Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade

Winderman: When bad teams tank, good teams get rest

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This is where the lockout grinder of a schedule has delivered us. Picking and choosing. With opponents. And with players.

Wednesday night, when the Miami Heat host a very awful Toronto Raptors team, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be given the night off as part of coach Erik Spoelstra’s late-season “maintenance” program. No particular need to even define injuries at this stage.

Similarly, when the Chicago Bulls play at the historically bad Charlotte Bobcats, don’t expect to see Derrick Rose or Luol Deng.

To a degree, this may be nothing more than a case of rosters-by-TNT, with the cable network televising Thursday’s Heat-Bulls game.

And, yes, that is a game that still has meaning. Should the Heat win out (a possibility with a post-Bulls schedule that includes the Wizards twice, as well as the Rockets and Celtics) then one more Bulls loss (perhaps April 25 in the Pacers’ home finale) still could give the Heat the No. 1 seed in the East.

Stars on hiatus, of course, is nothing new in these closing weeks. Just ask Lakers assistant coach Kobe Bryant.

But part of it also is how awful the bottom of the league stands. This is not a case of tanking this season, this is epic tanking, tanking that practically deserves league intervention.

If the Raptors, Bobcats and other bottom-feeders weren’t so indifferent at this stage, then teams still with seeding at stake might actually have to play the players fans come out to see.

The solution would seem simple enough: David Stern should start swiping ping-pong balls, taking back some of those lottery combinations from teams that simply have quit on his sport.

That, of course, won’t be the case.

So instead we get games like Wednesday’s Bulls-Bobcats and Heat-Raptors, opening acts in advance of Thursday’s Heat-Bulls that are like an accordion player coming out to warm up the crowd for Springsteen.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: