Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat

LeBron, Wade both dominant in Heat’s win over Lakers

26 Comments

There were stretches during Sunday afternoon’s contest between the Heat and the Lakers where L.A. appeared to be coming together, and seemed capable of challenging Miami on its home floor. The Lakers found themselves tied at halftime, and were getting solid performances from multiple players, while taking good shots and limiting their turnovers.

Even if L.A. had been able to sustain that effort through four quarters with a flawless second half, it wouldn’t have been enough to beat the Heat in this one. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each were able to take over the game at times, and combined for 62 points in Miami’s convincing 107-97 win over the Lakers.

James and Wade finished with 32 and 30 points respectively, while each shooting an efficient 12-18 from the field in the process.

Wade was particularly effective in the second and fourth quarter stretches where James was on the bench. In the second, James played just three minutes due to picking up his third foul, while Wade played all 12 minutes and led his team with 10 points in the period. To start the fourth, Wade rattled off nine points while James was getting some rest, helping the Heat build their lead to seven by the time LeBron checked back in.

James has been on a shooting tear lately, and tied an NBA record for most games scoring at least 30 points while shooting better than 60 percent from the field — it was his fifth consecutive game doing so.

The Lakers were able to take advantage of the Heat’s size deficiency up front to a certain extent, with Kobe Bryant doing plenty of his damage inside, and Dwight Howard getting some shots to fall after receiving passes in the post. Bryant finished with 28 points on 10-19 shooting, while Howard ended up with 15 points on a 6-9 shooting effort.

The rebounding advantage that the Lakers should have been able to have against a Miami team which ranks near the bottom of the league in that category wasn’t there, however, due to the habit the Lakers’ bigs have of tracking the ball rather than finding a man to box out when the shot attempt goes up. The Heat were plus-nine on the boards for the game, and the 10 offensive rebounds they secured were double the amount grabbed by L.A.

In addition to Bryant and Howard, Earl Clark continued his strong play with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Metta World Peace continued to struggle offensively with a 3-11 shooting effort, and with the shot selection being questionable at best on close to half of those attempts.

The Lakers were able to stay close by taking care of the ball through three quarters, turning it over just seven times heading into the final period. But running the offense through Bryant in the post for the majority of the fourth quarter, L.A. turned it over eight times in the period, leading to a couple of highlight-reel plays from James as the Heat were able to turn those miscues into easy transition opportunities.

By contrast, Miami had zero turnovers in the fourth, after turning it over 11 times through three quarters.

The Lakers showed improvement on their Grammy road trip, but finished the seven-game stretch with a record of just 4-3. The Heat, meanwhile, improved to 22-3 at home, where there will be plenty more wins piled up before the season is over with Wade and James putting in simultaneously dominant performances like this one.

Mike Conley does not crush Knicks free agent dreams, says everything on table

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) gestures after making a 3-point basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Leave a comment

When you talk about the most underrated players in the NBA, especially with the casual fan, Mike Conley is at the top of the list. The Grizzlies’ point guard has played at an All-Star level for a few seasons now but hasn’t gotten the recognition, in part because it’s Memphis and in part because the West is stacked with quality point guards.

The New York Knicks desperately need an upgrade at the point.

Which has led to the latest fantasy of seemingly every Knick fan (and talking head in the city) — the free agent Conley coming to New York this summer. When asked about it Friday before the Grizzlies and Knicks squared off, Conley didn’t kill the rumors (which in New York is like throwing gasoline on them). Here are his quotes, via Ian Begley of ESPN.

“I think everything will be on the table when that time comes,” Conley said Friday morning after the Grizzlies’ shootaround at Madison Square Garden. “I haven’t committed to anything…

“They’ve got talent, obviously,” he said. “I think [Kristaps] Porzingis surprised a lot of people. He’s going to be very, very good in this league. He already is pretty good. But he’s going to grow each year, and they already have one of the best small forward in Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. They’ve got a young team, so they’ve got a lot of room to improve.”

The smart money is on Conley staying in Memphis, the only NBA team he has ever played for. Conley was very active last summer in recruiting Marc Gasol to remain in Memphis, and has said it would be very difficult to leave him. Plus the Grizzlies can offer more money — one more guaranteed year plus larger raises.

The Knicks will need to lose some salary before July 1 just to offer Conley a max, which likely starts around $24 million (depends on the final salary cap number). What the Knicks can offer is a larger stage for his brand and the chance to bring that brand out of the shade of Gasol and Zach Randolph.

Conley — who is averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists per game, is shooting 35 percent from three, is good on the pick-and-roll, plus is one of the best defensive point guards in the game — will have plenty of other suitors as well. He’s one of the best players on the free agent market this summer.

NBA GM: Warriors ‘leaders in the clubhouse’ for Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, left, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) and Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
1 Comment

Kevin Durant to the Warriors is having a moment, but even the most recent and most credible report linking the Thunder star to Golden State contained an important caveat:

Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said

Nobody has credibly reported Durant is leaning toward leaving the Thunder. The issue at hand is where Durant would go IF he leaves Oklahoma City.

Except one NBA general manager has gone a step further.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

General managers know a lot of things we don’t, but like anyone, they can also be prone to repeating gossip and hearsay. Does this general manager have inside info, or is he just participating the echo chamber? Impossible to say, but the possibility of the former raises the level of intrigue.

Of course, the Warriors can’t be the leaders in the clubhouse, because they’re not in the clubhouse. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Nobody has made their final pitch, not even the Thunder.

It’s fun to make bold predictions now, and this general manager has a chance of looking genius. But sometimes the desire for that designation causes people to get ahead of themselves.

Report: Clippers quickly rebuffed interest after Nuggets called about Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) gets tied up near the basket by Denver Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 110-103. (Michael Goulding/The Orange County Register via AP)   MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT
Leave a comment

Here was my gut feel on a report that the Clippers had talked to the Nuggets about trading Blake Griffin to Denver:

1. Nuggets calling Clippers about Griffin

2. Clippers saying they’re not interested

3. Nuggets leaking the fact that Griffin trade talks happened with the Clippers – technically true! – to excite their fan base and potential free agents considering whether or not to take Denver seriously

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:

https://twitter.com/DanWoikeSports/status/695691007053070336

Woike is the more reliable source of information here. I believe that’s all this was.

The Clippers probably shouldn’t sell low on Griffin now. But if the Nuggets made a truly reasonable offer based on Griffin’s peak value – and I doubt they did – it also wouldn’t hurt to consider it.

LeBron James wants to leave Hack-a-Shaq rules as they are

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
5 Comments

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he increasingly believes the league should change its Hack-a-Shaq rules this offseason.

LeBron James – who has the commissioner’s ear on a number of issues – disagreed.

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“I don’t really see a problem with it,” James said at shootaround Friday in preparation for the Celtics. “At the end of the day, it’s a strategy of the game and whatever it takes to win. If that’s a part of the game, and you have a guy that is a bad free-throw shooter and you put him on the line, that’s a part of strategy.”

“That’s no different from a guy that can’t shoot well from the outside and you try to make him shoot bad from outside, or if a guy is turnover-prone and you put pressure on him. It’s all part of strategy. It’s no different,” he said.

There is a difference – a big one.

Hacking someone takes no basketball skill.

I could intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond. I could not keep a bad NBA outside shooter from getting into the paint. I could not force a turnover-prone NBA player into coughing up the ball.

There’s nothing wrong with exploiting an opponent’s weakness, but with the exception of hacking, that takes ability of your own.

Hacking is an outlier strategy, and as a result, it deserves special treatment in the rulebook.