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.
Part of the reason Oklahoma City was able to push Golden State so far in the Western Conference Finals was Kevin Durant on defense. He could switch out on the perimeter and use his length to bother Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, and take away their driving lanes. Multiple times in that series he was the guy rotating into the paint to protect the rim and he gave Draymond Green trouble in the paint. Durant is listed as 6’9″ but look at him from this summer standing next to DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan, and you can see he’s more like 7-foot — the most mobile seven-footer in the league.
Which is why the Warriors — who already had a top-five defense the past two seasons — think they have another guy that fits right in with their switching-heavy style and can make them better on that end.
Here is what Warriors’ assistant coach and defensive guru Ron Adams told Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.
“His versatility is outstanding,” Ron Adams says of Durant. “He’s a terrific defender, who played with great defensive consistency in our playoff series. We will expect a lot out of him in that regard….
“He can, if necessary, guard all five positions – and do it effectively,” Adams says of Durant, who spent most of the conference finals smothering Warriors forward Draymond Green.
“He’s a really good rim protector, in a non-traditional way,” Kerr says. “When he played the ‘four’ against us in the playoffs, he was brilliant. He blocked some shots and he scored a bunch of times. So he’ll play a lot of ‘four’ for us, for sure.”
You don’t need me to tell you the Warriors are going to be good this season. Hate them and KD if you want, but know they will be a force.
Just remember they are not a team looking just to get in a shootout — the Warriors get stops, too. And that’s not changing.
Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are just like the rest of us.
The Thunder players sit around and belt out the Backstreet Boys’ “I want it that way.”
John Salley has said becoming a vegan sooner would’ve enhanced his NBA career.
Now, the former Piston has another idea for improving player health.
Salley, via TMZ:
I am a proponent and I believe in the advocacy of medical marijuana. We see football players in Alabama getting busted. We see – we need to get it out. We need to move it and realize that is something that can help the human body.
It helps athletes. I didn’t start smoking until my last two months before I was a pro. And I believe if I would’ve smoked while I was playing, I probably still would be playing.
Marijuana is already legal in Colorado (where the Nuggets play), Oregon (where the Trail Blazers play), Washington and Alaska. Medical marijuana is legal in numerous other states. The nation is definitely trending toward legalization.
If that continues, why shouldn’t NBA players be permitted to use the drug? It can be an effective method for treating pain – which is quite common in a profession that requires such intensive physical labor.
The 52-year-old Salley is obviously exaggerating about still played today if he smoked weed, but maybe his career would’ve lasted longer. Shouldn’t players determine for themselves what legal methods they can follow to manage injuries?
Perhaps, they’re already taking Salley’s advice.
John Wall and Bradley Beal admitted they clash on the court.
That caused controversy as the outside world expressed dismay at the Wizards guards’ attitudes.
Paul Shirley – who played for the Hawks, Bulls and Suns from 2003-05 – shrugged.
Paul Shirley on NBA.com:
What I learned, when I got to the NBA, was that my dreams of fraternity were naïve ones. I sat in locker rooms where players barely spoke to one another. I endured team plane rides where one guy stared daggers at the next because of a contract dispute.
Consequently, I barely batted an eye at the recent “revelation” that Bradley Beal and John Wall don’t much like one another.
Of course they don’t like each other, I thought. That’s just the way it is.
This is a secret of the NBA: Not all teammates get along. Some are friends, but many are just coworkers – and consider your relationship with your coworkers. Frequent travel for work and the closed-off nature of locker rooms can push players toward forging bonds – but those conditions can also magnify any rifts.
In theory, Wall (a slashing passer) and Beal (an outside shooter) should complement each other well. But it’d be hard to find a team where each of the top two scorers doesn’t believe he should get more shots.
The successful teams manage that tension productively. They can convince each player to accept a role, sacrifice and contain his displeasures.
Maybe the Wizards can get there.
But that – not a fantasy friendship between Wall and Beal – should be the goal.