Game of the night: A tale of two halves, and the Heat won the last one

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Two such different halves (well, really more like 32 minutes and 16 minutes rather than even halves). One where the Heat fell right into the Hornets’ well-executed game plan. One part where the Heat stopped playing along, the Hornets started missing shots and then it was on for Miami.

The 16 trumped the 32 and Miami won its ninth straight game by double digits, 96-84.

The first half, it was the blue print teams are going to use to beat the Heat this season — you’re going to see variations of it until they are eliminated from the playoffs or David Stern hands them a trophy.

New Orleans did a good job of slowing the tempo down, taking away the transition baskets that have fueled the Heat’s run. On offense that means either making your shots or being such a force on the offensive boards that the Heat have to dedicate more resources to it and they can’t just run. The Hornets did both those things.

One of the few times the Heat did run — a baseball outlet pass to Dwyane Wade — Jarrett Jack was there with the hard foul to stop a breakaway dunk. And sorry, that foul did not deserve a technical.

On defense, the Hornets packed the paint and just dared Miami to take the midrange jumper — and the Heat were too happy to settle for that shot for long stretches of the game.

Here’s the problem with beating the Heat — the Hornets did everything they wanted and they were up just one point at the half. Miami has that much talent. Wade kept the Heat in it during the second with 9 straight at one point oh his way to 24 points in the first half.

In the second half the Hornets shooting woes returned — as a team they shot 17.9 percent in the second half and they were 0-7 from three. It looked like a lot of their games from the last few weeks. I’ll grant you that Miami played a little better defense, but the Hornets are fully capable of shooting that poorly unguarded right now.

Not that the Heat didn’t focus on some things defensively — they did a good job on defending Chris Paul in the pick-and-roll. Which is not easy. But bigs showed and recovered and they took away the simple baskets for the Hornets. In the first half the Hornets hit those harder shots, in the second they missed everything.

The Heat focused on the rebounds — there were plenty to get (Chris Bosh led the way with 11) — and that fueled the transition game. LeBron James started taking on more of the offense in the second half (he finished with 20) and pretty soon there was a late third quarter 6-0 Heat run followed closely by a 12-2 run near the start of the fourth. Then it was over.

It was another game where the Heat’s talent wore the opponent down and they eventually got the style of play they wanted. It is the fourth straight game where Chris Bosh, Wade and LeBron combined to score 75 points or more. It was how they should play nightly. For the Hornets, Chris Paul and David West remain a dangerous pairing but if you can force them to go to option number three there really isn’t a good one. Paul is so good, West such a good fit it can work for them, but only can take them so far.

Josh Allen’s old tweet: ‘I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks’

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Josh Allen, a quarterback from Wyoming, could be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NFL draft. But his recently unearthed high school tweets – which include using the n-word with an ‘a’ at the end – are the sports story of the day.

And there’s an NBA tie.

Via Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports:

I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2011

Damian Lillard went down this same road with LeBron James, and they got past it.

But it would be a little more awkward if the Cleveland Browns – who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks – take Allen. Then, Allen will face more scrutiny over this tweet – the most innocuous of the bunch.

Donovan Mitchell tells Thunder fans, Jazz teammates Utah not returning to Oklahoma City this season

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The Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead in Game 5 last night, extending their series with the Thunder. Up 3-2, the Jazz are still in control. They can close out in Game 6 tomorrow in Utah. Blow that, and they must return to Oklahoma City for Game 7 Sunday.

But Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell is making it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan to do that.

Gabe Ikard of The Franchise 107.7:

Jake Edmonds of KUTV:

A confident proclamation that rallies his team or youthful exuberance run amok?

The narrative will be decided after Game 6. That’s just how this is done.

Report: Grizzlies moving toward keeping J.B. Bickerstaff as coach

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From the moment Robert Pera opted to retain control of the Grizzlies and end a prolonged ownership saga, it seemed interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff would remain Memphis’ coach.

Lo and behold…

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Bickerstaff did a decent job before the Grizzlies started tanking. But that was a small a sample, and his prior work as Rockets interim coach was uninspiring.

To be fair to Bickerstaff, those were both difficult situations. He’s an experienced assistant who might be ready for this challenge.

To be less fair to Bickerstaff, this looks like Memphis taking the cheap route. The Grizzlies didn’t appear to conduct much of a coaching search, if any. Nor has Bickerstaff been mentioned with other openings. It probably won’t cost as much to hire him as it would a more-established option.

Memphis seems to be operating under the belief that a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will right the ship next season. And they might. But given the age and injury history of those two, I wouldn’t assume they stay healthy and productive all season. Even if they do, they’d have to carry an underwhelming supporting cast – with limited room for upgrade this summer – in a deep Western Conference.

The Grizzlies want Bickerstaff, who’d be a first-time non-interim head coach, leading that team trying to win now? That doesn’t seem like the right risk-reward balance – at least until considering his salary, and even then.

Rumor: 76ers increasingly confident about signing LeBron James

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LeBron James-76ers rumors have been mainstream for the better part of the year.

And they’re not going anywhere.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Why shouldn’t they be increasingly confident? Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the 76ers have already won a playoff series. The Cavaliers are mired in a tight first-round series with the Pacers, and LeBron’s supporting cast has mostly stunk.

This has the makings of LeBron’s previous free agencies – when he left barren Cleveland for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat in 2010, when he left aging Miami for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love with the Cavaliers in 2014. Whatever motivations and narratives attached to LeBron’s decisions, he has left sinking teams for better-positioned ones.

The 76ers are good enough to fit that. They also have the cap flexibility to acquire him without sacrificing roster strength.

That LeBron has positioned himself as a mentor to Simmons – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron – would only make signing with Philadelphia easier. LeBron could sell the narrative of teaching and grooming Simmons. LeBron, who cares about his legacy, must explain why he’s again leaving his hometown team in a way that won’t alienate everyone – not easy considering his homecoming message upon his return. Working first-hand with his protégé would look understandable, maybe even commendable.

All that said, growing confidence could be going from a 1% chance to a 10% chance. That’d be a 10-fold increase while leaving Philadelphia a big underdog.

LeBron’s free agency is still a huge unknown – including, at least in part, to LeBron himself. But I believe he has already started to consider options, even if he hasn’t made up his mind. And when that happens, signs could emerge behind the scenes. Perhaps, the 76ers have a read on those.

Or maybe they’re seeing what we’re all seeing: The 76ers are rising while the Cavs are just trying to keep their heads above water. Which situation would LeBron choose?