LeBron James Dwyane Wade

Miami’s one hot stretch dooms Philadelphia to loss at home


It’s not the 43 minutes of good play, it’s the five minutes when Miami goes on a run that makes it so hard to beat them.

Philadelphia is a seriously good team. At home Friday night they played a close game with last year’s Eastern Conference champions for three quarters. The defense, the ball movement, the balance that makes the Sixers a legitimate Atlantic Division favorite was on display.

But when Miami is at their best — even for a stretch — nobody can hang with them, and when the hurricane is over it’s hard to catch up. Miami went on a 15-0 fourth quarter run to pull away from Philly and win going away 99-79 on Friday night.

It doesn’t diminish how good Philly is — their win over Chicago Wednesday showed how serious a threat they can be.

But when the Heat are executing, they are on another level. And in this game, particularly in the fourth quarter, they did execute. This is not last year’s Heat where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took turns watching each other. There was a great play in the second quarter where Wade was in the post, Shane Battier fed him the ball and cut baseline and got the ball back on a handoff — and Philly sniffed it out and shut it down. Then LeBron James comes cutting down the lane hard from the weakside wing, Battier makes the pass and it’s a huge dunk. With Miami’s athletes, that is almost impossible to defend.

Miami’s 15-0 run in the fourth quarter came with a rarely-used this season lineup on the floor that was their best playoff lineup last year — James, Wade, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. Dwyane Wade had nine fourth quarter points on his way to 26 for the game (Miller had 10 in the fourth, LeBron had 19 for the game).

Expect to see more of that lineup, especially when the games matter more. That is a lineup that on offense can shoot from the outside or slash in the lane, one that on defense can switch everything, is gritty and athletic.

The Sixers couldn’t match it. Not sure any team can when they hit their shots.

Miami has not played like this consistently all season. But this is what makes them so tough — you can do everything right for 40 minutes, then in five minutes it all goes away so fast you don’t realize what hit you. And suddenly the game is all but over.

It doesn’t mean the Heat cannot be beat come the playoffs. This is just a perfect illustration of why that will be so very hard to do.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.