Heat overcome off night from LeBron to beat Grizzlies for 13th straight win

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One streak was going to come to an end in Miami on Friday, with the Grizzlies having won eight in a row and the Heat riding a 12-game winning streak of their own.

It wasn’t surprising that the Heat were the ones that left victorious by pulling away late for a 98-91 victory, the team’s 13th straight. But the way that it happened, with LeBron James struggling mightily offensively and Memphis getting the tempo it wanted for most of the night, made it a struggle for Miami to get this one into the win column until the game’s final minutes.

James, fresh off his fourth consecutive Conference Player of the Month award, couldn’t get much of anything to go his way on the offensive end of the floor in this one. Credit the Grizzlies’ defense to a certain extent, of course, but a lot of the shots James missed are ones we’ve seen him make time and again.

Take a look at LeBron’s shot chart from Friday, via NBA.com/stats.

source:

James went 1-4 from the field in the first quarter, connecting only on a three-pointer from the top of the arc. He didn’t attempt a shot the rest of the half, but did get to the line for two free throws, though he sank just one. He went 0-3 from the field in the third and didn’t score in the period, leaving him just 1-7 through three with four points, with his team clinging to a one-point lead.

In the fourth, due to the tightness of the contest, James began to force the issue, though the results were mostly the same. He managed to go just 3-7 from the field, but his aggressiveness got him to the free throw line for 10 attempts, of which he hit seven. Despite the poor shooting night overall, with the game on the line James came through when his team needed him the most. He drained a dagger of a three-pointer from straight away to give his team the two-possession lead at 93-89 with 24 seconds remaining.

LeBron finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists in the final period, so even on a night where he didn’t have it offensively, he found a way to get the job done. Miami got solid games from Dwyane Wade (22 points) and Shane Battier (14 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point distance), and James ended up with 18 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists.

The size advantage the Grizzlies have over the Heat and the way they defend inside was a concern for Miami coming in, and it proved to be a legitimate one. Chris Bosh had a very pedestrian game trying to battle the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph down low, and Memphis almost was able to come away with the win.

All things considered, on a night where the Grizzlies shot 42.9 percent from the field and slowed LeBron defensively for three quarters, they came about as close as could be expected.

Jordan Clarkson on Lakers’ win over Knicks: ‘We just kept the foot on their nut and just kept pushing’

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The Lakers outscored the Knicks by one in the first quarter, three in the second quarter, four in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth quarter en route to a 127-107 victory yesterday.

What’s one way to describe that?

Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson in his on-court, post-game interview:

We just kept the foot on their nut and just kept pushing.

That quote is obviously fantastic on its own. Making it better: The NBA published it!

Video of the key moment is above.

Report: Kawhi Leonard disconnected from Spurs

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Spurs star Kawhi Leonard missed most of the season with a vexing quad injury, returned, went out with a shoulder injury and is now sidelined indefinitely with the quad injury.

San Antonio (30-18) has played well without Leonard, but apparently this saga has taken a toll behind the scenes.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Months of discord centering on elements of treatment, rehabilitation and timetables for return from a right quadriceps injury have had a chilling impact on San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with the franchise and coaching staff, league sources told ESPN.

Under president and coach Gregg Popovich and general manager RC Buford, the Spurs have a two decades-long history of strong relationships with star players, but multiple sources describe Leonard and his camp as “distant” and “disconnected” from the organization.

Beyond the current rehab for the right quadriceps injury that has caused Leonard, an All-NBA forward, to miss most of the regular season, there is work to be done to repair what has been until now a successful partnership.

In an interview with ESPN, Buford rejected the reporting of turbulence between the franchise and Leonard.

This is extremely vague. Leonard has always looked like a dutiful follower in the Spurs’ strong Popovich-led culture. Is this just frustration from injuries? Frustration from injuries causing other minor issues to boil over? Something else major entirely?

The Spurs spent big on long-term contracts for Pau Gasol and Patty Mills last summer, arguably jeopardizing Leonard’s chances of winning another title in San Antonio. Leonard is an elite two-way player in his prime (at least when healthy), and the Spurs were seemingly locking into a team that will likely top out at very good, not great.

So, what’s going on with Leonard now? Aldridge’s situation might be illustrative. Everyone in San Antonio denied a problem, as the Spurs are doing now. But Popovich revealed a couple weeks ago that Aldridge requested a trade. Popovich didn’t panic, though. He met with Aldridge, communicated and found a workable solution. The same can and probably will happen with Leonard.

But that’s no guarantee, and Leonard can opt out next year. Until this is settled, it’s a huge issue with potential to shake up typically stable San Antonio – and maybe beyond.

Wizards’ players-only meeting doesn’t go well

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The concept of a “team meeting” is sort of silly. At what does players discussing the team – something that happens nearly every day – rise to “meeting” status?

But these team meetings happen ever year, usually when a team is struggling. The Cavaliers, Thunder and Lakers have already had confabs labeled a “team meeting” this season. Teams usually emerge saying they’ve found solutions to their problems. Sometimes, it translates onto the court. Usually, there’s not a significant turnaround.

I’ve never seen a public response to the meeting itself like with the Wizards, though.

John Wall, via Cam Ellis of NBC Sports Washington:

“At our team meeting, I think a couple guys took it in a negative way,” Wall said after the team’s win in Detroit. “It hurt our team. Instead of using it in a positive way like we did in the past and using it to build our team up, it kind of set us back a bit.”

Bradley Beal, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“It was tough. I try to keep all our stuff as personal as possible but I think in a way not everybody got a chance to speak whenever they wanted to,” Bradley Beal said. “They didn’t want to bring up an issue or something they had a problem with on the team. Regardless of what may be going on, as men we’ve got to be able to accept what the next man says, be respectful about it and move on from it. I think it was one of those situations where we didn’t necessarily get everything that we wanted to get accomplished.

“Honestly, it was probably — I won’t say pointless,” Beal continued, “but we didn’t accomplish what we needed to accomplish in that meeting.”

Yeesh.

Nobody seemed to remember exactly when the meeting occurred, which says something. It sounds as if airing grievances actually hurt team chemistry.

The Wizards (26-20) are good, but not as good as hoped/expected. They too often coast against bad teams, and coach Scott Brooks has openly questioned their effort. So, what’s the solution?

Wall, via Buckner:

“Front office got to figure it out.”

If you’re one of Wall’s teammates who clashed at the meeting, and now you’re hearing him bring it up publicly and imply roster moves might be the solution, how would you feel about your future in Washington?

Rajon Rondo invites Ray Allen to 2008 Celtics reunion

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The 2008 Celtics are finally doing something that isn’t petty.

Rajon Rondo was planning a reunion vacation for that championship team while specifically not inviting Ray Allen. Allen ruffled feathers by leaving Boston for the Heat, and many Celtics held a grudge.

But Paul Pierce eventually said it’s time to move on, and now Rondo is also ready.

Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:

Rondo said Allen has an open invitation to join his former teammates this summer.

“Everybody [on the team] is invited,” he said.

This is how it should be. Allen was a free agent, free to sign with Miami or wherever he wanted. Not that it should matter here, but the Celtics tried to trade him before he left. And Pierce and Kevin Garnett also left Boston, Pierce talking Garnett into waiving his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to the Nets.

It’s not clear how Garnett, another leader in the charge against Allen, feels about welcoming him. But, presumably, he’ll take a cue from Rondo. Garnett probably won’t be the one calling Allen with the trip details, though.

The big question now: Who gives Scot Pollard the itinerary?