Heat exorcise some demons in win over Celtics

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Let’s get this out of the way for the Boston faithful. The season series? Already went to the Celtics 3-0. The Celtics still have a good shot at the second seed and homecourt advantage in the second round. It was a mid-April game in the last week of the regular season for a Boston team that notoriously does not care, and cannot be bothered by the regular season. There is every reason to wince at the sting here and move on, confident that the Celtics will put in a performance like they did against the East last year, blowing past everyone once the second season started. One game, in the regular season, means very little.

But man, 100-77? Anyone who says they saw that coming is lying.

The Heat took it to the Celtics’ front door on Sunday, and the result has to at least carry an ounce of doubt into Boston’s heart of hearts. Everything that could go wrong for the Celtics, did. Everything that could go right for the Heat, did. Rajon Rondo, who blistered the Heat in the first three meetings had 5 assists and 3 turnovers, and shot just 3-8. Dwyane Wade, who was plagued by disoriented, terrible play in the first three meetings, had a huge impact, driving, kicking and playing tremendous defense.

The result is even more mind boggling for Boston since they started so strongly. The first six minutes of the game were a continuation of what we’d seen from the Heat and Celtics in October. Crisp, clean ball movement from Boston. Sloppy, slow, isolated play from Miami. Then suddenly, the Heat started clawing, and worked their way into a small lead. The third quarter was all Miami. The game? The game was all LeBron’s.

27 points on 19 shots, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and a block for James, who for once used his aggression at the rim to create opportunities for his jumper instead of the other way around. The real turning point of the game? When Jermaine O’Neal decided to send a message, and wound up waking up the Heat.

That started a run of chippy play in which the Heat were the aggressor. Chris Bosh picked up a technical for arguing a call on a scramble, and then turned that, no joke, into some seriously tough play. Bosh had a huge block in the third, and then a crucial and-one to stop a Celtics run in the fourth. Instead of pulling up for the fadeaway J, Bosh went right at the rim, absorbed the contact and finished.

But if you want to get past all this and into what really killed the Celtics, after James? The Celtics nabbed 10% of all available offensive rebounds, just 3 of them. 3. The Heat? They grabbed 40% of all available misses on offense, for 15 extra possessions.

No one wants to say Kendrick Perkins’ name here. But it’s unavoidable. The Celtics were a terrible team on the offensive glass even with Perkins. But they weren’t this bad, and at least they could prevent the other team from getting that many. The key with offensive rebounds isn’t getting your own, it’s preventing the other team from getting them. Makes it that much harder to defend, that much harder to keep your defense set, that much harder to maintain position. Perkins may not have nabbed any himself, but he would have helped to keep Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony from getting nine total.

The Celtics can dismiss this. They’ve earned the right after turning on the afterburners and blazing past the East last year in the playoffs after a terrible end to their regular season that went on for months. But there’s no way to stop the concerns being spoken in Boston about this team after the trade. They don’t seem like the Celtics of old, in attitude or execution. No one’s counting them out. But even in a single loss in the season series they’ve already won, this game brings with it even more erasers being taken out for the Celtics’ penciled spot in the Finals.

Some notes:

  • Jeff Green was put on LeBron James for a stretch in the 3rd and 4th quarters, as he was brought on in part to match up with LeBron. That did not work out well. And when I say that, I mean it in the same way that I say “going swimming did not work out well for that girl in the beginning of “Jaws.”
  • Glen Davis is in a bad, bad place right now. And instead of getting back to what he does best, attacking the glass, getting easy and sometimes overly difficult ridiculous shots underneath, drawing fouls, he’s operating space, relying on his jumper, trying to replicate Kevin Garnett’s pick and pop range abilities. Davis was 3-11 Sunday. Glen Davis took more shots than Ray Allen.
  • Speaking of Allen, Wade did a phenomenal job closing out on him on three-pointers. Instead of giving up as he had in the first three meetings, he committed to running Allen off. The result was Allen going 4-9 for just 13 points. Containment.
  • Joel Anthony had the game of his life Sunday with 7 points and 10 boards, including a nice dunk off a LeBron drive, spin and dish off. He played aggressively on defense, disrupted passing lanes, and played with energy. If the Heat are going to get role players to step up in the playoffs, Anthony playing well would be a huge boon.
  • Mike Miller sprained his thumb in the first half, and did not return.
  • Juwan Howard hit a shot. That’s how bad things got.

Three Things to Know: Angry Russell Westbrook sparks Thunder against Warriors

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. As a matter of housekeeping, this will be the last Three Things of this week, as we take a holiday break. Happy Thanksgiving!

1) Angry Russell Westbrook sparks Thunder we’ve been waiting for. Don’t make Russell Westbrook angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Unless you’re a Thunder fan, then you’ll love him. Westbrook came out with an edge we haven’t seen from him this season as he has tried to play nice and integrate Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Not Wednesday night. Wednesday night Kevin Durant and his Warriors came to town, and Westbrook was not taking it from anyone.

That sparked the Thunder team we have been waiting for all season. Westbrook finished with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and he was joined by Anthony with 22 points, and George with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 steals. The Thunder used a 22-10 first-quarter run to take the lead and never looked back, leading by 26 at one point and going on to win 108-91. This was by far the best the Thunder have looked all season as they have stumbled to a 7-9 start before Wednesday. Maybe this game was the spark they needed to start playing well at the end of games — they closed out well against Golden State. Maybe this was what the Thunder needed to find themselves and become the playoff threat to the Warriors we expected.

As for the Warriors… ¯_(ツ)_/¯. We haven’t said this about them this season (only the Cavaliers), but they looked disinterested much of the night (outside of Durant). Give credit to the Thunder, physical and aggressive defenses that can overplay the Warriors (and recover) give them trouble, and OKC did that. The Warriors just didn’t care to counter. They looked like a team coasting through a road trip (2-2 in their last 4), and when they ran into a quality, motivated team they didn’t have the gear. That doesn’t mean anything long-term, but it means they may be vulnerable during the season until they find their edge again. Whenever they flip the switch.

2) Miami ends Boston’s win streak at 16. For a couple of weeks now the Celtics had been living dangerously — they had to come back from double-digits to win four of their last five games heading into Wednesday night.

Their luck ran out against the Miami Heat.

Miami raced out to a double-digit first-quarter lead, pushed that lead to 19 and were comfortably ahead most of the game, and we kept waiting for the Boston run. It came in the fourth, a 13-0 push that made it a game again. However, Miami responded with a 5-0 run of their own, Dion Waiters seemed especially motivated to take on Kyrie Irving, and the Heat held on for the 104-98 win. Goran Dragic had 27 points, Waiters 26 and 6 assists.

Boston’s streak was bound to end, but they established themselves as a strong defensive team during that run, and the squad in the East best poised to knock off LeBron James and the Cavaliers. We’re a long way from the games that matter in that push — the Cavs have won six in a row, and are playing defense again — but we know the pecking order for who gets a shot at the champs. Boston will get their shot, and early on they look like they will be ready.

3) Patrick Beverley is out for the season and the Los Angeles Clippers have some hard questions to answer. For the first four games of the season, we saw the potential of what this Clipper roster could be — four head-turning wins. Then the injuries started to pile up — Milos Teodosic, Danilo Gallinari, and starting point guard Patrick Beverley — and so did the losses. Nine in a row, until they picked up a road win in Atlanta Wednesday.

Now comes a brutal blow — the Clippers have lost point guard Patrick Beverley for the season. He had microfracture surgery on his knee and will be out until next season.

That’s a real blow to the Clippers, and it means they may need to answer some harsh questions. If the losses continue to pile up and this is clearly not a playoff team by the time we get to Christmas — a reality that became a more possible on Wednesday — do they need to trade free agent to be DeAndre Jordan? Other teams are already calling and asking if he is available in a trade, if the Clippers think they can’t resign him this summer (or at least the odds are lower than they like) they have to consider the move. Los Angeles wouldn’t get a lot back for a rental, but they would get something to help the rebuild they need to consider.

The other question: How much longer is Doc Rivers the coach. The sense from many around the league is the reason he wasn’t let go when he was stripped of his GM powers this summer was he is making more than $10 million a year and had a couple of years left on his deal, and that was too much for even Steve Ballmer to just eat. Plus Rivers has shown he can coach. Whether he can coach this team still is a different question entirely. Right now, this team is not responding to him, and the sense around the league is the question is when, not if, he will be let go.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.