Another day, another good defensive game, another Heat win

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The storyline going into this game was that it was the Milwaukee Bucks back in 1972 that snapped the Lakers 33 game winning streak, and now they had the chance to snap the Heat’s streak at 20.

That 1972 Bucks team had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. With all do respect to Monta Ellis and Larry Sanders, it’s not quite the same thing.

In 2013 we saw a lot of what we have seen from the Heat in the 20 games prior — very good defense (the Bucks shot 37.1 percent from the floor) and big games from the big three and the Heat pulled away for a comfortable 107-94 win on the road.

That makes 21 wins in a row for the Heat, the third longest streak in NBA history. They can tie the second longest — 22 wins from the fluke run of the 2008 Rockets — with a win Sunday over Toronto. If you’re looking for the next game that could likely trip up the Heat look at Monday — the second game of a back-to-back facing Boston, a good veteran team that will be fired up for the challenge.

The Heat took control of this game in the second quarter when they went on a 12-2 run, one that not so coincidentally started after Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade re-entered the game. Wade had returned from taking a bad fall in the first quarter and having to pass a concussion test, but he still finished the game with 20 points and 9 assists playing more of a facilitator role than normal.

Chris Bosh was the best of the big three on this night, he had 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting, with 7 rebounds thrown in. His jumper was falling and that just spaced out and the Bucks defense, which left room for LeBron James to slash into the paint. He had 28 points.

The Heat led comfortably in the second half, and any time it felt like the Bucks would make a run one of the big three would shut it down. Or they’d get a three from Shane Battier or a good defensive play from Norris Cole (hey, that can happen).

The Bucks vaunted backcourt could not knock down shots like they needed — Monta Ellis was 3-of-11, Brandon Jennings was 6-of-15 and J.J. Redick was 4-of-11. That’s not going to get it done against the Heat.

This well could be a first round playoff matchup, and while one should be careful about reading much into playoff results based on regular season games, you get the feeling this wouldn’t last very long. The Heat and their defense are just too much.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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