Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat

Heat without Wade: Less slashing, more shooting


Against Milwaukee on Sunday, the Heat role players shot the ball like, well, the Heat role players from last season. Take LeBron James and Chris Bosh out of the equation and the Heat shot 25.7 percent for the game, and were just 2-of-9 from three.

That stood out because it had not been the case for the six games prior — which is why the Heat have looked good without Dwyane Wade.

It is not that the Heat are better or more dangerous without Wade — Erik Spoelstra put it well calling that discussion the “theater of the absurd” — but they have a newfound depth that allows better floor spacing and had been better at shooting (until Sunday). Rather than two guys who are best at slashing, they roll out a lineup that has a combination James Jones, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Mike Miller. Their roster is filled with better shooters this season, something James often lacked in Cleveland.

That is why they started 6-0 without him. Look at this quote from Philadelphia coach Doug Collins, via ESPN’s Heat Index.

“They are a different team without Dwyane,” Sixers coach Doug Collins said. “They space the floor a little bit more and they use the 3-ball a little bit more.”

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explains the lineup situation while Wade is out well.

Instead of having two slashers who like to create their own shot but aren’t great shooters, the Heat now generally have multiple shooting specialists on the court next to James and Bosh. It is never easy to defend James or Wade when they are on the attack, but it is challenging to have them attack at the same time. But shooters have to be guarded or you’ll often pay the price…

Wade’s latest injury has coincided with the return of Mike Miller from his own injury, which has allowed Spoelstra to play Miller, Shane Battier and James Jones all at once.

When Wade returns that lineup will have to shift. But look for Spoelstra to go to this shooter-heavy lineup for stretches when Wade and LeBron rest. It works.

The Heat are not better without Wade — their pressure and up-tempo attack had then with the most efficient offense in the NBA before Wade went down. Having Wade, Bosh and James brings a diversity to their attack that is very difficult to defend.

But what they have found with him out is another, different way to score. Which is going to make them better come this spring.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell

After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.