Does Kobe’s explanation for his poor shot selection against the Heat actually make sense?

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The Heat’s victory over the Lakers on Thursday was a huge win for them, for a variety of reasons. Miami was getting killed by the national media for being a team that appeared to be coming apart at the seams, and one that couldn’t come through in close games. But the Heat snapped their five-game losing streak in spectacular fashion, taking down a peaking Lakers team that came in riding an eight-game winning streak.

On a night when LeBron James was subpar, Chris Bosh stepped up on the offensive end, and Dwyane Wade simply took the game over for Miami down the stretch.

It was a big, big win for the Heat. Yet all anyone wanted to talk about afterward was Kobe Bryant.

The fact that long after the game Bryant took to the court to get in an unusual (and relatively public) late night workout on Miami’s arena floor was cause for plenty of discussion. But of more importance to the game’s final result was the issue of Bryant taking some extremely questionable shots late that ended up costing the Lakers the game.

There were two shots in particular that seemed to cause the most commotion, but the first (and by most accounts, the most egregious) came with the Lakers trailing by two and 1:06 remaining. L.A. had the ball out of bounds, and a fresh 24 on the shot clock. The pass went in to Bryant, and he immediately rose up for a twisting, fading, three-point attempt — again, with a full 24 seconds on the shot clock — and with Wade heavily contesting.

Wade was credited with the block, and the shot fell short into the hands of Ron Artest, who couldn’t convert at the rim. Miami rebounded, and Wade’s driving layup at the other end made it a two-possession game, and the Lakers were effectively finished.

Most watching felt the shot by Bryant was ridiculous and unconscionable given the circumstances. But when you hear him explain his line of thinking to T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times afterward, all of a sudden it doesn’t sound so insane.

“I wasn’t as off balance as you think; take a look at the replay,” he said. “I told Ron [Artest] to put it right there in that spot in the corner so I could raise up and shoot. I didn’t think Wade would expect that.

“The clock doesn’t make a difference; if you can knock it down you take it. We had the rebounding position underneath. My guys knew I was going to take it. It just didn’t go.”

Bryant’s logic here is pretty sound, even if his sense of team basketball or what constitutes a quality shot might not be.

Bryant felt his defender wouldn’t be expecting that shot in that situation, which, had he been right, would have in fact been a significant advantage. Bryant’s assertion that the clock doesn’t matter is the thing that most take issue with, but if you can get a good look at a shot that you’ve been able to knock down consistently (and it’s not a final possession, end-of-game situation), he’s right.

Finally, this wasn’t a wild heave against the wishes of his head coach and teammates. (Well, it might have been, but Bryant said they were expecting it.)  If indeed the Lakers had the advantage in rebounding positioning (which, judging by the fact that the blocked shot landed in the hands of Artest, they did), and his teammates were aware that his launching of that fadeaway three was the plan, then at least the decision to take this kind of shot now makes a little more sense, no?

Maybe. But it was still a terrible shot.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.