Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat

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


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.

Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on not guilty verdict: “Justice was served”

Thabo Sefolosha
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Friday morning, a New York jury found Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha not guilty of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. The charges stemmed from the night in the final weeks of last season when Sefolosha and then teammate Pero Antic went to a New York club after arriving in town, and while there Pacers’ player Chris Copeland was stabbed outside the club. In his clash with police, Sefolosha suffered a broken leg that required surgery and kept him out of the playoffs.

The New York prosecutor tried to make this go away with a plea deal of just day of community service and six months probation. But Sefolosha had the means and mind to fight the charges, got his day in court and won. This is what he said in a statement after the verdict, released by the Atlanta Hawks.

“This morning’s verdict ended a long and emotional period for me.  Justice was served and for that I am eternally grateful to the judge and jury for their quick and deliberate decision….

“It’s troubling to me that with so much evidence in my support that this case would even be brought to trial and that I had to defend myself so hard to get justice. It pains me to think about all of the innocent people who aren’t fortunate enough to have the resources, visibility and access to quality legal counsel that I have had.

“It was important to me as a man, a father to two young girls and as a role model, to stand up for what I believe in and have my name cleared of any wrongdoing.  Today’s verdict will not make up for the pain and trauma my family and I have suffered over the past six months or bring back the opportunity to have played in the Eastern Conference Finals and have a shot at an NBA title, but it does bring me some peace and closes a painful chapter in my life.

“Now I look forward to returning to the team and focusing solely on my rehabilitation for the upcoming season so that I can get back to playing the game I cherish so much.”

While Sefolosha says he is focusing “solely” on his rehab, the win in the criminal case would bode well for a potential civil case if he wanted to sue regarding his treatment and the broken leg.

Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer — who testified at the trial and was amused by parts of it — released this statement:

“Thabo is a man of great character and we are proud that he took a principled approach to proving his innocence. We are extremely happy for him and his family, and we are very pleased with today’s verdict in his favor.”

Byron Scott doesn’t care about exhausting Lakers in preseason

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The Warriors use wearable technology to track players and have rested them when the data revealed fatigue. Gregg Popovich is holding relatively healthy Spurs out of practice. Heck, Popovich doesn’t even send himself to every preseason games.

Meanwhile, with the Lakers…

Lakers coach Byron Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I don’t necessarily care about tired legs in preseason,” Scott said. “I think everything that we’ve done thus far will pay off at the end of the day. You’ve got some guys that might have tired legs and [are] a little worn out, but all the running as far as getting into that physical condition that we need to get into, I think in December and January, it will pay off.

“So I’m not necessarily worried about guys having tired legs in preseason. They’ll just have to kind of fight through that fatigue part of it. And I think mentally it gets them a little stronger anyway.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers coach has a reputation for demanding a lot of running in the preseason. It’s important in his mind because the Lakers will be better conditioned than other teams down the road.

Players, predictably, aren’t as enthused about it.

Bresnahan quotes just two players, Brandon Bass and D'Angelo Russell, and neither expressed much resistance to Scott’s methods. But I trust Bresnahan to read the team’s pulse.

I also think Scott is right: Fighting through fatigue builds mental toughness. But it also makes players tired, and it’s not the only way to instill toughness. The Warriors are tough. The  Spurs are tough. They didn’t have to run their players into the ground to get that way.

Scott loves to project himself as old-school and anti-analytic. Thankfully for the Lakers, his actual methods aren’t as bad as he conveys. For example, he said the Lakers would take an absurdly low 10-15 3-pointers per game last season. In reality, they hoisted nearly 19 per game, 25th in the league. That might not have been enough for that roster, but at least it wasn’t leaps and bounds below the norm.

So, I’m not convinced Scott is pushing the Lakers as hard as he wants everyone to believe. But he’s  clearly giving them a bigger workload than many teams.

If the Lakers are playing relevant games late in the season, this could come back to bite them. On the bright side, they probably won’t have to worry about that problem.