For a night Heat solve Pacers’ rebounding, defensive puzzle

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For four games the Pacers offense had been fueled by offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line. Those plays and the surprising success of the Pacers offense — averaging 111.6 points per 100 possessions — had the series tied 2-2.

In Game 5 things were different.

Indiana had just six offensive rebounds, grabbing the rebound on just 18.8 percent of their missed shots (compared to 39.9 percent combined in the first four games).

The Pacers had 15 free throws in Game 5, well behind the 35 a game they had averaged in the first four games.

The result of all that (along with the Pacers turning the ball over 20.5 percent of their possessions) was just 79 Pacers’ points — or 90.2 points per 100 possessions, if you prefer — and that’s not going to be enough for Indiana to win. Now Miami is up 3-2 in the series and Indiana has a huge mountain to climb to reach the Finals.

“It’s two contrasting styles,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game in trying to describe the series. “If our pressure, speed, quickness doesn’t get to their size, their size will get to us. We learned that the hard way.”

Speed killed on Thursday.

Miami came out from the start with a focus on defensive rebounding. They did it as a team using that quickness and athleticism — LeBron James led the Heat with 8 defensive rebounds, Chris Bosh had 5 and both Dwyane Wade and Chris Andersen had 4. The Heat don’t have a dominant rebounder, they have to do it as a pack and did in this game.

Andersen and Udonis Haslem were more physical with Roy Hibbert on the block, also the Heat doubled Hibbert and that made it harder for the big man to get his own rebounds.

“They made a concerted effort to send to me when I went to the offensive glass,” Hibbert said in his post-game press conference. “I couldn’t create as many offensive putbacks as I wanted to. It’s a credit to them adjusting on the fly.”

Hibbert, David West and Paul George carried the Pacers — they had 66 of their 79 points. But the easy putback buckets went away.

And they got no help from the starting backcourt — Lance Stephenson and George Hill were 2-of-11 for 5 points.

In the second half, the Heat really cranked up their ball pressure, and that bothered the Pacers — outside of George, the Pacers shot 31.8 percent. Miami was forcing turnovers (9 in the second half) and turning those into fast break points. It was the best defensive half of the series by Miami.

“In the second half we played much more aggressively and true to our identity,” Spoelstra said.

Miami’s aggression exposed Pacer flaws, for example they can have some terrible post entry passes. Under pressure those became turnovers. Also, with George Hill on the sidelines with foul trouble D.J. Augustin was exposed. The result of all of it was long possessions deep into the clock for Indiana then there would be a rushed and contested shot.

The Pacers will be at home where their role players will be more comfortable in Game 6 — and they are going to need a lot more out of them. Because the Heat are going to bring that same pressure to try and close the series out.

Aging Pelicans’ owner couldn’t remember Anthony Davis’ name in deposition

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Tom Benson, the now 90-year-old owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, a few years back changed around the succession of control of the team after his passing — his wife Gayle will take control. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter and former handpicked successor, sued saying Benson had been manipulated. After meeting privately with Benson, a judge ruled that while Benson suffered some “cognitive impairment” he was capable of making his own decisions and that Gayle remained the successor.

Benson has been sued multiple times since then, including by former Saints employee Rodney Henry, and the then-89-year-old Benson was deposed in that case last year.

Someone broke the gag order and sent a copy of the deposition to The Advocate of New Orleans, and it shows that Benson’s mental acuity is fading. He couldn’t remember who Anthony Davis was by name.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

“Who is this?” Williams asked.

“It’s Rodney and a basketball player,” Benson said. “Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he’s a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no.”

When asked “is it Anthony Davis,” Benson said yes. The man is 90, I’m not sure that we should expect much. He had the foresight to bring in people to run his businesses — including his sports teams — and set up a line of succession for when he does pass. Smart moves.

Would Benson’s mental state impact potential changes coming to the Pelicans? Probably not. New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps bet big on going big in a league trending smaller, pairing Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If that doesn’t work out, plenty of people around the league expect a house cleaning on the basketball side with the Pelicans. Benson’s mental state, whatever it may be, does not impact that.

The deposition leak came from an anonymous source (and anonymous email account, the paper verified the document before publishing). Who leaked it? It may be nearly impossible to find out, but only one side benefits from all this becoming public. And it’s not Benson.

K.J. McDaniels signs with Raptors for camp, can he make roster?

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A few years back in Philadelphia, the athletic K.J. McDaniels was a highlight factory and looked like a guy who could develop into a role player on the wing in the NBA.

Except, he never actually developed. Houston gave him a chance (three years at a total of $10 million), and it didn’t work out, then last season Brooklyn had him for 20 games, but they decided to move on.

Now Toronto is going to give him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

McDaniels’ agent later confirmed the news. This is a training camp, make-good contract for McDaniels. But unlike a lot of those contracts being handed out around this time, there is space on the Raptors roster for a player or two.

McDaniels will compete with Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer for one of the final roster spots in Toronto. Of that group, I’d most likely want to keep McDaniels because of the shot blocking and his potential — but his outside shot has to improve.

The Raptors can carry 15 on the roster and very possibly will until at least Jan. 10, which is the date these partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed for the season. Toronto is flirting with the tax line, and ownership is not going to want to pay the tax for this team, so if they do carry 15 they likely will cut it to 14 by that date.

Watch James Harden do the #DriveByDunkChallenge from a speed boat (VIDEO)

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The #DriveByDunkChallenge has been a fun distraction this summer. If you don’t know what it is, it essentially involves NBA players jumping out of their cars to dunk on regular folks on community basketball hoops.

Players like Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown have led the charge in the social media video fad, and now it appears that Houston Rockets guard James Harden is setting a new trend.

That trend? Doing the #DriveByDunkChallenge from dang boat.

Yup, seriously.

Via Twitter:

I can’t think of anything more baller than dunking on somebody from a speed boat, so congrats to Harden for winning the NBA offseason.

Photoshop no more: here’s Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics uniform (PHOTO)

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I suppose it will take some time to get used to seeing Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics jersey. This photo is the first step on that journey.

In a photo posted to Hayward’s Instagram on Wednesday, many of us got our first look at the former Utah Jazz forward in his new digs.

Specifically, the new Celtics Nike jersey in green with the GE patch on the left shoulder.

Via Instagram:

🍀🔥

A post shared by @gdhayward on

There are still some serious doubts about whether the Celtics will be able to unseat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps they won’t need to wait for long. Rumors are starting to trickle in about LeBron James leaving Ohio, so maybe by the time we are used to seeing Hayward in Celtics green next season they will have less competition out east.