What malaise? Chris Bosh, Miami look sharp in blowout win over Spurs

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Miami just needed a challenge, apparently.

The Heat had coasted through the last few weeks, still winning some games but not looking sharp, looking like a team that was bored with the season. Like a team a little tired and just waiting for the playoffs.

Then the Spurs came to town and Miami woke up — Chris Bosh in particular was sharp.

Bosh had 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting as the Heat blew the game open in the third quarter and both teams rested their stars in the fourth quarter of a 113-101 Miami win that wasn’t as close as the score suggests.

If Miami wants to beat the Pacers in the playoffs, they need this Chris Bosh. He hit 4-of-4 shots inside eight feet but was also 4-of-4 from the midrange, his only miss coming on one of his two threes. When Bosh is hitting those shots to space the court it opens up lanes, both passing and driving.

Miami took advantage of that with crisp ball movement, something the shorthanded Spurs could not keep up with. Then Miami hit their shots, shooting 60 percent through the first three quarters and hitting 6-of-13 from three, opening up a 91-71 lead. The fourth quarter was pretty much all garbage time.

LeBron James had 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Mario Chalmers was 5-of-7 from the floor through three quarters, Ray Allen hit a couple threes and the Heat offense was just clicking. That let them get back and set their defense.

Dwyane Wade came off the bench in his first game back after missing four and still did not seem to move well and was rusty, shooting 2-of-6 on the night.

Miami scored 58 points on 59 percent shooting in the first half and had an 8-point lead at the break, but they came out with more defensive intensity in the second half. Miami went on on 15-3 run midway through the third quarter, their defense forcing the Spurs into more midrange shots, which were contested and did not fall. Heat moved the ball well in the quarter, knocked down their looks, plus hit ridiculous shots like LeBron from behind the backboard.

On the other side, San tAntonio is now 1-10 against the league’s best teams (Indiana, Oklahoma City, Portland, the Clippers, Houston and now Miami) and 32-1 against the rest of the league. Yes, that’s an issue.

Tim Duncan had 23 points on 13 shots, Boris Diaw had a nice game with 15 points, but it was the defensive end of the floor that was the issue for the Spurs. They miss Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, but this team’s issues are a little bigger than that right now. It’s fair to question if they can repeat last season’s playoff success.

Kevin Garnett: Thon Maker “is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down.”

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Not to get to inside baseball on NBA journalism, but one fundamental truth is player trainers pump up their guys. There usually is some truth in what they say, but it is in their interest to spin the player the best way possible. On and off the record it happens. It’s like asking a political campaign manager about his candidate, you will only get the positive.

Kevin Garnett worked out and helped the Bucks’ Thon Maker this summer.

In just his second season, Thon Maker has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Bucks at center, and he’s struggled this season with a true shooting percentage of 48 getting him 4.5 points a game, and PER of 9.3. (Bucks fans are understandably disappointed, but this is a second-year player, some patience is required).

Garnett had Makers’ back in a Q&A with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams.

Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools—he has touch; he has agility; he has really, good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.

Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”

Garnett may have the wrong young-stud Buck with an MVP in his future.

Maker has gotten KG comparisons for years, he’s a very mobile and athletic but thin big who can shoot from the wing… but the physical similarities are not enough. Maker is no KG. Not yet. Maker showed promise against the Raptors last playoffs but has not taken a step forward off that progress this season, looking far more prone to fouling than defending. The effort is there, but the maturity of game has a long way to go to catch up.

Garnett is right that Maker has the tools, and he is just in his second NBA season so patience is required, but there were concerns around the league before the draft if he had the makeup to put it all together and become a quality NBA player. That question is still out there, let’s get past it before we heap on accolades.

LeBron James all good with Reggie Jackson’s free throw gamesmanship, “I’ve done it before”

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Let’s set the stage: Sunday night, the fast-rising Pistons led the fast-rising Timberwolves by three with  6.2 seconds left when Jimmy Butler drew a foul on a 3-pointer. Butler drained the first two free throws. Before the third, Reggie Jackson interrupted to talk to Stanley Johnson, who was in rebounding position. Butler missed the free throw, and Detroit held on to win 100-97. Here’s the play in question.

It was a bit of gamesmanship by Jackson.

LeBron James was asked about the move at Cavaliers shootaround and endorsed it with a smile on his face.

“I’ve done it before. I won a playoff series before doing that actually. So, I’m all for it.”

That series was in 2007, overtime of game 6 of a first-round playoff series against Washington, and the victim was the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas. The Cavaliers were down 1, Arenas had two free throws, missed the first, then LeBron stepped in. Arenas missed the second, and the Cavs went on to get the win.

Is interrupting free throws about to become an NBA thing? If it works, players will do it.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.