Miami flips the switch to off for Game 3, can they turn it back on?

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Let’s give all due credit to the Boston Celtics — staring in the face of a must win night they brought it like you expect of a veteran, battle-tested team. Kevin Garnett was fantastic in the paint, Rajon Rondo controlled the flow. Their defensive intensity was stepped up. Boston won 101-91.

But this was another one of those nights where the Heat looked like the Cavaliers. There was a whole lot of LeBron James — 34 points and 8 rebounds — and nothing else. The rest of the Heat must have missed the flight.

And so Game 4 becomes a real test for the Heat. They have played these playoffs like a team that thinks it can just flip the switch. So far they have. But it’s a dangerous game because some day the power is not coming back on.

Can Miami get back to being a two-headed monster with Dwyane Wade and LeBron both attacking and aggressive? Because when they do that the role players — Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, et al — find their comfort level as well. Like we saw Mike Miller do in the fourth quarter.

Wade is the real key here — he looked like the guy from before he had his knee drained, the guy from Game 2 of the Pacers series. Wade had no free throws in this game. He didn’t attack and get to the line once. Miami needs the aggressive Wade back.

If he shows up and if the Heat can beat a rejuvenated Celtics in Game 4 there is a lesson to be learned — the Heat can’t do this anymore if they want a ring. Not against a resilient Celtics squad that they have given new hope to; and especially not against the Spurs or the Thunder next round. There the Heat are the underdogs and there is a very small margin for error. They can’t take another night off.

Miami was pretty much terrible all the way around the block from the end of the first quarter on. They got outrun in transition by the old legs of the Celtics. Their defensive rotations fluctuated between slow and nonexistent. They kept switching on picks then the Celtics would expose the mismatch. Rondo came off those picks and there was nobody between him and the basket.

You run off your defense — there are no easy buckets or impressive alley-oops for Miami if they keep taking the ball out of the basket. Meanwhile in Game 3 the Celtics ran a lot, because they were getting stops.

Miami needs to flip the switch back to on for both Wade and their defense it before the next game. Boston is a team with confidence now, they are champions playing with desperation, they will be a tough out.

And Miami had better leave the switch on for the rest of the playoffs because if it gets switched to off for another game — this series or the next — they will find the power is not going to come back on.

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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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:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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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.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.