Versatility. It was the key to why Miami was able to defeat Miami.
While the Bulls had offensive and defensive specialists they tried to go with — Taj Gibson or Carlos Boozer? — the Heat could leave their best guys on the floor. And mix and match.
Like have LeBron James guard Derrick Rose with the game on the line. And according to ESPN’s stats and information, it worked really well.
After going 0-for-5 from the floor with a turnover when guarded by LeBron James in Game 4, Derrick Rose struggled against him once again Thursday, going 1-for-10 with two turnovers in Game 5. Rose shot 6.3 percent from the floor in the series when defended by James, lowest among any player that defended him on five or more plays.
Meanwhile at the other end of the floor the Bulls played good defense even though the Heat scored on eight straight possessions late. Think about the shots — Dwyane Wade hitting a contested three (with the foul by Rose), LeBron with a three to tie and another jump shot later.
What was the book on Miami? Make them shoot jump shots, just don’t let LeBron and Wade get to the rim. In the final four minutes Miami had one made shot at the rim, everything else was outside. When they hit the jumpers, there is nothing a defense can do, no matter how good.
The difference was the Bulls needed to score, but Rose could not shake free of LeBron. And the Bulls do not have a second option of a guy who can create his own shot. In essence, what LeBron did to Ruse shut down the entire Bulls offense.
Rose was the MVP because of how he carried that offense all season. But at the biggest moments, the better player shut him down.
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.
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!
Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.
He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.
That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.
In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.
Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.
Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:
Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.
That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.
But he still chases them.
Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.
Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.
Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.
It could be both!
Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.