NBA Playoffs: Heat crush Sixers, leave no doubt in Game 2

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In Game 1 against the Heat, the Sixers jumped out to a 14-point second-quarter lead, before coming back furiously from a 16-point deficit late in the fourth to have a chance to steal one in Miami.

In Game 2, however, there was no such fight. Philadelphia’s shaky offense came back to the mean, and couldn’t provide nearly enough of a punch to slow Miami, who cruised to a blowout 94-73 victory and took a commanding two games to none lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Sixers did a great job of limiting the Heat offensively to start out, just as they had in Game 1. But this time, there was no explosion from Elton Brand on the block, and despite Miami’s slow start, Philadelphia was even worse — the team made just four of its 20 first-quarter attempts form the field — and couldn’t take advantage.

“At the end of the quarter it was 19-13,” Sixers head coach Doug Collins said afterward, in a press conference that was streamed live on NBA.com. “Our defense had kept us in the game. But at halftime, I figured it up. Over the last several quarters, throw out the first quarter of Game 1, we were 31 of 105. Eventually, you’ve got to make some shots.”

The Sixers struggled in that most fundamental area on Monday, and finished shooting a dismal 34.2 percent from the field for the game. There was nothing easy down low, and the lack of dribble penetration forced the team into long, contested jump shots that no one watching believed would actually fall.

Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams combined to shoot just 6 of 21 from the floor, while Andre Iguodala finished with just five points in 36 minutes. Brand, who had dominated early in Game 1, managed just three points in this one.

As for the Heat, LeBron James bounced back from a sub-par performance to lead all scorers with 29, and Dwyane Wade was aggressive from the start, and logged almost 35 minutes before finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

The series now is firmly in Miami’s control. While Erik Spoelstra emphasized afterward that all his team did was what they were supposed to do, and that the playoffs don’t start until somebody wins on the road, the reality is that the Sixers would have to beat this Heat team four times in the five remaining games of the series to win it.

We all know that isn’t happening, yet Spoelstra claimed afterward that his team had the utmost respect for the Sixers, and that would remain the case heading into Game 3.

“We have to have an incredible sense of urgency in Game 3, and somehow erase this from our mind,” Spoelstra said in his postage press conference. “Philadelphia grabbed our full respect with how they’ve played us in the regular season and after that first game, and we diligently went to work.

“We need to do the same before we go into Game 3, and see if we can start this series by winning on the road. Because nothing has started yet.”

That’s exactly what a head coach in this situation is supposed to say. But after being thoroughly trounced for all but a quarter and a half in this series, it’s doubtful that his opponent is feeling the same way.

Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’

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A story in three parts:

1. After posting 46-15-7-7 in a win over the Lakers, frequently injured 76ers center Joe Embiid declared himself to be 69%:

2. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called that joke “unprofessional:”

3. Embiid upgraded his status to 81% with a “shoutout to Jalen Rose:”

In case you didn’t get the joke.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

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!