Orlando Magic v Miami Heat

Bosh even less clutch than LeBron as Magic finish huge comeback over Heat


I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting fooled again. I’m done, I’m through. I will no longer be surprised when the Miami Heat completely collapse against a good team, no matter how large the lead. It’s over. It cannot possibly be worse than allowing the Orlando Magic to stage a 24-point comeback including an 18-0 run at one point, at home, in a 99-96 loss . There’s no way that any loss can top this one. Not even getting swept by the Celtics can top this, given that the Heat showed themselves as the superior team for two and a half quarters, then surrendered what can only be considered a blitzkrieg from the perimeter as the Magic dropped three after three.

The Magic’s perimeter attack will get the credit for this win, but to overlook the Magic defense is to fail to give credit where it’s due. When they finally stopped playing Like A Bosh, they buckled down, and executed on a level we haven’t seen since the 2009 playoffs. Even against the lowly Bobcats and Hawks last season, this was a stronger performance. The Heat ran pick and roll after pick and roll with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade and each time, the Magic defender stepped up to cut off the penetration at the elbow, then recovered. The result was bricked three after bricked three as the Heat faded back into their prototypical fail-fest offense. Perimeter pass, perimeter pass, perimeter pass, looping pick and roll, jump pass to Mario Chalmers. Brick.

Yet nothing really captures how badly Chris Bosh played at the end of this game. Dwight Howard snagged a key offensive rebound over Bosh as Bosh slammed to the deck like he’d been hit by a piano. He missed baseline jumpers like they were full-court shots, and oh, yes. The final possession.

The Heat called a twenty-second timeout, down three, with a chance to miraculously push the game to overtime with a 3-pointer. They had time to work up a play. The result, whether planned or not, was a Chris Bosh 3-pointer.

That’s right. A Chris Bosh three to tie the game. And he missed. Like a Bosh. The Heat managed to get a rebound and kick to LeBron for a desperation three which also clanged. So while Dwyane Wade, Mike Bibby, and Mike Miller all watched, the Heat relied on a power forward to make the key three-point shot. If that’s what was drawn up, it was a disaster. If it was not what was drawn up, the execution was a disaster. Bosh is a career 30% three-point shooter, which is great for him. He’s still not the player you want taking that shot. An ISO pull-up 35-foot LeBron heave is a better option at that point. Sure, Tim Duncan hit a big shot like that. Chris Bosh is not Tim Duncan, even with a better percentage.

The result is a huge win for the Magic, who now have split the season series with the Heat 2-2. Perhaps best of all it wasn’t Dwight Howard having to handle everything. It was the role players stepping up, most notably Jason Richardson who was unfathomably unconscious in the second half. He finished 6-8 from behind the arc, as the Magic shot 55% from three as a team. Jameer Nelson wasn’t hot from deep, but he set the tone in the second half, getting aggressive and creating offensively. Dwight Howard? Only four points in the fourth quarter… along with 10 rebounds and three blocks. This is the kind of performance the Magic want to duplicate for the playoffs.

For the Heat? Yet another blown lead. Yet another loss in a close game. Yet another night of terrible play by Chris Bosh. Yet another game-winner brick for LeBron James. But most concerning? Yet another night of the team losing its focus, especially disappointing after Mike Bibby looked as if he would give them that focus in the first half. We’re left wondering again what it will take for Miami to live up to its potential. Meanwhile the Magic make a statement about their window being closed.

Some leftover notes:

  • Anyone else remember when Wade was able to overcome nearly any defense in the fourth quarter and take a game over? Yeah, me neither.
  • Erick Dampier actually played impressively tonight, especially in the fourth with seven points. Granted, the Heat should never need him to do that, but at least he was working.
  • Chris Bosh slammed the ball after the loss. It was the most emphatic move he made all night.
  • It’s not that this is some sort of slam job on the Heat. But at some point, you have to call a spade a Bosh. Or something. Additionally, the resounding term I read from Heat fans about this loss was “unacceptable.”
  • The Heat starters played 8 minutes to start the second half. It might have been preferable to give them a bit of extra rest. Especially considering…
  • The Heat travel to San Antonio Friday. Fun.
  • The Magic finally got some production from Gilbert Arenas in the fourth quarter. One was a terrible shot that he should never have taken, but the other was a nice job of working in the offense.

Report: 76ers supporting, not blaming, Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor
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76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor fought a man in a Boston street.

The team has released a short, vague statement. CSN Philly:

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”

But what do the 76ers really think?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

I spoke with somebody close to him. They’ve talked to the 76ers. They’ve talked with the NBA.

The Sixers are very supportive of Okafor. They understand the situation, but they have to do their due diligence and look into it.

The Sixers are supporting him. They’re not blaming him. If they have to discipline, it still won’t sully him in their eyes.

Again, I’m told that they’re very supportive of him.

If the 76ers really support Okafor, they’ll do so publicly. Leaking their support anonymously doesn’t really move the needle.

I also find this report a little dubious, because Broussard only said he talked to someone close to Okafor. If the 76ers’ viewpoint came filtered through an Okafor rep, there could be a lot of spin – though it’s possible Broussard also spoke with someone from the team.

What choice do the 76ers have but to support Okafor, anyway? He’s a promising young player on a team that desperately needs hope. It seems he made a major mistake, but it’s not a career-ender. And as long as the 76ers are keeping him, they might as well stand by him.

However – based on what we’ve seen, which is obviously not everything – this incident should “sully him in their eyes.” He appeared to be the aggressor, and the team should be concerned by that. Perhaps, further investigation has provided extenuating circumstances, but absent new evidence, the 76ers should view him less favorably – and be proactive about helping him correct any underlying issues.

That’s the support Okafor needs from them.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.