Will the Heat run more next season?

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The Heat Index’s Tom Haberstroh has an interesting article up today wondering whether we’ll see the Miami Heat get out in transition more next season:

Over the weekend, Pat Riley lent us a peek into his offseason game plan. Would Erik Spoelstra and the Heat make it a priority to speed things up next season?

“That’s going to be up to Erik and I think he will try to generate more of a running game next year than we had this year,” Riley said. “We do want to get some quick players.”

Generating a running game seems pretty simple, right? Acquire some super athletic players, tell them to fly all over the court, cause some turnovers, and fast breaks will become the norm. Boom, you have a running game!

If only it were that easy.

When we imagined the Heat in their embryonic stages, we saw fireworks. Not just because of the pyrotechnics at the preseason celebration, but because they featured James and Wade, two guys who terrify opponents in the open court. They’re fast. They’re strong. They’re relentless.

But in reality, the Heat were more like lightning bugs last season, buzzing around slowly and electrifying the stage only once in a while. The Heat posted the 21st slowest pace factor in the NBA in 2010-11, averaging 93.2 possessions per 48 minutes…

…Of course, you don’t want to start taking shots early in the shot clock just for the sake of it. But on the other hand, you also don’t want to force shots with time running out, which is what the Heat resorted to doing all too often last season. With that kind of offensive firepower, the Heat should be able to find a happy medium.

There’s another way to generate shots earlier in the shot clock: jump out in transition. Thanks to the forces of James and Wade, the Heat were the best transition team in the league, if we’re measuring by the barometer of points per play. Synergy Sports tells us that the Heat scored 122.3 points per 100 transition plays last season, which led the NBA.

No other team came close.

But here’s the thing: Despite being nearly unstoppable in transition, the Heat didn’t get out in transition all that much.

Haberstroh goes on to talk about how the Heat didn’t cause many of the turnovers that would allow them to get easy transition opportunities: despite finishing 5th in defensive efficiency during the regular season, the Heat ranked 26th in opponent turnover rate. The Heat’s defensive system isn’t built around gambling, but they could use more players who can force opponents into making mistakes, especially at the point guard spot:

Teams primarily get their steals from their point guards. By drafting point guard Norris Cole in the first round in this year’s draft, the Heat are banking on athleticism at the 1, rather than stacking up on experience like they did with Arroyo and Bibby. As a senior last year for Cleveland State, Cole led the Horizon League in steals and won the conference’s defensive player of the year award. For perspective, Cole averaged 2.2 steals per game last season and Bibby tallied at least two steals in a game just six times in his 42-game stint in a Heat uniform.

If the Heat can bring back Mario Chalmers, who was one of the top turnover-inducing guards last season, they should have a much more athletic and potent defensive attack at the point guard position. More turnovers mean more transition opportunities. And more transition opportunities means a higher-octane Heat squad.

Despite not having Mike Miller effective or Udonis Haslem active for most of last season, the fact that the Heat didn’t get out in transition much, and the fact that James, Wade, and Bosh still don’t seem to have achieved perfect offensive synergy yet, the Heat still finished 3rd in the league in offensive efficiency in 2010-11, won the Eastern Conference Championship, and could have won the NBA Finals if their best player didn’t melt down in the fourth quarter of Game 2 and the entirety of Game 4.

If the Heat can play a little bit faster and a bit cleaner offensively and look like the juggernaut everyone expected them to look like last season, they could find themselves right back in The Finals next year — the question, of course, is whether they’ll be able to seal the deal when they get there.

Kawhi Leonard scores 25 as Spurs dismantle ailing Cavaliers, 103-74

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the ailing Cleveland Cavaliers 103-74 on Monday night in a showdown that turned into a major letdown for the defending NBA champions.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol added 14 points apiece for the Spurs, who won their fifth straight.

Cleveland (47-26) dropped its second in a row, set a season low for points and fell a half-game behind Boston (48-26) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Cavaliers star LeBron James was injured late in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the base of his neck. He remained on the bench for a while receiving medical attention, then headed toward the locker room and didn’t return to the game.

His status was not immediately known.

Cleveland has been out of sync recently, losing three of five, and those struggles only got worse against San Antonio. The Spurs led by as many as 33 points to the delight of the sold-out crowd.

San Antonio (57-16) is two games behind Golden State (59-14) for the league’s best record entering a home showdown with the Warriors on Wednesday.

Cleveland opted to play its stars rather than sit them for rest, but the trio of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat out the fourth quarter of its second rout in the past two weeks.

James exited with 25 seconds remaining in the third after taking an elbow to his neck from David Lee on a rebound. James continually rubbed the area before collapsing after he crossed midcourt and remained on the floor for about a minute before walking unassisted to the bench. He left for the locker room early in the fourth quarter during a timeout.

James finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes.

The Spurs held the Cavaliers scoreless for three minutes after San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was issued a technical foul during a timeout with 6:38 remaining in the first half.

Leonard hit a right-handed runner as the second quarter closed to give the Spurs a 64-40 lead.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland completed its schedule against the West, finishing 16-14. In addition to losing to the Spurs by 29 points, the Cavaliers lost by 35 to Golden State and 30 to the Los Angeles Clippers. . Cleveland F Kyle Korver missed his third straight game with a sore left foot, and the team plans to sit him for several games to see if rest and treatment helps. Korver will sit out Thursday in Chicago and Friday at home against Philadelphia before being re-evaluated, a team spokesman said. The shooting specialist missed seven games earlier this month with an inflamed tendon in his foot. . G Iman Shumpert missed his second consecutive game with a sore right knee. . James needs 24 points to pass Shaquille O’Neal for seventh overall in career scoring. O’Neal has 28,596 career points. . The Cavaliers averaged 116.3 points in their previous four games.

Spurs: San Antonio is holding its opponents to an average of less than 100 points for the 22nd straight season. . Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots. . Leonard has scored in double figures in 100 straight games.

 

Russell Westbrook dominates final minutes, hits game winner for Thunder (VIDEO)

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This game looked over. The Dallas Mavericks were up 13 with 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Oklahoma City Thunder were going to take the loss.

Then Russell Westbrook happened.

He scored 12 points in a 14-0 Thunder run to close out the game, then capped it off hitting the game winner for the Thunder (video above). For the game-winner, the Thunder almost went 1-4 flat and just let Westbrook work in isolation on his defender, a smart play when you have a guy this talented.

It was the kind of game that the Westbrook for MVP crowd will point to — he had 37 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, and he absolutely dominated the final minutes of the game (he shot 5-of-9 down the stretch).

This was Westbrook’s 37th triple-double of the season, and the Thunder are 30-7 when he does reaches that mark. Westbrook takes heat in some quarters for “empty stats” or trying to pad his numbers, but the fact is the Thunder are 11-24 when he doesn’t put up the huge numbers and carry the offense. If you’re going to define “MVP” by value to his team, it’s hard not to choose Westbrook this season, this team is toast without him.

Paul Millsap out at least three more games with knee issue, Hawks 0-8 without him

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The Atlanta Hawks have come apart at the worst time. They have lost seven in a row and have fallen from comfortably in the playoffs to tied for the 5-6-7 seed in the East, just 2.5 games out of falling out of the playoffs altogether.

It has all happened with Paul Millsap out, and that is going to continue for about a week more the team announced Monday.

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap has been diagnosed with left knee synovitis and has undergone a non-surgical procedure at Emory (Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta). He will be listed as out for the next three games and his status will be updated as appropriate.

Synovitis is when the synovial membrane — which encases joints and helps lubricate them with synovial fluid — becomes inflamed. It’s usually a sign of another issue causing the inflammation.

The Hawks problem is they are 0-8 this season when Millsap is out.

It still feels unlikely Atlanta will fall all the way out of the playoffs (they have a slightly easier schedule than everyone they’re competing against for the slot), but they are more likely than Indiana or Milwaukee to slip. Also, the odds of them finishing with the seven or eight seed seem high, and that likely means a quick one-and-done visit to the postseason.

After that would come some real questions in Atlanta about how much they want to pay Millsap to keep him as a free agent (it’s going to have to be near max money and for five years, or he will look hard at his other options).

Reports: Kings’ owner reaches out to Sam Hinkie; team quickly denies any interest

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Sacramento Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive’s handling of his team makes President Donald Trump look patient and measured. It’s been less than two seasons since Vlade Divac was handed the reins of the Sacramento Kings, and apparently, that means the Kings are overdue for a change.

Ranadive is getting pressure to make a change because the Kings are seen around the league as a poorly run front office (that other teams try to take advantage of), and as part of that process he is reaching out to former Sixers’ GM Sam Hinkie, according to multiple reports. Yes, the controversial man behind “the process.” Zach Lowe and Marc Stein of ESPN have broken the story.

The Sacramento Kings have expressed exploratory interest in former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, according to league sources.

‎Sources told ESPN.com that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive sought and received permission directly from Sixers counterpart Josh Harris to speak with Hinkie.

Sources say Hinkie has long intrigued Ranadive, whose franchise has been thrust into a rebuilding mode not unlike Philadelphia’s status under Hinkie in the wake of trading DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports adds these details.

The Kings quickly came out and denied the story.

After the denials they would trade DeMarcus Cousins and all the misdirection around the hiring of George Karl, it’s tough to take the Kings fully at face value here.

Hinkie is currently under a non-compete clause as part of his buyout agreement with the Sixers. He can take a job starting this summer.

We’ve got questions.

Question No. 1: If it is available, does Hinkie really want this job? Wojnarowski says he may not be interested. If he’s being brought in to rebuild the Kings from the ground up, that is a long process. Any GM, not just Hinkie, is going to need five years (at least) to have the planted seeds start to bear fruit. As mentioned above, Ranadive has been anything but patient. Hinkie may be willing to wait for another situation that seems a better fit.

Question No. 2: Did Ranadive decide “I need to get the guy that ripped me off on that Nik Stauskas trade?”

Question No. 3: Are the Kings serious about sticking with Vlade Divac, or is Hinkie also going to talk to other potential GMs? There would be guys interested, but they’d want a lot of assurances (read: five years guaranteed and a lot of money).

Question No. 4: What other teams have interest in Hinkie? The ESPN report says other teams have reached out, does this include places were we expecting front office changes such as Orlando? Hinkie in a situation where he already had pieces (like Orlando) and was in the next phase of rebuilding could be interesting.

Question No. 5: Did Divac have any idea this was coming? After that Cousins trade he had to know something could be up, but he said fans should give him two years and the team would be in a better spot or he would step down. But did anyone, including Divac, think Ranadive would be that patient?