead.

TIP-INS

Bucks: While Parker sat out the first quarter, Bucks rookie Thon Maker made his first career start, and guard Matthew Dellavedova started for the first time in 13 games. Maker had six points in 18 minutes, and Dellavedova had 15 points and seven assists.

Heat: Okaro White, who made his NBA debut Thursday after signing a 10-day deal, played 19 minutes but still hasn’t scored.

“His box score doesn’t really show the impact he had defensively,” Spoelstra said. “He finds ways to fit in.”

GOING INSIDE

Waiters hurt the Bucks repeatedly with drives from the perimeter.

“I just try to play every game like it’s my last,” he said. “Tonight the coaches told me to be aggressive, be me, and do what I do best – get to the rim. I was able to do that.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Guard Tyler Johnson sat out with a sprained left shoulder he injured in the Heat’s game Thursday. His status is day to day.

UP NEXT

Bucks: Milwaukee plays at home Monday against Houston, which won 111-92 when the teams met Wednesday.

Heat: Miami plays at home Monday against Golden State, which has won five in a row in the series.