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.

Watch Kobe Bryant’s ‘Dear Basketball’ short film (video)

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Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in a letter called “Dear Basketball,” which was made into a short film.

Now, on the day the Lakers retire his Nos. 8 and 24, you can watch it. It’s quite beautiful:

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

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So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

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The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.

George Hill nails half-court buzzer-beater with less than a second to shoot (video)

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I bet this made George Hill happier.

The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.