Is Dwyane Wade just having a slow start or is this something bigger?

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The Miami Heat did not lose to the New York Knicks solely because Dwyane Wade had a 3-of-13 off night shooting. They lost because the Knicks are playing well and the Heat’s defense is not.

But Wade certainly didn’t help.

And we’ve seen a lot more of this Dwyane Wade this season. The one that looks a little off, a little slow. If you’ve watched a lot of Heat basketball you don’t need an avalanche of statistics to tell you that Wade is not himself — he is scoring 19.4 points per game, lowest since his rookie year, his shooting percentage of 47.3 is the lowest since 2008 for him, he is shooting 25 percent from three (and he missed some open ones against the Knicks) plus Hoopdata shows he is shooting just 31.1 percent on shots from between 3 and 15 feet out (and taking 4.5 shots a game in that range). His PER of 20.4 is the lowest since his rookie year.

A look through Synergy Sports shows Wade shooting just 30.8 percent in isolation sets and 34.6 percent when he posts somebody up. Those account for 30 percent of his shot attempts.

Isolation and post up spots are where it’s Wade using his superior athleticism to get his shot. Except it hasn’t looked that superior this season. You saw it against the Knicks when he got his good looks with step backs as people feared him on the drive, but when he did drive the lane he couldn’t elevate to get clean looks.

Wade has not been bad this season — he’s had great games, including dropping 34 on the Nets — but he hasn’t been his old self. And the
Heat need that old Wade at both ends of the floor come April and beyond.

Which begs the question — is this a temporary thing or is it something bigger picture?

Wade is coming off knee surgery this summer and that certainly is part of the issue. It takes a while for people to fully recover, which seems to be the case here.

But Charles Barkley said on TNT he thought it something more, the decline of Wade with age. Wade certainly has been a player who threw his body around throughout his career.

“He’s starting to lose his athletic ability,” Barkley said of Wade, who will turn 31 in a month. “He’s not the same guy. I got a better look at him in person. He doesn’t explode anymore and he’s shooting a lot of fade-away jumpers.”

He’s right. After re-watching every Wade shot of the last couple weeks he is living and dying by the step back, but teams are going to catch on at some point and force him to drive. Force him to use the athleticism they all once feared.

We’ll have to see if he can make teams pay for that.

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!

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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