New Jersey Nets v Miami Heat

New York vs. Miami: Defend the pick-and-roll and win.

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The Miami Heat run devastating pick-and-roll combinations — LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been doing it for years, and now a few times a game LeBron is setting picks for Wade and that can be an unstoppable combination.

After a slow start to the season, the Knicks Raymond Felton/Amare Stoudemire pick-and-roll has become a very efficient weapon. Which shouldn’t be shocking, Stoudemire is the best roll man in the game. He can pop, he is devastating going to the rim. And in vintage Mike D’Antoni style, the Knicks spread the floor around that play with guys who can knock down the open shot on the kick-out when you help off them.

What that means is Friday night at Madison Square Garden — whoever can defend the pick and roll best will probably win.

Kevin Arnovitz breaks it down fantastically at ESPN’s Heat Index.

Like every Knicks’ opponent, the Heat will have a series of tough choices to make. Do they want Stoudemire’s defender to pressure Felton off the pick-and-roll? If so, then the Heat’s other big man better be ready to stand in front of the freight train as Stoudemire dives to the hoop. James might be one of the best help defenders in the NBA in these situations, but if he’s going to leave Gallinari all alone on the arc, somebody in a Heat jersey better be prepared to rotate over, or else Felton makes an easy skip pass for an uncontested 3. Cheat off Chandler and he can make you pay as both a shooter or a slasher (he’s finishing at the rim at a 81.6 percent clip). Fortunately for the Heat, they have both speed and intuition — and they’ll need a healthy dose of both on Friday night to contain the Knicks.

So far this season, the Heat have defended the pick-and-roll ball handler well — he is shooting 38.5 percent — but the roll man is having considerably more success when he gets the ball back, shooting 51.9 percent.

On the season, the Knicks have held the pick-and-roll ball handler to 43.7 percent shooting, while the roll man is shooting 50 percent even. (Stats via Synergy Sports.)

There are going to be a lot of pick-and-rolls tonight. The team that defends that better — and defends better in transition — will get the win.

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: