NBA finals Game 2, Heat-Thunder: We expect a better Miami, is that enough?

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Every time they have really been challenged these playoffs, the Miami Heat have been able to summon enough focus and resolve to get the wins they need. Down 2-1 to the Pacers, they rallied. Down 3-2 to the Celtics, they rallied.

Down 1-0 to the Oklahoma city Thunder in the NBA finals, you can bet the Heat will show some resolve with a better effort in Game 2.

The question is, will that be enough this time?

For the first time in the playoffs, the Heat have ran into a team where they are not more athletic, not faster, not just physically superior. The Thunder are their equal, and the Thunder are much deeper. Oklahoma City played the Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden, just more than four minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 1 because Thabo Sefolosha was playing too well to take him out. That’s depth.

We know what Miami needs to do to get back in this.

For one, no coasting. Particularly on defense. This goes back to them summoning resolve — Miami has up to now been able to get by playing 24 minutes of really great basketball, they can do that no longer. There must be sustained execution at both ends of the floor. No stagnant offense that results in a LeBron James long two. No miscommunications on defensive rotations that allow guys to waltz to the rim.

Miami needs much more out of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For Wade that is particularly on the defensive end, where he cannot just get torched by Russell Westbrook again. In Game 1 Westbrook blew by him like Wade was a pylon. The Heat do not have Tyson Chandler back there to wipe out their perimeter defensive mistakes, they need to play better defense on the wings. And much better in transition.

Bosh will start and the Heat should try to establish him a little on the block early.

LeBron needs to be exceptional. Not good, but both an offensive force and a guy who gets physical with Kevin Durant and forces him into a pedestrian shooting night. Durant can’t get 36 and be efficient in the fourth quarter if the Heat want to win. Doesn’t matter how tired LeBron gets, he has to power through it. Anything less than exceptional and the Heat will struggle.

And Miami needs something from their bench. LeBron can do a lot but only so much. Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers can’t just be hot for a half then disappear, they need to play 48 minutes.

And all that may not be enough.

Oklahoma City can play better defense as a team. Sefolosha will be draped all over Wade and Serge Ibaka will be in the lane waiting for LeBron to drive. Another big game from Nick Collison would be huge.

And you know James Harden isn’t just scoring five points in Game 2. His beard will get five from the free throw line alone.

Game 2 will give us a better idea of where this series really stands. It’s closer than the second half of Game 1 showed.

But it still may not be close enough for the Heat. Not in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder players are so, so comfortable.

Elfrid Payton slams chasedown block on LeBron James (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is usually the guy handing out chasedown blocks. He’s famous for them, and has carted out his signature move in the biggest moments of his career.

He’s also not used to having his own shots blocked from behind, and certainly not by opposing point guards.

Enter Elfrid Payton.

During a play halfway through the first quarter against the Orlando Magic on Thursday, LeBron was on a drive to the hole with Elfrid trailing far behind.

Thanks to a pinch by two Magic defenders, LeBron had to try and use brute force a bit deeper in the paint than he wanted to.

That allowed Payton — running at full speed — to catch up and pin The King on the glass.

Cleveland still got the best of the Magic, as Isaiah Thomas hit a clutch free throw to win the game with 11 seconds left, 104-103.

All-Star Joel Embiid doesn’t need Rihanna: “On to the next one”

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For about as long as we can remember, Joel Embiid has famously thirsted after Rihanna on Twitter. Fans have tried to boost his standing with the singer, but it apparently that has not been enough.

In 2014, Embiid mentioned on social media that a “famous girl” — presumably Rihanna — told him to “Come back when you’re an All-Star.”

Well, today is that day.

Embiid is a starter out of the Eastern Conference, and on Thursday night he had his chance to speak to Rihanna (or whomever) via national TV on TNT.

Did Embiid decide to reach out to this famous person? Apparently he’s off it.

Via Twitter:

This is like that scene from Private Parts when Howard Stern hits No. 1 and he tells Paul Giamatti’s character to get lost.

Embiid had the chance to curve Rihanna (or whomever) and took it. Long live The Process.

Here are the weirdest NBA All-Star voting results for 2018

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NBA All-Star voting is over, and now we have the results. The starters are in, and what’s left is for us to wait until they announce the teams after they are picked in double secret ceremony.

Of course, the NBA did release the full voting results via their PR website this week, and as such there are some head scratchers. My boy Patrick Redford over at Deadspin did an excellent job rounding up some of the players who got exactly one (1) vote from other players.

The gag here is that these guys presumably voted for themselves.

Of course, what I found most interesting was actually the guys who got multiple votes from their compatriots without being All-Star caliber players.

My favorite list of player-voted non-All-Stars includes: Michael Beasley (4), Gordon Hayward (2), Boban Marjanovic (2), Jahlil Okafor (4), Quincy Acy (2), Tyler Zeller (4), T.J. McConnell (2), Elfrid Payton (2), Zaza Pachulia (3), Taj Gibson (6), Zach Randolph (5), Maurice Harkless (2), Deyonta Davis (3), Lonzo Ball (9), Mike Conley (3).

There’s a whole smattering of guys in there who either didn’t play enough, aren’t stars, are injured, or who aren’t very good.

That multiple players took time to vote for these guys really speaks to the frivolity of the NBA All-Star Game. At least outside of player contract incentives.

Bring on February!

LeBron James throws behind-the-back, nutmeg pass for assist (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is one of the best passers the NBA has ever seen, but even this is too hard to believe.

During Thursday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron through a ridiculous behind-the-back pass that nutmegged Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

The result of the play was a bucket for Dwyane Wade.

Via Twitter:

I mean, that’s just … insane.