NBA Playoffs: Now or never for 76ers in Game 3

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The Philadelphia 76ers are a pretty good team who could pose a threat to some upper echelon Eastern Conference teams in the first round.

Miami is not one of them. The Sixers lack the ability to pound the Heat inside where they are soft. Philly also relies on getting out and running a little, getting some easy points in transition, but Miami is flat out better in transition at both ends. LeBron James lives for chase-down blocks, Dwyane Wade is unstoppable in the open court. But the Heat have generally just slowed the game down and beaten the Sixers in the half court this series. Take away the one thing the Sixers can do well and they have struggled to score consistently.

There are no easy answers for Philly coach Doug Collins. But he needs to find some for Game 3 Thursday night. Or it’s all over. Nobody comes back from being down 3-0. Unless Dave Roberts plays basketball, too.

Philly has done some things that worked. Andre Iguodala has done a good job on Wade, particularly in crunch time. Chris Bosh and LeBron James have had big games, not Wade yet.

What the Sixers need to do is turn LeBron, Bosh and the rest of the Heat into jump shooters. They’re not bad at it, but they are far more effective when they get in close. And the Heat are all too willing to settle for the jumper (as pointed out at The Heat Index). Miami took 24 long two pointers (16 feet out to the arc) in the last game. A ridiculously high number for a team with all the talent to get to the rim they have. The only more ridiculous thing is they shot 54.2 percent on them. That is not sustainable. Force them to shoot jumpers and they will miss.

Look for the Sixers, back at home, to play with a real sense of desperation. If Miami can withstand the onslaught and energy, they still have the matchup advantages to win Game 3. And if that happens, well, Doug Collins can start scheduling player exit interviews.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.