The Lakers don’t have much in the way of talent these days, and looking at a starting lineup that includes Ryan Kelly, Kendall Marshall and Wesley Johnson may feel like a strong sign that the basketball equivalent of the apocalypse has descended on Los Angeles.
But what the team does have is an above average level of fight and grit under Mike D’Antoni this season that would appear to be tough to muster under the circumstances.
That spirit showed itself again on Thursday, when a Lakers team that seemed to be simply going through the motions for much of the proceedings found a way to turn things around enough to cut a 16-point second half deficit to just four, before ultimately falling to the defending champs by a final of 109-102.
D’Antoni changed up his normal substitution pattern by letting Pau Gasol open the fourth quarter while LeBron James and Chris Bosh were on the bench getting their customary rest to start the period, and Gasol responded by grabbing a couple of steals and getting past Greg Oden for an and-1 finish that cut the Miami lead to just seven. Nick Young followed that up with a layup, and it was a five-point game with under 10 minutes remaining.
The Heat brought James and Bosh back in, and immediately stabilized. But some tough shots made by Young and Jodie Meeks had the Lakers back within four with under three minutes remaining, before a three from James demoralized L.A. and all but sealed the victory.
D’Antoni said afterward that his team’s problem isn’t scoring but defense, and the fact that the Heat shot 10-of-14 from the field (71.4 percent) in the final period when the game was actually tight leads us to believe this was an accurate assessment.
Dwyane Wade missed this one due to soreness in his knees, the fourth straight contest he’s been held out by the team simply to rest. Chris Bosh picked up the slack and led all scorers with 31 points on 15-of-22 shooting, and LeBron added 27 points on 15 shots, to go along with 13 rebounds and six assists.
That’s just nasty.
Atlanta’s Al Horford gets the ball out high, but within his range, so when he pump fakes Indiana’s Lavoy Allen goes flying by. That opens up the lane and Horford attacks it, Solomon Hill tries to cut him off, but Horford just finishes threw him.
Pacers and Hawks played an entertaining, close game Friday night.
Dwyane Wade still has some springs.
In what may be his best dunk in recent memory, he shoulders Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to create space in transition, then gets up and throws it down before Nicolas Batum can get there for the block.
Not sure even Wade saw that one coming.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine is heading back to All-Star weekend to defend his slam dunk title. And he says he has “a few tricks up my sleeve” after dominating the event last year.
LaVine will compete against Detroit center Andre Drummond, Denver swingman Will Barton and Orlando forward Aaron Gordon in Toronto next weekend.
LaVine was one of the breakout stars of All-Star weekend last year with his electric performance in the dunk contest. He says he debated about coming back and made his decision after strong encouragement from his fans.
If LaVine wins, he will become the fourth player in the 31-year history of the event to repeat as champion. Michael Jordan, Jason Richardson and Nate Robinson are the others.
Blake Griffin will still return to the Clippers some time in March (barring any setbacks).
That said, he had a second procedure this week to repair the boxer’s fracture in his right hand, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Clippers forward Blake Griffin underwent a second procedure this week on his broke right hand, sources told ESPN. The procedure was a part of the original surgery last week, so sources said the 4-6 week timeframe for his return remains unchanged.
This might help explain why Griffin’s hand looked so swollen and scarred this week. But to be clear, this was a planned second procedure, not a setback.
Griffin suffered the fracture punching a Clippers’ equipment manager while everyone was out to dinner in Toronto recently, while Griffin was still sidelined with a quadricep injury. The Clippers have moved on, but it is likely the league will tack on a couple of game suspension for Griffin upon his return to health.
And no, the Clippers are not looking to trade Griffin in spite of this. So stop asking.