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.

Rumor: Grizzlies had to choose between Marc Gasol and David Fizdale

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David Fizdale has been linked to most of the NBA’s head-coaching vacancies.

He developed a legion of backers as lead a Heat assistant, and he did good things guiding the Grizzlies before they unexpectedly fired him. He deserves consideration.

But he also must explain his fractured relationship with Memphis star Marc Gasol. They weren’t speaking for a while.

And maybe the problem was even worse than that.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source close to Fizdale briefed on the Grizzlies’ decision, it was ownership having to make a choice — trade their All-Star center Marc Gasol, who has fallen in love with its small-market city, or fire the coach. Their relationship had gotten that bad.

If Grizzlies ownership felt it had to choose between Gasol and Fizdale, it’s not clear why.

Fizdale benched Gasol down the stretch during the coach’s last game, and Gasol publicly expressed his frustration.

But Gasol denied issuing a me-or-Fizdale ultimatum. Fizdale said focus on his relationship with Gasol was “overblown,” adding he cared far more about whether he could win with a player than whether they got along personally.

Memphis obviously sided with Gasol – probably too strongly.

LeBron James bought Cavs teammates matching designer suits to wear to game tonight

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I’m still trying to decide if this is cool or a little too Stepford.

The Cavaliers rolled into the Bakers’ Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis tonight wearing matching designer suits, all paid for by LeBron James and custom fitted to each player.

If a college team rolled into a game in four-digit designer suits, the NCAA would have questions. And not about the vests.

The Cavaliers are LeBron’s team, and if he wants to buy his teammates suits and tell them to wear them it’s going to happen. Is it a bonding thing that helps bring them together? Sure. Is it in place to make sure LeBron remembers which ones are his new teammates? Probably not.

Do the suits help on the court? No. And the Cavaliers better bring it in Game 3 because if they go down 2-1 in this series — something that is a realistic possibility — the whispers of doubt are going to get a lot louder.

Report: Knicks to discuss coaching vacancy with Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer

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Mike Budenholzer is restless in Atlanta, seeing a rebuild coming and looking at other jobs (something Hawks management is fine with). He went down the road a ways with the Suns before pulling out of that process, but he’s still looking around.

The Knicks are casting a wide net in their search, talking to virtually everyone looking for coaching jobs.

So, this seemed inevitable, right? Budenholzer and the Knicks are going to talk, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This will be very preliminary. The Knicks have already had some level of conversation with Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Jerry Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith (Jackson and Fizdale are the rumored early leaders). Budenholzer has established a style and culture in Atlanta, giving the franchise a path forward. New York could certainly use that.

However, the Knicks job comes with real challenges, too. That starts with James Dolan as owner and the erratic, at times paranoid culture he has created there. Also, expectations in New York are always high, but the team will be without Kristaps Porzigis for at least half (maybe all) of the upcoming season as he recovers from an ACL injury, and that puts a ceiling on the team in the short term. Is all that worth leaving Atlanta for?

 

Stephen Curry to begin “modified” practices with Warriors

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Golden State has flipped the switch in the first round, going up 3-0 on overmatched San Antonio. The Warriors have been outscoring the Spurs by 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the series, allowing less than a point per possession on defense and scoring when and where they want. Kevin Durant is averaging 27.3 points per game, Klay Thompson is shooting 63.3 percent from three and scoring 25.7 points per game, and the Warriors are clicking.

But they are not yet whole — they need Stephen Curry back. Not for this round, but before the Western Conference Finals for sure.

Curry was re-evaluated Friday and will begin practicing with the team in a limited — or “modified” to use the team’s term — way.

The target has always been a return somewhere during the second round, and that still seems to be on track. That is also a little faster than traditional for a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which can take up to two months to heal (not the 4-6 weeks of the Warriors timeline), but the Warriors are being cautious here for now.

Eventually, the Warriors will need him back — their offense is built around Curry and his ball movement and movement off the ball. Curry’s gravity to draw defenders, even when he doesn’t have the ball, opens up the floor for others. Put simply, if he’s 28 feet from the bucket on the weak side defenders still have to watch and be near him, and help defenders need to be aware, which pulls the defense to wherever he is. Without Curry and the Warriors take more midrange jumpers, it’s just in the first round series against the Spurs they are hitting them.