Miami Heat LeBron James drives against Golden State Warriors David Lee during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Oakland

The Heat clamp down on defense, demolish the Warriors

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On a night where Stephen Curry was forced to sit out due to an injured ankle, the Heat came out aggressive on both sides of the ball and blitzed the Warriors 92-75. The score, though, doesn’t really do the domination that occurred in this game justice.

The Heat came out early and decided to set the tone that their defense was going to carry the day. By pressuring the ball up high and then rotating on the perimeter and protecting the rim, the Heat forced 7 turnovers in the first quarter.

Furthermore, by contesting every shot and generally making the Warriors feel uncomfortable on every possession, the Heat were able to turn missed shots into fast break chances and easy baskets.

As the game went on, the the Heat only tightened the screws further.

By halftime they were up by 14, using more pressure defense and shot making by Mario Chalmers (15 points, 4-7 from behind the arc) to create separation. Dwyane Wade would chip in as well, scoring 13 of his 15 points in the first half with baskets that ranged from mid-range jumpers to dunks at the rim. And while  Jarrett Jack (16 points) tried valiantly to keep the Warriors in the game, he wasn’t enough to off-set the defensive pressure the Heat were applying nor the resulting easy baskets that pressure created.

In the third quarter, things only got worse for the Curry-less Warriors. They came out of half even more listless, not scoring a basket for the first 4 minutes of the 3rd period. More misses only fueled more Heat offense and the downward spiral continued. By the end of the quarter the Warriors only scored 12 points and were down by 30 points.

The game was essentially over.

But while the game was over, this recap isn’t. And that’s because I’d be remiss without talking about the brilliance that was LeBron James. It was James that set the tone for the Miami defense. It was James that got out in the open court and score easy baskets. And it was James that dished out assists to his teammates both in the open court and in running Miami’s half court sets when the game slowed down.

All in all, LeBron scored 25 points and handed out 10 assists on the night and made it look easy in the process. Maybe it was revenge for the Warriors beating the Heat in Miami earlier this year. Or maybe he remembered rookie Draymond Green trash talking him en route to that loss. LeBron surely doesn’t like being trash talked.

Or maybe it was the fact that LeBron had milestones to reach and he wanted the night he achieved them to be in a memorable performance.

Yes, if kicking the Warriors’ butts wasn’t enough, LeBron also racked up his 20,000th point and 5,000th assist in this game. Needing 19 points and 2 dimes to do the deed, LeBron tallied those numbers in the first half and made it look easy in the process. LeBron became the youngest player to reach 20K points and the fastest non-guard to hit the 5K assist mark.

Maybe that’s why he’s the best player in the game.

In any event, the Heat, at least for one night looked to escape their recent funk and resemble the team that claimed the championship last June. Their defense was inspired and their offense produced countless easy baskets while running a pretty good Warriors team into the ground.

And while tomorrow night the Lakers wait for them in Los Angeles, tonight was only about the Heat. And, of course, LeBron James and his night of milestones.

Cavaliers sign forward Derrick Williams to second 10-day contract

Cleveland Cavaliers' Derrick Williams, right, drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Rodney Stuckey in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.

The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.

Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.

The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.

Hornets’ Miles Plumlee out at least two weeks with leg injury

Charlotte Hornets' Miles Plumlee (18) dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.

They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.

So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.

And now he’ll add even less.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.

Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.