Heat's James and Spurs' Parker follow the play during Game 2 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami

NBA Finals Heat vs. Spurs Game 2: Spurs rain threes, blow out Heat 113-77

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It was San Antonio’s turn for a blowout.

After an ugly Game 2 loss the Spurs came out and rained down an NBA Finals record 16 threes — led by Danny Green with 7 and Gary Neal with 6, those two combined for 51 points and this was a complete domination by the Spurs, 113-77. San Antonio dominated the second half,  turning a six-point halftime lead into a 36 point thrashing of Miami. The Spurs take a 2-1 series lead.

Miami were not nearly as aggressive defensively as Game 2 and the Spurs exploited the openings with precision. But a sign of the effort was the Spurs grabbing 19 offensive rebounds — they got the offensive board on 42.2 percent of their missed shots. That’s just hustle and desire, which the Spurs had in truckloads and the Heat apparently left in Miami.

San Antonio had a good defensive game plan as well, they gave the Heat midrange jumpers and Miami clanked them. But this was a night the Spurs offense could do no wrong.

Game 4 is Thursday night.

END OF FOURTH QUARTER: It ends 113-77 Spurs, they have 16 threes.

1:35 Fourth Quarter: It’s a 33 point Spurs lead as the stats get skewed in garbage time.

3:39 Fourth Quarter: Gary Neal and Danny Green a combined 13-of-19 from three.

4:21 Fourth Quarter: Spurs 16-30 from three.

5:43 Fourth Quarter: Gregg Popovich and Eric Spoelstra have emptied the benches. Just like last game the final five minutes of this one are garbage time.

6:39 Fourth Quarter: Tracy McGrady enters the game to a standing ovation. 28 point Spurs lead now.

7:47 Fourth Quarter: Lead was up to 29, down to 23… it’s a blowout but a frustrated Popovich called a timeout. Spoelstra leaving his stars out there, let them soak up this experience, maybe motivate them for the next game. Heat defense isn’t good tonight, let the Spurs shooters get going and then it was over.

9:38 Fourth Quarter: 13-0 run by Spurs to start fourth. The Spurs are up by 26 now and this place is deafening. The Spurs fans are eating this up.

10:33 Fourth Quarter: Gary Neal with two long bomb threes to start the fourth, and we are back to blowout mode, 21 point lead.

11:41 Fourth Quarter: Tony Parker back in the game. Whatever was bothering him (seemed to be working on hamstring) he’s playing through it.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Heat with 13 turnovers in three quarters. They had 14 in the first two games combined.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: 78-63 Spurs. This quarter was all Spurs as they led by more than 20 at one point, but a nine point run by LeBron makes it 15 at the half (there was a Ginobili bucket at the end of the quarter). That was enough of a Heat run to force Popovich to take the start of this quarter seriously. We may see Duncan soon.

:22 Third Quarter: LeBron with nine straight points, knocking down jumpers and it is down to 13 point Spurs lead.

2:54 Third Quarter: It is 73-52 Spurs. Miami is just missing everything, good look or not, and the Spurs are moving the ball and getting the looks they like.

3:36 Third Quarter: LeBron 2-of-12 to start, just like last game. Spurs now up 17 and in total control.

4:09 Third Quarter: Tony Parker has gone back to the locker room. It’s not mattering, Spurs up 17.

5:07 Third Quarter: Leonard makes steal and Ginobili finishes in transition. Spurs by 14 now.

6:00 Third Quarter: Mike Miller hits another, now 8-8 from three in this series. He’s the only guy knocking down outside shot for the Heat.

7:29 Third Quarter: Mike Miller comes in and knocks down a three, but two Kawhi Leonard offensive boards lead to a Danny Green three. 62-49 Spurs.

9:44 Third Quarter: Wade is struggling to start the second half. Meanwhile Danny Green three and real hustle from the Spurs — Duncan blocks and saves, then Leonard saves the saves to transition foul. 59-46 Spurs, 13 points is largest of the game.

10:28 Third Quarter: Duncan and Haslem push all the way up the court, then suddenly Duncan gets called 54-46 Spurs.

11:44 Third Quarter: Heat try to post LeBron, and Leonard jumps around him for steal, creates transition opportunity where Splitter was fouled. 52-44 Spurs.

HALFTIME: Halftime in the arena is one of the best — Quick Change. You get David Stern on TV? Sucks for you.

HALFTIME: Slow pace in the first half, 41 possessions. That certainly favors the Spurs.

HALFTIME: Heat led by 12 points by Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh by 10. LeBron 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

HALFTIME: Spurs hit 7-15 from three. Gary Neal leads them with 14 points off the bench, Tim Duncan has 10. Spurs also with 11 offensive rebounds, which is crazy high.

HALFTIME: 50-44 Spurs. Tony Parker tough leaning three, then Gary Neal defends LeBron James well then hits a three at the buzzer. Great close to quarter for Spurs.

:52 Second Quarter: Mike Miller with trail three ball in transition. 44-42 Spurs.

1:33 Second Quarter: Two straight Spurs turnovers lead to Heat points, Now 43-39 Spurs. 7-0 Heat run.

2:24 Second Quarter: Heat now 5-18 from outside the edge of the restricted area to the three point line. (Heat 6-10 in restricted area, also not great.)

3:00 Second Quarter: Gary Neal hits three, which is answered by Mike Miller at the other end. 43-35 Spurs.

4:35 Second Quarter: The Spurs are packing the paint again, LeBron tries to shoot over it from three and misses, Kawhi Leonard leaked out on the challenge, Tim Duncan rebounds and outlets to Leonard for the dunk. 40-30 Spurs.

5:47 Second Quarter: Mario Chalmers gets his third foul on an offensive drive. Heat go with no PG lineup. 36-28 Spurs.

6:45 Second Quarter: Dwyane Wade helps off Danny Green… Wade chose, poorly. Heat had stuck with Green all night but he made them pay here. 32-26 Spurs.

7:09 Second Quarter: Spurs went through a 1-11 shooting stretch. 29-26 Spurs.

7:47 Second Quarter: And as I type that, Bosh hits an elbow jumper. Combine that with a Norris Cole three and it is 27-26 Spurs, a 1 point game.

8:37 Second Quarter: Heat start game 1-9 from the midrange. Got to hit some of those.

9:07 Second Quarter: The Spurs are doing a great job of having bodies in the paint every time LeBron drives. The result is sometimes he settles. 27-20 Spurs.

9:47 Second Quarter: Referees letting them play tonight inside, teams need to adjust, not just look for calls.

10:21 Second Quarter: Gary Neal three stretches out Spurs lead 27-20.

11:03 Second Quarter: Lots of great hustle plays from the Spurs.

START OF SECOND QUARTER: Spurs shot 11-18, 61.1 percent in the first quarter. They are attacking and getting into the paint.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: 24-20 San Antonio. Spurs led by as many as eight, but Dwyane Wade hits 4-of-5 shots to keep Miami in mix.

:30 First Quarter: LeBron has 2 points but 3 assists as he draws the defense and moves the ball in this game. It’s a question of if he gets help.

1:00 First Quarter: Norris Cole and Gary Neal trade buckets. Then the Birdman cuts, gets the ball and dunks. 22-20 Spurs.

2:20 First Quarter: Early minutes for Matt Bonner and Curtis Joseph of the Spurs, with Gary Neal and Boris Diaw back in the rotation.

3:43 First Quarter: Manu Ginobili can still dunk! Pump fake at the arc, drove and there was no help. 17-14 Spurs.

4:08 First Quarter: Wade has scored or assisted on 10 of the Heat’s 12 points.

4:08 First Quarter: Wade steals the ball from Parker, runs the floor and gets the pass from LeBron to score in transition. 15-12 Spurs.

6:29 First Quarter: Heat came out of a timeout with an open Wade jumper then getting points in the paint and offensive boards. 13-7 Spurs.

6:29 First Quarter: Spurs are getting into the lane for attempts and kick-outs. Heat are working the ball around the perimeter then missing.

6:35 First Quarter: Heat start 2-9 shooting, with Bosh 1-of-5 and getting good looks he is just missing. 11-4 Spurs.

7:47 First Quarter: Duncan starts 1-4 shooting, but Kawhi Leonard has five yearly points. 9-4 Spurs.

9:15 First Quarter: Tony Parker with a jumper that falls, Bosh misses his baseline midrange that the Spurs gave him. 7-4 Spurs.

10:21 First Quarter: Very aggressive Tim Duncan to start, but he missed a shot inside and a couple free throws. 2-2 still.

11:10: First Quarter: Good pick-and-roll with Parker and Duncan and he got to that running hook he loves for a first shot. Wade answers. 2-2.

12:00: First Quarter: Interesting, The Spurs’ 2013 Western Conference championship banner already hanging in the rafters.

12:00: First Quarter: That is one big flag the Spurs waive around on the court.

12:00: First Quarter: Miami, San Antonio will see your child singing the national anthem and up you one cool outfit. (I’ll take him over Hootie any day.)

12:00: First Quarter: Hootie — Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish — was to sing the national anthem but couldn’t get there because of the traffic.

12:00: First Quarter: Traffic heading out to and the arena SUCKS. I say that and I live in Los Angeles. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and other Spurs players got to the arena later than they prefer because of it.

SAN ANTONIO — Greetings, welcome to PBT’s live blog for Game 3 of the NBA Finals, with the series tied 1-1 as we move on to Texas for the next three. Pull up a seat and make yourself comfortable

I’m Kurt, and I’ll be your host, snide comment maker and bartender for the night. Throughout the contest I’ll be updating the game and score, providing some thoughts and mocking a few people. So sit back, enjoy the game and follow along.

Report: Nuggets actively trying to trade Jusuf Nurkic

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 17:  Kyle O'Quinn #9 of the New York Knicks guards Jusuf Nurkic #23 of the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on December 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic have been healthy and productive for the Nuggets in the last two seasons.

Just not at the same time.

So, Denver wanted to test its bigs together this season, to see whether they could form a long-term pairing. The Nuggets experimented, and the results are in: Nurkic and Jokic can’t play together.

Here are Denver’s offensive/defensive/net ratings with:

  • Just Jokic: 115.7/109.9/+5.9
  • Just Nurkic: 99.2/107.9/-8.7
  • Both: 93.2/109.3/-16.1

So, the Nuggets are making the logical choice to build around Jokic.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

A player who is sure to move between now and the trade deadline?

Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic.

Sources say that the Nuggets, having acknowledged that Nikola Jokic and Nurkic didn’t click as a pairing, are actively working to find Nurkic a new home that would give him the chance he deserves to be a front-line center.

Nurkic can help a lot of teams. Just not the Nuggets.

Only 22, he’s an intimidating interior presence. He scores well in the paint, and he provides tough defense. He has lowered his high foul rate. If reducing turnovers is the next step in refining his game, that’d be welcome.

It shouldn’t be difficult to find a team that values Nurkic more than Denver does. It’s just a matter of determining which team values him most.

Kenneth Faried can handle the role in certain matchups, but if they trade Nurkic, the Nuggets will need someone to play center when Jokic sits. Still, that’s a small complication in a plan that makes sense overall.

Despite being anchored by 108 minutes of Jokic and Nurkic sharing the court, Denver is in playoff position at 18-25. Simply removing Nurkic from the starting lineup has produced a 9-8 stretch. The Nuggets have moved on with Jokic as a franchise cornerstone. It’s time to get Nurkic to a place he can thrive.

Report: Phil Jackson told Carmelo Anthony he disagreed with Charley Rosen’s criticism

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson watches from the stands during the second half of the Knicks' NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Madison Square Garden in New York, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017.  The Pelicans won 110-96. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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Carmelo Anthony told Knicks president Phil Jackson he wanted to stay in New York.

But what does Jackson want?

That’s the big unknown. Phil Jackson mouthpiece Charley Rosen wrote Carmelo Anthony outlived his usefulness in New York. Anthony took that as a comment from Jackson himself.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

In the meeting, Jackson told Anthony he did not subscribe to the criticisms in the article and the story did not speak for him, sources said.

Al Iannazzone of Newsday:

A league source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said before the Tuesday meeting that the Knicks want Anthony to stay “as long as it’s mutual.”

Anthony holds the final say due to his no-trade clause, but he also said he’d consider waiving it if the Knicks want to rebuild. So, Jackson’s opinion matters.

Most likely, the uneasy partnership continues. Anthony remains with the Knicks, because he likes the overall package – living and playing in New York – enough to handle the downsides. The Knicks keep losing, because they’ve committed too much to a declining Anthony and have failed to add quality pieces around him.

It could make sense to rebuild around Kristaps Porzingis, though that would likely mean moving Anthony, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee. It seems nobody wants to go to that much trouble with Anthony preferring to stay.

NBA Power Rankings week 14: Golden State is setting the bar high for everyone else

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, center, gestures to fans in the stands while watching from the bench with forward Kevin Durant, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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The Warriors have solidified their place at the top of these rankings, but from about 10-20 I feel like any team could get hot and make a leap — or get cold and fall fast. Also, Brooklyn is the Bizarro Warriors, having solidified their spot on the bottom of these rankings.

 
Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (38-6, Last Week No. 1). This was supposed to be a rough week, a test of the Golden State’s toughness — then they went out and beat the Cavaliers by 35, the Thunder by 21, and Rockets by 17. Golden State now has the top rated offense AND defense in the NBA for the season. And as much as they aren’t trying, they are on pace to win 70 games. So yes, they have set the bar to clear this season, again. Five of their next seven games are on the road.

 
Spurs small icon 2. Spurs (34-9, LW 2). The loss of Pau Gasol for a couple months (give or take) is a setback, but this team just keeps on rolling — see the win over the Cavaliers. Is it time we started mentioning this team as a real contender? I still have questions about their athleticism and if that haunts them in a seven-game series against elite teams, but the Spurs just know how to win, and they are going to be there deep into the playoffs. If we get a Spurs/Cavaliers NBA Finals, their Sunday night overtime thriller showed that would be plenty entertaining.

 
Rockets small icon 3. Rockets (34-13, LW 3). They have dropped four of their last seven, and while you can understand losses to Golden State and a split with Memphis, losses like Miami sting. More alarming is that in their last seven games that vaunted offense has dropped out of the top 10 in the league (11th for that stretch). It should help that Clint Capela is back from injury and Ryan Anderson should be as well this week. They are on a four-game road swing through the East this week, including the Celtics and Sixers.

 
Cavaliers small icon 4. Cavaliers (30-12, LW 4). They got crushed by the Warriors — in a game they clearly didn’t take all that seriously — and fell to the Spurs on Saturday, meaning they have lost 4-of-6. That said, they have a 2.5 game cushion in the East and LeBron-led teams always seem to have these mini-slumps during the season, then they flip the switch back to “on.” Look for the Cavaliers to get right this week with games against Pelicans, Kings and Nets.

Jazz small icon 5. Jazz (29-16, LW 8). Utah has not had an All-Star representative since 2011, but that should change this week when at least one of (if not both) Gordon Hayward or Rudy Gobert get picked (Gobert having a 25/25 game recently has to help his cause). Utah has won six in a row — and that includes beating Cleveland. As the Clippers fall down the standings due to injury, the Jazz will be the four seed, and their goal should be to hold on to that spot and have home court in the first round.

 
Hawks small icon 6. Hawks (26-18 LW 11). They are 9-2 in January and are just half a game back of the Celtics for the three seed, which is why in these rankings they have made the leap — they may be the hottest team in the East. Will that be enough to get Paul Millsap an All-Star nod? He deserves it with his play and numbers, but he’s certainly on the bubble in the East with so many good guards and Joel Embiid playing well. As an aside, nobody seems to think Millsap is really off the trade market, but also nobody thinks anyone will put together an offer that will really tempt the Hawks.

 
Raptors small icon 7. Raptors (28-15, LW 6). They have lost three games in a row (and 8-of-14, if you go back), and now they will be without DeMar DeRozan for at least the first two games of this week. No Patrick Patterson is certainly part of that, they are already thin at the four, but more so they miss the Kyle Lowry’s shooting (he has shot 35.6% overall and 25.9% from three in those games), plus they have struggled to contain penetration on drives. Despite his recent struggles, Lowry should be selected as an All-Star reserve by the coaches.

 
Celtics small icon 8. Celtics (26-17, LW 7). He’s not going to be a starter like he arguably should have been, but Isaiah Thomas will be picked by the coaches and play in the All-Star Game next month. Thomas averaged 38.3 points a game last week — but the Celtics still lost to the Knicks and Trail Blazers. They miss Avery Bradley. That is why they haven’t moved past the Raptors on these rankings… yet. Not that anyone in Boston will notice or care too much about anything Celtics until after the Super Bowl.

 
Clippers small icon 9. Clippers (29-16, LW 5). Chris Paul needed surgery on his right hand and will be out until March, which is a huge blow as they are +15.9 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court (and have been outscored when he is off it, although there is a lot of noise in those numbers). On the bright side, Blake Griffin should return to the lineup this week or next. Still, the goal for the Clippers needs to be not to fall too far then climb back up to the four or five seed in the final month of the season — and stay healthy for the playoffs.

 
Wizards small icon 10. Wizards (23-20, LW 12). Is Sidney Lowe their best defender? Maybe he could have boxed out Marcus Morris last week, but either way remember that this team stumbled out of the gate (3-9) and have been good ever since. The Wizards have been particularly strong against the other middle-of-the-pack teams in the East and they need to continue that with the Hornets, Celtics, and Hawks on the schedule this week. The Wizards could use Bradley Beal to break out of his mini-slump.

 
Thunder small icon 11. Thunder (25-19, LW 9). Russell Westbrook seemed less concerned that he wasn’t an All-Star Game starter than the NBA Twitterers was, but we all know he’s just going to use that as more motivation (I’d bet on him to win the ASG MVP now). The Thunder are 1-3 on their current road trip and 4-6 through a tough stretch in January (that doesn’t let up until the end of the month, with tough games on the road in Utah and Cleveland this week).

 
Grizzlies small icon 12. Grizzlies (26-20, LW 10). Another team with a couple guys on the All-Star Game bubble: You can make a strong case for both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. My guess is only one of them makes it in (along with one member of the Jazz, for balance). Of more immediate concern in Memphis is this team has lost 3-of-4 and the defense has been unimpressive in that stretch. Gasol’s offense has been fantastic of late, but he could use some help from Chandler Parsons.

 
Hornets small icon 13. Hornets (23-21, LW 17). The good news is they have won three in a row after a rough stretch (an 0-5 road trip where their defense was forgettable). Kemba Walker had a couple huge games in that stretch — will it be enough to get him named an All-Star Game reserve? He deserves it for his season, but with so many good guards and guys like Joel Embiid making a push, I fear that Walker will be the odd man out.

 
Pacers small icon 14. Pacers (22-21, LW 14).. The loss to the Lakers last week is the kind of game a team in a tight playoff race needs to win. As for the loss to Utah, that was just George Hill salt in the wound. Indiana is home for three of its next four, which is good because this team struggles to defend consistently on the road and is 6-16 away from the Fieldhouse, but is 16-6 at home.

 
Bulls small icon 15. Bulls (22-23, LW 13). Dwyane Wade is tweeting out apologies to fans for the team’s effort, and the front office is trying to find new homes for Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic. Like TNT, the Bulls know drama. While the front office looks at roster tweets, the question becomes can Jimmy Butler get this team into the playoffs. They need wins against teams like Orlando, Atlanta, and Philly this week to do so, but who knows what we’ll get from the inconsistent Bulls.

 
Pistons small icon 16. Pistons (21-24, LW 19). The up-and-down Pistons are up again, having won three in a row — maybe all the trade rumors woke this team up (don’t look for Reggie Jackson to be moved unless some team comes up with a huge offer). Stanley Johnson has played better (and gotten more consistent run) of late, but the play of the week belonged to Marcus Morris.

 
Nuggets small icon 17. Nuggets (18-25, LW 23). Nikola Jokic is not going to be an All-Star this year, but keep having months like he has this January — averaging 23.4 points and 10.7 rebounds a game — and we will be talking about him a year from now. If I were going to keep an eye on a guy who could get moved at the deadline, it’s Jusuf Nurkic — he doesn’t fit with Jokic but he would have real value on other rosters.

 
Sixers small icon 18. 76ers (15-27, LW 25). When Joel Embiid plays — particularly with new starters T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas — the Sixers are a good team. The big question around the Sixers is will the coaches put Joel Embiid in the All-Star Game? My guess is no, they are a little old school because of his minutes restriction. Plus if he goes, a deserving player such as Kemba Walker stays home. But Embiid in New Orleans would be fun. #raisethecat

 
Bucks small icon 19. Bucks (20-23, LW 13). Kris Middleton can’t get back soon enough. The Bucks have dropped five games in a row, they have the worst net rating in the NBA in that stretch, and it’s not one end of the court — in those five games the Bucks had the second-worst defense and fourth-worst offense in the NBA. It’s going to be a tough week to turn that around with the Rockets, resurgent Sixers, Raptors, and Celtics on the schedule.

 
Blazers small icon 20. Trail Blazers (19-27, LW 16).. You wonder how a team with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can be out of the playoffs in the West (if they started today), then you see they got crushed by the Hornets and lost to the Sixers thanks to Robert Covington and you see the inconsistency that plagues this squad. Portland starts a five-game homestand and this is where they need to start their push to secure the eight seed (not sure they can make up the 7 games for seventh) — if it doesn’t happen now it may never.

 
Knicks small icon 21. Knicks (19-26 LW 20). Carmelo Anthony’s run of seven consecutive All-Star Games will come to an and this season, but that’s the least of the drama around him the past week. At least with all the Anthony trade rumor talk we stopped discussing about Derrick Rose going AWOL (he’s had a few strong games lately). It’s been a hard-luck run for the Knicks, whose last three losses have come by a total of six points. But New York has had a run of close losses all season.

 
Pelicans small icon 22. Pelicans (17-27, LW 18). Anthony Davis is an All-Star starter for the game in his town, which is nice. It’s about the best thing you can say for the Pelicans in a week they let the Nets score 143 on them. The Pelicans are home this week and need to rack up wins to stay in the playoff chase, but with their games being against the Cavaliers, Thunder, Spurs and Wizards it’s not going to be that easy.

 
timberwolves small icon 23. Timberwolves (16-28, LW 22). In the key stretches of games last week, Tom Thibodeau went to a lineup of Kris Dunn, Tyus Jones, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns — and it worked. The youth movement beat the banged-up Clippers and the Nuggets. The Wolves have won 5-of-7 and are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs, if they are serious about making a run at that spot they need wins against teams like the Suns, Pacers, and Nets this week.

 
Mavericks small icon 24. Mavericks (15-29, LW 26). They have won 4-of-6 with Seth Curry in the starting lineup (he has shot 56 percent in that stretch), including thrashing the hapless Lakers. The Dallas offense is clicking, and that has made them a difficult out, which is good because we don’t want to see Dirk Nowitzki go out any other way (yes, I know he may well play another year, the point is valid).

 
Kings small icon 25. Kings (16-27, LW 21). Losers of five in a row and it’s hard to see bright playoff prospects for this team after losing Rudy Gay for the season with a torn Achilles. The phantom call on DeMarcus Cousins on Dwyane Wade didn’t help matters. Sacramento has started off 0-2 on an eight-game road trip may for good sink Vivek Ranadive’s playoff dreams for another season.

 
Suns small icon 26. Suns (15-29, LW 27). They may be hovering near the bottom of the West, but things like Eric Bledsoe’s 40 points against the Raptors, or Devin Booker’s game winner against the Knicks, give us a reason to watch this team. Booker now has 20 or more points in nine straight games.

 
Heat small icon 27. Heat (14-30, LW 29). They are on a three game winning streak, and it speaks to where the Heat are that all that does is make me wonder if it helps Goran Dragic’s trade value (he had a strong game against the Rockets 21/8/8). Or, to better phrase the question, will it drive up the trade value to what Pat Riley thinks he should get? Dion Waiters dropped 33 last week in a win, just wanted to point that out.

 
Magic small icon 28. Magic (18-28 LW 24). This team’s offense (already not striking fear into teams) stumbles badly without Evan Fournier in to provide spacing. Orlando can sell they are just 4.5 games out of the playoffs, but we all know they are not making it and need to make moves at the trade deadline thinking long term (such as unclogging the front court logjam).

 
Lakers small icon 29. Lakers (16-31, LW 28). Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks handed the Lakers the worst loss in franchise history (49 points). D’Angelo Russell is out for a couple weeks and it showed that game, they lacked his organization of the offense and the ball movement he sparks. Looking for a bright side? The Lakers lead the NBA in bench points per game at 49.6, which is the most since the league started tracking that stat in 1971.

 
Nets small icon 30. Nets (9-34, LW 30). No Jeremy Lin for another month or so as the Nets cement their place at the bottom of these rankings. Which makes Boston fans happy (they swap draft picks this year). The Nets snapped their 11-game losing streak by hanging 143 on the Pelicans — in their last five games the Nets have averaged 110.9 points per 100 possessions, top 10 in the NBA. Of course, they have given up 119.9, so things are not good, but the offense is putting up points.

Gregg Popovich: Sidney Lowe, Wizards got off easy

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe went onto the court and, according to Knicks guard Courtney Lee, verbally imitated a player.

The NBA fined Lowe $5,000 and Washington $15,000 and warned everyone more fines would follow for coaches displaying similar behavior.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t believe the league went far enough.

Popovich, via Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

“It’s unsportsmanlike, it’s childish, it’s inappropriate,” Popovich said. “There’s no place for it.”

“I think they got off easy,” Popovich said.

“What if that shot costs a playoff game because somebody does that?” Popovich continued. “Maybe that affects a coach being fired. Maybe a franchise winning a series. So if you think about it, maybe it’s worth it for 5 or 10 thousand to go do that.”

For the league to send a sterner warning about such antics, Popovich suggested steeper fines of $250,00 for the team and $50,000 to $75,000 for an offending coach.

“Everybody would sit their ass down,” Popovich said.

Regardless of circumstances, it’s notable that Popovich sided with the NBA against a fellow coach – especially over an incident that didn’t directly involve the Spurs. Most coaches, even those who share Popovich’s opinion, would stay out of it. Popovich and Lowe are both represented by the same union, which ostensibly tries to protect coaches’ paychecks. It’s one thing to criticize the highly unpopular president. It’s another to lash out at someone with whom you have a shared financial partnership.

Beyond that, Popovich is right. Coaches encroaching onto the court should be eliminated. Popovich’s claim of it being unsportsmanlike rings a little hollow, considering his own behavior. But coaches toeing the sideline to distract players detracts from the quality of the game and is unsafe. There are plenty of reasons to loath the behavior beyond it offending sensibilities.

That said, Popovich has the wrong plan to eliminate it. His proposed fines would be overly punitive to lower-paid assistant coaches – and still worth the tradeoff in certain situations.

The better solution: Call technical fouls, which the league acknowledged should’ve happened with Lowe. That eliminates all cost-benefit analysis and punishes teams directly within the game if they cross that line.