San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat

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.

Nerlens Noel uses length for ridiculous reverse jam

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Nerlens Noel‘s 7’4″ wingspan can come in handy at times.

Such as when driving on Brook Lopez, and getting forced under the basket, he can just reach around the Nets’ center for the impressive dunk.

Noel finished the game with 18 points, Jahlil Okafor had 22, and the Sixers picked up a win against the Nets 103-98.

Kobe Bryant’s 25 points not enough to upset Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have watched helplessly as Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has tormented them for the better part of the past two decades.

Bryant did so again in his final appearance in San Antonio, but the Spurs were able to enjoy this one.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a throwback performance by Bryant to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 106-102 on Saturday night to remain unbeaten at home.

“I thought it was great,” San Antonio point guard Tony Parker said. “It was a great game, fans were into it. It felt a little bit like the old days in the playoffs, Spurs and the Lakers.”

Kawhi Leonard added 20 points and 13 rebounds to help the Spurs win their 28th straight home game to open the season. The Spurs’ 37th straight home victory dating back to last season was surprisingly difficult.

Bryant had 16 of his 25 points in the third quarter, going 3 for 6 on 3-pointers in guiding the Lakers to an 81-79 lead entering the fourth.

“I watched him growing up,” said Lakers guard and San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson, who finished with 21 points and four assists. “I watched him kill the Spurs.”

San Antonio has trailed for only two minutes in the fourth quarter at home this season, but the Lakers led for all but 23 seconds in the opening seven minutes of the period.

Bryant finished 9 for 28 from the field, but was 7 for 18 in a dynamic second half that electrified a pro-Bryant crowd.

“It’s like watching Michael (Jordan),” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I was just watching. It was great. It was great. We made some mistakes. He took advantage of it. He’s fantastic.”

After rising to drain a 3-pointer with Leonard squarely in his face contesting the attempt, Bryant turned to an injured Tim Duncan on the bench and shrugged his shoulders.

“He was like, `No way,’ and I was like `Dude,’ ” Bryant said. “What could I do? I miss the easy ones and make some B.S. like that. I don’t even know what to tell you. It was Tim’s version of a yell, so it was a strong whisper.”

The Lakers trailed 101-99 lead after trading 3-pointers following Bryant’s improbable shot, but the Spurs’ were able to hold Los Angeles to just three points in the final 2 minutes.

“Missed defensive assignments,” said Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell, who had 12 points. “They executed their offense to perfection. We were young and that’s an excuse I could give you.”

Bryant had a sore right shoulder, but he was not about to miss one last game against his fiercest rivals. He has faced the Spurs 90 times in the regular season and postseason, his most against any opponent.

TIP-INS

Lakers: The Spurs honored Bryant with a 3-minute video. The Spurs’ Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all paid tribute to Bryant’s competitiveness along with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. Bryant walked over to the Spurs’ bench prior to tipoff and hugged Popovich, sharing a few words with San Antonio’s longtime coach.

Spurs: San Antonio’s 12-game lead in the Southwest is the largest ever since the division was formed in 2004-2005. … In addition to Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs were also without Matt Bonner. The reserve forward suffered a left calf strain Friday against Dallas, which was just his 20th game of the season. … Pop star Selena Gomez sat courtside, wearing a Tony Parker jersey.

 

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.