Game of the night: Miami looks good, but not Dallas good

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The first time the Miami played Dallas back in November, the Heat players were still figuring it out. They seemed to be taking turns on offense more than working off each other, they were playing slow, it wasn’t outright confusion but they looked uncomfortable.

But after winning a dozen in a row they were past that, right? RIGHT?

Maybe not completely. On some key possessions late in the Monday night rematch with the Mavs LeBron James passed the ball to Dwyane Wade, ran through to the corner and stood there. The pace was slow. It all seemed a little too familiar. The Heat may be better but they still got sucked into a lot of bad habits when faced with the Mavericks defense, and the result was a 98-96 Dallas win in Miami. Miami’s 12-game win streak is snapped.

That’s not to say this game wasn’t fun to watch — 23 points in the last 90 seconds. A game of runs where the Mavs start out up 23-10 then pretty soon are giving up a 17-0 run. A lot of times in the final 6 minutes the Heat got within one, but could never get over the hump.

Miami had chances late — LeBron had the three-point play and Chris Bosh missed three could have tied it (at that point it was all over but the free throws). It didn’t work out.

Besides, that’s not where the Heat lost this one.

In a brilliant breakdown at ESPN, Tom Haberstroh noted that the way to beat Miami is to get them to take the long two. It’s a risk because LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Mike Miller — who was back but was 0-4 in limited minutes — James Jones and others can bury the shot. But if you can entice them into taking it and contest you can slow their offense.

That’s what Dallas did very well. They trapped and protected the paint and gave the Heat the least efficient shot in basketball. Miami — Wade and LeBron in particular — need to attack and not settle for that shot. But settle they did Monday.

Meanwhile the Mavericks kept doing what they do. Jason Terry was scoreless for three quarters then put up 19 in the final frame. Dirk Nowtizki had 26.

This is not a bad loss for the Heat — Dallas is proving to be an elite team in this regular season — but it is a reminder they can still be suckered into bad habits. A healthy Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem might help with a few things, but there are places to attack.

Meanwhile Dallas is attacking everyone. They are trapping. They are entertaining. And people are starting to believe that this year is different than other years, that there will not be a wall they can’t climb after the first round of the playoffs. That’s a long way off, but they looked good again vs. the Heat.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.