Heat helps out Pacers defense by missing everything

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In 97 games through the regular season and playoffs, the Miami Heat have only scored less than 80 points twice. Both times it was against the Indiana Pacers.

The latest of those came Saturday night — Miami scored a season low 77 points on 36.1 percent shooting in a Game 6 loss. The Pacers defense and length certainly deserves a lot of credit for that — they have the size to challenge shots at the rim and are the best team in the NBA at running opponents off the three-point line.

But Miami is just missing shots they normally make. And if they do it again Monday night in Game 7 the NBA finals will make a stop in Indianapolis, not Miami.

“Obviously we struggled with some open shots, open layups, open looks, and that effected us on the other end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game, talking about his team’s defensive woes.

LeBron James shot 10-for-21 for 29 points — not a dominant performance but he carried the team as far as he could. However the rest of the Heat shot 31.4 percent on the night. As has been the case all playoffs, when nobody else on the Heat steps up they lose.

The most glaring examples were Chris Bosh — 1-of-8 shooting for 5 points — and Dwyane Wade, who hit just 3-of-11 attempts. Two-thirds of the “big three” in Miami have been MIA much of this series on offense (and Paul George took his offense right at Wade every chance he got). They

What killed the Heat as a team was shots close to the basket — they were 10-27 inside the restricted area and 1-of-7 in the rest of the paint. That would be 22 points on 34 shots, for those of you scoring at home. As a whole the Heat shot 29.6 percent from two-point range (but were 10-of-18 from three).

Remove LeBron from the equation and Miami was 4-16 inside the restricted area, just 25 percent. At the rim. Again the length of Roy Hibbert and the aggressive Pacers defense accounts for some of that, but not all of it.

The third quarter was when the Heat’s offense really fell apart — Miami started the second half shooting 2-of-12 with 6 turnovers. For the entire third they were 0-7 in the paint as a team. Miami scored just 15 points in the third and that was when the game was lost.

Miami had other big problems — the Pacers grabbed the offensive rebound on 38.5 percent of their missed shots. Indiana averaged 40 percent offensive rebounds through the first four games, but that fell to 18 percent in Game 5 when the Heat focused on rebounding as a group.

If you’re looking for a telltale sign in Game 7, the Pacers on the offensive glass is the barometer of this series. But you can also watch to see if LeBron gets any help.

What exactly was on the table for Bulls in Jimmy Butler trade?

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It’s been the cry since the Bulls’ front office traded Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine (coming off an ACL surgery), Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen):

Why didn’t the Bulls get more?

I’m in the camp they didn’t get enough, starting with the question why did they give Minnesota the No. 16 pick in the deal? Even if the Bulls keep that pick, it doesn’t feel like they got enough for an All-NBA player, a top-flight wing defender who can also get buckets with the ball in his hands. The Bulls could have been patient and waited out a better offer, one of this quality would always have been on the table.

However, the deals for Butler may not have been as rich as fans assume. Here is part of what ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote breaking down the trade.

It’s not as if Chicago didn’t canvas the league, either. The Bulls talked to Phoenix about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 pick, but nothing came close, according to league sources. (Those talks may have been linked at one point to Cleveland’s pursuit of Butler, which apparently fizzled Thursday as Dan Gilbert, the Cavs’ owner, tried to hire a new president of basketball operations on the freaking day of the draft.)

They poked around with Denver, but the Nuggets drew a line at Jamal Murray, sources say. Those teams had to weigh the possibility of Butler bolting in 2019, which cooled the market a bit, sources say.

Boston has danced around Butler for almost a year now, and would not include the No. 3 pick in any package for him as the draft approached, sources say. Other reports suggest they refused to offer next year’s Nets pick, or the Lakers-Kings pick they snagged from Philly in the Markelle Fultz deal.

Boston’s Danny Ainge wanted a deal, a bit of a discount, and the Bulls were not going to give it. Those pick requests are reasonable for a Top 15 player, but Ainge knows he can be patient and the Celtics will still win more than 50 games next season and be a contender in a couple of years. Ainge knows he has a real shot at Gordon Hayward as a free agent this summer. He knows it’s not Butler or bust, so he didn’t go all in. He can afford to be patient right now, but eventually he will have to make a move.

The lack of a better market for Butler speaks to a couple of things. Phoenix, Denver, and other teams are correct to worry about overpaying for a player that could leave in a couple of years. Maybe they can win him over with their culture, maybe a team like Denver becomes very dangerous with Butler in the mix with Nikola Jokic, but is that enough. This is also where the looming shadow of Golden State, the Mount Everest looming over all things in the West, comes into play — how much do teams want to pay to try to contend right now?

Still, the Bulls could have done better. At least know a direction is set, the Bulls are rebuilding. Can Gar/Pax pull that off is another question entirely.

Klay Thompson goes up for 360 dunk in exhibition… and he’s not a dunker (VIDEO)

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Klay Thompson has an amazing skill set — one of the best pure shooters in the league, he can put the ball on the floor and create, and he’s a very good perimeter defender.

He’s not a dunker. Oh, he can dunk, but he’s not the guy you’re inviting to the Dunk Contest.

Case in point, this video out of China where Thompson was part of an exhibition and tried to show off his dunking skills.

Thompson’s shoe sponsor is China-based Anta, which explains why he’s there playing some exhibition ball. In case you missed it, Thompson had a Finals shoe released.

Those are about as good as the 360 dunk.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.