Heat Nets Basketball

Nets in control from start, hang on at end to finally beat LeBron and gain confidence

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There are no statement games on Día de los Muertos.

I’m not sure there are statement games in early April either, but right now it’s far, far too early to talk about them. Teams change and evolve a lot over the course of a season. A lot. Plus regular season series are not reliable predictors of postseason success anyway.

All that said, if the Nets are going to challenge the Heat in late April or May, they need to believe they can beat the two time defending champions. Deron Williams said they believed they were better than the Heat, yet they had lost 17-straight games to a LeBron James team. Even with all the changes for the Nets they needed something to back up that confidence. They talked about it at shootaround.

That step they took Friday night. Brooklyn used some impressive ball movement and a fluid offense, plus some timely defense to build a healthy double-digit lead over Miami, then they hung on at the end to win 101-100.

Miami looked like they coasted early — this is their third straight game with a slow start — and were not sharp when they tried to turn it on late, with that effort they are now 1-2 on the season. If Eric Spoelstra was looking for something to get the attention of his players, that should do it.

Brooklyn should gain a measure of confidence from this win.

Brooklyn was very active early defensively and their length seemed to throw the Heat off their game offensively, which had the Nets off to a quick 11-3 lead. Kevin Garnett takes on the best post player of the opposition and with that Brook Lopez can be a weakside shot blocker, he picked up a couple blocks that way in this game and altered other shots.

On offense the Nets not only moved the ball but cut well off the ball and that combination led to a very fluid offense. Again, it’s two games into the season but if they can keep this up they will have a very powerful offensive game that people who love good basketball will want to watch.

Brooklyn won the third quarter 31-20 and was comfortably in control, until a late fourth quarter 10-0 run by Miami made the end dramatic. However, Ray Allen missed a free throw (stock up on canned goods, it could be a sign of the apocalypse) while Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce hit theirs, which overcame a LeBron corner three that made it interesting. Chris Bosh hit his free throws too, down 2 with three seconds left he needed to miss the second one and didn’t. Like a Bosh.

Paul Pierce had 19 points on 10 shots, Joe Johnson 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting to lead the Nets. Brooklyn got good minutes off the bench from Shaun Livingston and a hustling Alan Anderson as well.

LeBron put up 26 points on 11-of-19 shooting, Dwyane Wade 21 points on 12 shots and he was 10-of-11 on free throws. But neither looked especially sharp. Like in the Heat’s opening night win over the Bulls they were fine, but in that game the bench had a huge night. Not this time.

If these teams meet in the playoffs, don’t bring up this game as predictive of what will happen. But the Nets can feel a little more confident, and that’s a step.

Sit back and watch the top 10 dunks from the first five weeks of NBA season

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Who doesn’t love a good dunk compilation?

Well, somebody probably just said “bah, humbug” but is that the person you really want to hang out with?

The fine folks at NBA.com put together the Top 10 dunks of October and November, and when Rudy Gobert dunking over Kristaps Porzingis is all the way down at 10, you know it’s a good list. Put off starting your Christmas shopping, at least for another 2:44, and watch the video.

Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Here you go.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Chance The Rapper performs on Camp Stage during day one of Tyler, the Creator's 5th Annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival at Exposition Park on November 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Of course you do. How is that even a question?

Above you can see just that from Chicago Friday night (where Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls knocked off the Cavaliers). Benny the Bull is on his side as well, while the Cubs’ mascot and others try and stay out of the way.

I’ll take this over another kids’ dribbling contest any day.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili hustling saves lead to Spurs bucket (VIDEO)

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That’s about the most Spurs play ever.

During the third quarter of San Antonio’s win over Washington Friday night, LaMarcus Aldridge saved the ball from going out-of-bounds on the baseline, he threw it out high to Manu Ginobili, who had to leap and save it from going into the backcourt. Two hustle plays. From there the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter, and it ended up back to Aldridge on the baseline, where he nailed the 12-foot jumper.

Eventually, the Spurs would get a Kawhi Leonard jumper to give them the victory.

LeBron on Cavs’ three-game losing streak: “We got to get out of the honeymoon stage”

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wipes his face as he looks down after guard Kyrie Irving missed a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Chicago. The Bulls won 111-105. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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For a team that is 13-5 and atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been their intimidating selves consistently this season. There have been flashes during a 13-2 start, but mostly they win on talent, or when they flip the switch for a half, but they haven’t looked like a tested team working on building good habits through the first quarter of the NBA season. They have an elite offense, but their defense is surrendering 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the league.

It’s been worse the last four games. The Cavaliers had to come from behind to beat the Sixers, then got blown out by the Bucks and Clippers. Friday night, Cleveland lost to Chicago, giving the Cavs a three-game losing streak, and LeBron James had enough. He sent a message to his team through the media (from the Associated Press):

“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”

The Cavaliers would be far from the first team to have a championship hangover, and considering the five-decade title drought in Cleveland before that win we should have expected one of those “I can’t get off the couch, I’m just going to lay here and watch golf all day” kind of hangovers. As Gregg Popovich has said before, its human nature to let up after a big win.

However, the blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers Thursday — the only title contending team the Cavs have faced this season — should be a wake-up call. The fact is the Cavaliers are still playing well enough to beat everyone in the East, but their real tests come in the form of the Warriors/Clippers/Spurs out West. Right now it’s hard to picture the inconsistent defense of the Cavaliers lifting them past any of those teams in four out of seven games.

LeBron has been to six-straight Finals for a reason — he does not let up. And he’s going to have to shake this team out of its malaise to get them back to an elite standing.

It’s also the first week of December. It’s we’re having this same conversation the last week of March about the Cavaliers then it’s okay to start looking for the panic button in Cleveland. For now, trust LeBron to be the leader this team needs. Calling them out was just step one.