Spoelstra calls Chris Bosh Heat’s ‘most important player’

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PHOENIX — On a night when Lebron James was playing through illness and needed to save himself as much as possible, Chris Bosh provided the offensive support Miami needed to take care of business.

Bosh had 16 first-half points, and finished with 24 on 9-of-11 shooting, to go along with nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocked shots. Without that effort, it’s unlikely that Miami would have had the horses to get this win. Both James and Erik Spoelstra were well aware of this afterward, and had nothing but high praise for their team’s most quiet superstar.

“He’s such an impact to our team, so efficient,” James said. “He gets his points so quietly, makes jumpshots, gets to the free throw line, makes things happen for our team and we all feed off of that. And I tried to feed off of that as well.”

Spoelstra took it a step further, after noting it took him two and a half minutes into his postgame press conference before Bosh’s name even came up.

“He is our most important player, and he’s as steady and consistent as he always has been for the last two and a half years,” Spoelstra said. “He makes it look easy and he makes it look quiet, and yet he’s so impactful in the game. He was big under the rim and not just his scoring, but the big plays defensively at the end.”

Bosh said he did come in with more of a mindset to shoulder the offense with Wade out and with James being less than 100 percent.

“We can’t always expect LeBron to be LeBron all the time,” he said. “He’s not just going to be [perfect], whether it’s physically or whether it’s a bad game. It’s just not going to be A+ all the time.

“I just try to make shots, but I don’t do anything differently. The shots were open, my teammates found me, and I was just working out of the mid-range post a little bit, just trying to get some flow going to the game and it worked out.”

The Suns slowed Bosh a little in the second half from a scoring standpoint, but it didn’t change the impact he had on his team’s success. The attention Bosh required from the defense opened things up a little bit on the wings, and James and Mario Chalmers both took advantage of the increased opportunities.

The fact that Bosh plays at an All-Star level, but does so without the ego and the need for the spotlight makes him a perfect fit to play alongside Wade and James. It also makes it easy to see why Spoelstra and James speak so highly of him, and understand just how important he is to the team’s overall success.

“I let the game develop and I let it come to me,” Bosh said. “I don’t just go hunting for anything, if I have post-ups and I get doubled I move off the ball. I don’t like to force bad shots, I like to take high percentage shots. And that’s what makes us so dangerous. We move the ball so much and we play together to put pressure on the defense.”

Joel Embiid upgrades himself from 69% to 81%: ‘Shoutout to Jalen Rose’

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A story in three parts:

1. After posting 46-15-7-7 in a win over the Lakers, frequently injured 76ers center Joe Embiid declared himself to be 69%:

2. ESPN analyst Jalen Rose called that joke “unprofessional:”

3. Embiid upgraded his status to 81% with a “shoutout to Jalen Rose:”

In case you didn’t get the joke.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!