Last time the end of the game had all the suspense of a North Korean election. It was over before it started. Back on March 4, the Spurs walked out of the locker room draining threes while the Heat had just 12 first quarter points. Miami was down more than 20 less than 12 minutes in and never seriously changed after that.
Ten days later, the Heat seek redemption. After beating the Lakers last week by out executing the defending champions at the end of the game, the Heat get another shot at this season’s end-of-game execution champions in the Spurs.
But the Heat need to be in at the end for that to matter.
And that’s why you need to tune in early Monday — the teams that have beaten the Spurs or had a shot to at the end usually grab big leads early. The Spurs, in the regular season, will fold up the tents pretty early and rest guys if they think there is no point in mounting a comeback.
Getting out to a fast start means the Heat have to do a better job defending the three-point line. Which is easier said than done — the Spurs run a lot of high pick-and-rolls with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili slashing into the defense, forcing rotations, then they make you pay with good spot up shooters. The Lakers defended this by having Andrew Bynum lay back and protect the paint from slashing guards. While the Heat do not have a guy who can defend the rim like Bynum look for them to take something out of playbook.
The Heat also need to get some points in transition — they are beasts when they steal the ball or get out and run off long rebounds. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are otherworldly forces of nature in the open court. Last meeting it was the Spurs — and Parker in particular — that was controlling the open court and getting the transition points (a lot on secondary break stuff). The Heat need to get back better in transition defense while getting out more and running themselves.
The Heat also need to get another big game from Chris Bosh, making Tim Duncan really work on the defensive end of the floor. The Heat need to get inside the Spurs defense.
Do all that… and the Heat still better hope they are up comfortably at the end of the game. Because if it comes down to end-of-game execution it is the Spurs that have to be the favorites.
But if the Heat come out and play with the desperation they showed against the Lakers, maybe once again it will not come down to the end of the game. And the Heat will get the win this time.
Report: Lakers working toward buyout with Jose Calderon; Warriors, Rockets interested
The Lakers took on the salary of Jose Calderon this year so they could get a couple second-round picks from the Bulls (Chicago got him from New York in the Derrick Rose trade), but even with the previous regime in Los Angeles the aging point guard was never part of the future.
Sources told ESPN that it’s not yet a certainty Calderon will secure his release from the Lakers in the coming days, but the sides are indeed discussing the options as Wednesday’s playoff eligibility deadline nears….
Sources say that Calderon, if he winds up hitting the open market, would instantly become a target for both the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.
Cleveland may also have interest if their plan to land Deron Williams when he is bought out by Dallas goes awry.
Calderon, 35, was not part of the Lakers’ regular rotation, playing in just 24 games. He can still knock down a shot if he has space and can set his feet, and he still has a high hoops IQ and can see the floor, but his athleticism has faded, and that can leave him exposed. Particularly on defense.
Players are being waived now so they clear in time for teams to sign them by March 1, after that said players are not eligible for playoff rosters.
There are better players to hit the waiver wire in the coming days — D-Will, Andrew Bogut, Matt Barnes — but Calderon is going to land somewhere. He’d be a solid third point guard and veteran presence for a playoff run.
Marquese Chriss blocks Bobby Portis, who gets testy (video)
The time off during the All-Star break did Dwyane Wade some good.
The Bulls guard turned back the clock on Friday night, leading the Bulls with 23 points and topping it off with this dunk that proved to be the dagger, sealing a Chicago win. The Suns were convinced Wade was going to run the shot clock way down before making his move and they lollygagged into position — so he just blew past everyone for the poster slam.
With a couple of minutes left to go in the second quarter, Isaiah Thomas made the steal when DeMar DeRozan lost the ball on a drive, and Thomas was off to the races. Trying to prevent a lay-up, Carroll decided to foul Thomas far from the basket, but did so with a forearm shove that sent Thomas sprawling on the ground.