Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat

Heat show some hints of balance

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The Miami Heat are still anything but a finished product. Their offense still relies far too much on LeBron and Wade freestyling out on the perimeter while the other watches from the opposite side of the floor. Their defense has been up-and-down lately. Mike Miller has been a huge disappointment, and Bosh has been far more inconsistent than he was supposed to be. These are not who the Heat thought they would be when LeBron announced he was taking his talents to south beach and the Heat had their pre-season celebration.

The Heat didn’t look perfect on Thursday. LeBron and Wade still have very little synergy between them, even though the Heat finally went to some Wade/James pick-and-roll sets in crunch-time. Even though Chris Bosh was finally involved and aggressive against the Lakers, the Heat offense didn’t really use him to make things easier for Wade and James, or vice versa — they just had three primary options instead of two.

All of that being said, the Heat showed just how dangerous they can be when they get something out of their supporting cast. The Heat never appeared to be rolling on all cylinders, but they got offense from enough different sources to keep the Lakers off-balance. Bosh was a force on the low block and on the glass, at long last. Mike Miller drained some catch-and-shoot threes and made some nice plays off the dribble. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who the Lakers didn’t exploit on defense, had some nice moments from the high post and at the rim. Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby both kept the floor spaced with some catch-and-shoot threes.

With those players taking the pressure off of James and Wade, they were able to help the Heat win without having to do anything. Neither player shot particularly well, but James was able to facilitate the offense and Wade had some key drives late in the game that put the Lakers away. And Wade did a great job against Kobe Bryant, who always seems to press a little bit when he plays LeBron; he’s now dropped eight of his last 10 games against James’ teams.

The Heat are capable of being more than a two-man team. They have shooters, they have guys who can make plays, and they have Chris Bosh. Time will tell if the Heat can become more than the sum of their parts when it matters most, but Thursday’s game was a reminder that they don’t need to be more than the sum of their parts to beat one of the best teams in the league.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.