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.
Jose Calderon, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings all officially waived; contenders line up for their services
They have to clear waivers (Wednesday) before they can sign with a new team. However, all three seem to be headed to teams with dreams of going deep into the playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors want a little depth at the point for the postseason, and they are going with the steady but aged veteran Calderon. He will have limited run behind Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston, but he will have a role in the playoffs and as a steadying force.
The Washington Wizards are going another, more talented but more combustible direction, and appear the frontrunners to sign Brandon Jennings (Chris Haynes of ESPN had that link. . The Wizards have not loved the play of Trey Burke this season and have leaned on Tomas Satoransky to run some point, expect Jennings to get some healthy run if and when he arrives in Washington.
Bogut is expected to sign with the Cavaliers, although the Spurs could have a shot at him and other teams are asking to get in the mix (not his former team the Warriors, however).
NBA: Bulls beat Suns after two key missed calls late in fourth quarter
The collective ‘we’ were happy the Bulls reached overtime against the Suns on Friday, because we saw Dwyane Wade‘s fantastic dagger dunk.
The Bulls were happy they reached overtime, because they won the game in the extra period.
But with correct officiating down the stretch, Phoenix probably would have won in regulation.
The Bulls got away with two key violations late in the fourth quarter, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Jimmy Butler got away with traveling with 1:58 left, per the league:
Butler (CHI) move his pivot foot.
Instead of a Chicago turnover, Butler kicked the ball to Nikola Mirotic, who hit a 3-pointer.
Then, Denzel Valentine got away with a defensive three-second violation with a minute left, per the league:
Valentine (CHI) is in the paint without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds.
A correct call would’ve given any Sun on the court — either Eric Bledsoe (who’s making 85% of his free throws this season and 80% for his career) or Devin Booker (82%, 83%) — a single free throw and Phoenix a fresh shot clock.
Instead, the Suns — facing a tougher road penetrating the paint — turned the ball over.
On their own, those missed calls were each big swings. Together, they were huge in Chicago’s win.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have waived veteran forward Luis Scola.
Scola averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 36 games this season, falling out of the rotation as the league-worst Nets focused more on their younger players, even though the Celtics hold swap rights on Brooklyn’s first-round pick.
General manager Sean Marks said Monday the Nets felt that Scola “deserved the opportunity to contribute to a playoff contender.” Because he was waived by the March 1 deadline, Scola would be eligible to sign with another team and appear on its playoff roster.
Scola has averaged 12 points while playing for five teams in his 10 NBA seasons, and won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004.
Raptors’ Kyle Lowry undergoing surgery, aims to return for playoffs
Lowry is the Raptors best player, and answering his call, they upgraded around him by trading for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. Now Lowry isn’t around to lead the charge.
Maybe I’m reading too much into the wording, but merely aiming to return for the playoffs is hardly convincing. Does that mean there’s a chance he could miss the postseason?
That’d be a disaster for Toronto, which has put eggs in the basket for this season, Lowry’s last before unrestricted free agency.
Even if Lowry misses “only” several weeks and returns fully healthy for the playoffs, this harms the Raptors majorly. They’re fourth in the East, but barely behind the third-place Wizards and a chance to avoid the Cavaliers until the conference finals.
This is welcome news to Washington and the Celtics, who might be underdogs in the second round to Toronto’s souped-up roster. Now, it seems increasingly likely Cleveland would face the Raptors in the second round — if they get that far.
Cory Joseph is a fine backup, and Delon Wright offers intrigue as a third point guard. Pressing both up a level just invites problems.
Toronto’s trades positioned the Raptors to rise down the stretch. Now, they’ll just try to hold their ground.