End of game execution — their best players stepping up in the clutch.
That was the modus operandi Boston’s “big three” of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce for years. They were better than you at both ends when it mattered most. That is why championship banner 17 flies in Boston.
Miami’s “big three” got together this summer for the first time and through the start of the season their end of game execution was ugly. Their execution against the best defenses was ugly. They lost because of it.
That story has flipped.
In the final two games, the Heat big three outscored the Celtics big three 40-9 in the fourth quarter (stat via ESPN’s research team). In Game 5, it was 23-2 Heat big three in the fourth quarter, with the Heat’s trio hitting 8-of-13 to the Celtics’ 1-of-9.
That is why Miami is moving on and Boston is heading home. Not just in the Heat’s 16-0 run to end the game, nor just in LeBron scoring the last 10 by himself. It was evident in athleticism and energy.
When Miami is going well they get their shots inside or they get good look threes. Both are set up off dribble penetration and that’s what the Heat did at the end of Game 5 (stats again via ESPN) — in the final 3:43 they got into the paint for four shots (two dunks). They took three shots from three and hit them all. Those are the efficient shots, it’s taking too many midrange shots that is a team’s undoing (unless that team is the Mavericks).
Boston also only took threes and shots in close in that same time, they just couldn’t hit. That and they had three turnovers. It was a matter of execution under pressure.
The story flipped. This series it was the Heat that owned the end of key games, they won by dealing better with crunch time. Just one of the ways it feels like the torch has been passed from one big three to another.
CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.
Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.
James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.
Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.
Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.
After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”
Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.
Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.
This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.
One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.
LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.
Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.
That lasted about a minute.
LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.
For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.
The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.
With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.
I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.
That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.