Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One

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


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.

Kristaps Porzingis grew up a Kobe fan. Still is one.


When you hear player comparisons for Knicks rookie, the most common is Dirk Nowitzki — a European big with ridiculous shooting range and potential to embarrass anyone.

So did he grow up idolizing Dirk? Not so much.

Rather, like many of his generation, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, he told Mike Francesa of WFAN.

“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”

There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.

In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.

There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.

(Hat tip NBA reddit)

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton

If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.

Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards

Paul George, Marcus Morris
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.

Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

Hassan Whiteside

Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.