LeBron James is in the rare situation of being widely recognized as the game’s best player, and few would argue his position in those rankings. But what makes the Miami Heat a championship level team is the star talent surrounding James, and that starts with a healthy Dwyane Wade.
Wade is still able to impact the game in his 11th NBA season, and when feeling right can flat out take things over. That’s what he did in this one, and his effort early in the fourth quarter helped his team pull away for the 102-97 victory over a Clippers team many expect to contend in the West.
This game was tightly-contested throughout, but with James and Chris Paul on the bench early in the fourth, Wade was dominant enough to stretch Miami’s lead to the point where L.A. was unable to claw its way back. Wade scored 11 of his game-high 29 points in 10 fourth quarter minutes, and looked good doing it with a dunk in the half court set to go along with a long baseline jumper that was well-defended.
LeBron was decent all around as usual, but was largely passive in this one, finishing with 18 points, five rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes of action. Ray Allen was important for the Heat off the bench, not so much in terms of numbers but more in the way that he was able to get to the basket. Allen was deadly off the dribble, which made the Clippers’ defense pay for trying to overplay him without worrying about having the proper rotations in place.
The Clippers are only going to go as far as Chris Paul takes them this season, and in the games where he’s been aggressive and dominant offensively, they’ve cruised to easy victories. The Heat may have given other teams around the league a blueprint for slowing L.A. with the way they shut down Paul, focusing their defensive energy on him to the point where he was limited to just 11 points, 12 assists and five turnovers on 3-of-11 shooting in over 37 minutes of action.
Miami is further along than this Clippers team at this early point in the season, given the stability on the roster along with the team’s tenured head coach. The Clippers are still figuring things out, and they’ll get better as the season progresses. But Doc Rivers is going to need to come up with some counters for when teams key in defensively on slowing Paul, otherwise the Clippers might be in for some underwhelming results as the year rolls along.
Foul or defend?
That’s the eternal question for teams trying to protect a late three-point lead.
While many fans believe fouling is the astute strategy, most American coaches opt to defend.
Defending is a better strategy than meets the eye, because it’s relatively easy to defend the arc when you know your opponent needs a 3-pointer. Plus, as coaches commonly believe, fouling offers too many opportunities for something to go wrong.
The Clippers almost learned that the hard way in their win over the Hornets on Sunday.
But an officiating error helped L.A. preserve its late lead, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
With the Clippers up three, Chris Paul intentionally fouled Kemba Walker with 2.1 seconds left. Walker made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second.
In the battle for the rebound, Blake Griffin should have been called for committing a loose-ball foul on Marvin Williams with 2.0 seconds left, per the league:
Griffin (LAC) grab Williams’ (CHA) jersey and affect his ability to rebound.
The league also ruled Williams got away with a loose-ball foul on Griffin in the same tenth of a second, but Griffin’s foul should have been whistled first.
A correct call would’ve given Williams — who’s making 85% of his free throws this season and 80% for his career — two attempts from the line with a chance to tie the game.
Instead, Griffin grabbed the rebound and was intentionally fouled with half a second left. He hit one free throw, and the Clippers won, 124-121.
The adventures of Kevin Durant‘s shoe:
- Falls off as Durant shoots a jumper
- Left on the far side of the court for an entire Warriors defensive possession
- Lightly kicked by 76ers forward Robert Covington, who should have tossed it into the crowed
- Picked up by Draymond Green, who sets a screen while holding it
- Tossed by Green to Durant
- Held by Durant as he defends and tips a rebound
- Put back on by Durant just in time for him to assist Stephen Curry
This is mostly good effort by Patrick Patterson. It’s also bad luck for Derrick Rose, who’s not accustomed to avoiding a player lying on his back.
But it’s hard to resist the jokes about Rose losing a step to the point he can no longer beat even a man who’d fallen on his back off the dribble.
Markelle Fultz is the consensus top prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, and Lonzo Ball is a strong second.
Leading the pack for third? Probably Kansas forward Josh Jackson.
But Jackson’s résumé is now tainted by a misdemeanor property-damage charge.
The incident, which allegedly involved Kansas teammate Lagerald Vick and Kansas women’s basketball playerMcKenzie Calvert, occurred just before 2 a.m. Dec. 9.
Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams of The Kansas City Star:
Calvert is the same female KU student who a university investigation found Vick likely committed domestic violence against more than a year ago.
Calvert reportedly threw a drink on a male patron while leaving the bar. The Star has learned that the patron was Vick.
Jackson followed Calvert to her car, according to the release, and they argued. Witnesses saw Jackson kick the driver’s door of Calvert’s car and kick a rear taillight.
The Star has learned that Calvert — a standout on the women’s team — was in the driver’s seat while Jackson kicked her car.
Investigators have interviewed several people who witnessed the reported crime. A police report categorized the $2,991 in total damage to the car as a felony. But Friday’s release listed the damage at a higher amount, $3,150.45.
“Felony criminal damage (damage in excess of $1,000) was not charged because the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the damage to the door and taillight were caused by Jackson,” the release said.
Jackson said in a statement he would pay for damage he “directly caused.” Kansas coach Bill Self, in his statement, called Jackson a “great ambassador for this university.”
NBA teams shouldn’t and probably won’t blindly accept Self’s self-interested assessment. Jackson’s conduct will likely be investigated during the pre-draft process, determining where it falls on the spectrum of a youthful transgression and the hot-button issue of domestic violence.
The better Jackson plays, the more forgiving teams will be. Right or wrong, that’s how it works. But this incident will be included in the overall assessment of Jackson.