Orlando Magic v Miami Heat

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

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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.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili hustling saves lead to Spurs bucket (VIDEO)

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That’s about the most Spurs play ever.

During the third quarter of San Antonio’s win over Washington Friday night, LaMarcus Aldridge saved the ball from going out-of-bounds on the baseline, he threw it out high to Manu Ginobili, who had to leap and save it from going into the backcourt. Two hustle plays. From there the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter, and it ended up back to Aldridge on the baseline, where he nailed the 12-foot jumper.

Eventually, the Spurs would get a Kawhi Leonard jumper to give them the victory.

LeBron on Cavs’ three-game losing streak: “We got to get out of the honeymoon stage”

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wipes his face as he looks down after guard Kyrie Irving missed a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Chicago. The Bulls won 111-105. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Associated Press
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For a team that is 13-5 and atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been their intimidating selves consistently this season. There have been flashes during a 13-2 start, but mostly they win on talent, or when they flip the switch for a half, but they haven’t looked like a tested team working on building good habits through the first quarter of the NBA season. They have an elite offense, but their defense is surrendering 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the league.

It’s been worse the last four games. The Cavaliers had to come from behind to beat the Sixers, then got blown out by the Bucks and Clippers. Friday night, Cleveland lost to Chicago, giving the Cavs a three-game losing streak, and LeBron James had enough. He sent a message to his team through the media (from the Associated Press):

“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”

The Cavaliers would be far from the first team to have a championship hangover, and considering the five-decade title drought in Cleveland before that win we should have expected one of those “I can’t get off the couch, I’m just going to lay here and watch golf all day” kind of hangovers. As Gregg Popovich has said before, its human nature to let up after a big win.

However, the blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers Thursday — the only title contending team the Cavs have faced this season — should be a wake-up call. The fact is the Cavaliers are still playing well enough to beat everyone in the East, but their real tests come in the form of the Warriors/Clippers/Spurs out West. Right now it’s hard to picture the inconsistent defense of the Cavaliers lifting them past any of those teams in four out of seven games.

LeBron has been to six-straight Finals for a reason — he does not let up. And he’s going to have to shake this team out of its malaise to get them back to an elite standing.

It’s also the first week of December. It’s we’re having this same conversation the last week of March about the Cavaliers then it’s okay to start looking for the panic button in Cleveland. For now, trust LeBron to be the leader this team needs. Calling them out was just step one.

 

James Harden scores 20 in Rockets’ runaway win over Denver 128-110

Houston Rockets guard James Harden brings the ball upcourt against the Denver Nuggets in the first half of an NBA basketball game late Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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DENVER (AP) — James Harden scored 20 points and the Houston Rockets led from start to finish in beating the Denver Nuggets 128-110 on Friday night.

Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson had 18 points each and Sam Dekkar added 17 points for Houston, which completed an impressive road back-to-back sweep that began with its 132-127 win over Golden State in double overtime on Thursday.

Wilson Chandler had 24 points to lead the Nuggets, who saw their three-game winning streak against the Rockets come to an end. The Nuggets have lost four of their last five and fell to 3-7 this season at home, the high-altitude venue they once routinely dominated.

Up by 10 points at halftime, the Rockets took a 99-84 lead into the fourth quarter and kept the pressure on the rest of the way as part of a sharpshooting display that included converting 17 of 37 3-point attempts against a listless Nuggets defense. Denver made 9 of 30 from beyond the arc.

The Rockets took a 73-63 halftime lead over the Nuggets, who allowed a season high in points over the first two quarters by an opponent.

Houston led by as many as 15 points in the first half, hitting nine 3 pointers, including four by Anderson, to gain early separation with its highest scoring output over the first two quarters this season.

The lack of defensive urgency by Denver was epitomized by Gordon’s fastbreak layup at the halftime buzzer as he drove the length of the court virtually uncontested in the final 3 seconds of the period.

TIP-INS

Rockets: F Trevor Ariza left the game in the final minutes with a leg injury, apparently after coming down awkwardly while going for a rebound. … Houston has made at least 10 3-pointers in 19 consecutive games, the longest streak of its kind in league history. … Houston’s previous high for first-half points was 71 against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 26. … Houston is 7-2 on the road since beginning the season 2-3.

Nuggets: C Nikola Jokic missed the game because of a sore left wrist. … G Gary Harris remains sidelined with a right foot injury. … G Will Barton returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the previous two games.

 

Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade lead Bulls to 111-105 win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, front left, talks with Chicago Bulls' Dwyane Wade before an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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CHICAGO (AP) — LeBron James wasn’t holding back.

Cleveland’s superstar had plenty to say after the Cavaliers gave up 78 points in the paint on the way to another loss. The condensed version was this: It’s time to start playing like a championship team again.

Jimmy Butler scored 26 points, Dwyane Wade had 24 and the Chicago Bulls beat James and the slumping Cavaliers 111-105 on Friday night.

Taj Gibson added a season-high 23 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago. Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds as the balanced Bulls handed the Cavaliers their third straight loss.

“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”

James manned up to the tune of 27 points and 13 assists, a championship-level performance on a night when he showed up dressed as a World Series champion: He arrived at the arena in a Cubs uniform to honor a World Series bet with buddy Wade.

Kyrie Irving added 20 points and eight assists, but the Cavaliers matched their longest losing streak in a year.

Chicago dominated Cleveland 78-60 in the paint, outrebounded the Cavaliers 49-33 and came out on top despite shooting 3 of 18 on 3-pointers. It was a big turnaround for the Bulls coming off a loss to the Lakers.

“I think we know what we’re capable of if we play basketball the right way and do what we’re supposed to do,” Butler said.

DOWN THE STRETCH

The Bulls used a strong third quarter to turn a one-point halftime deficit into an 88-80 lead. And they withstood several pushes in the fourth to knock off the defending NBA champions.

Kevin Love nailed a 3 to cut the lead to 103-99 with about 4 minutes left, but the Bulls hung on.

Wade drove for a layup to make it 107-101 with 2:39 remaining. Nikola Mirotic then stole the ball from James, leading to a putback basket for Wade.

Mirotic came up with another big play when he blocked a 3 by Irving with 1:11 left to cause a shot-clock violation.

KING CUB

James clearly wasn’t thrilled about having to wear a Chicago Cubs uniform after he rooted hard for his hometown Cleveland Indians in the World Series. But he was a man of his word, honoring the wager he made with Wade, his good friend and former Miami Heat teammate.

James wore a No. 23 Cubs jersey with his last name stitched across the back, a Cubs hat partially covered by a Cubbie-blue hoodie, pinstripe pants and long baseball socks. James’ uniform even had the 2016 World Series champions shoulder patch.

“I actually thought he looked good,” said Wade, who was waiting for James when he arrived at the arena and took a picture of his ex-teammate. “He actually did look like a baseball player.”

The two hugged before tipoff and had some playful moments during the game.

James patted Wade on the backside as they ran down the court together after he hit a tough fadeaway jumper over his pal in the third quarter. Wade returned the favor after burying a 3 in James’ face moments later.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: G/F Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed his second consecutive game because of a concussion.

Bulls: Rondo’s triple-double was his first with the Bulls and the 29th of his career. … Butler has 12 straight games with 20 or more points. … With the Bulls playing four times in five days, coach Fred Hoiberg said Wade won’t travel to Dallas for Saturday’s game. … Hoiberg said F Doug McDermott (concussion) could be cleared for contact shortly and might practice with the D-League’s Windy City Bulls.