Houston Rockets v Miami Heat

Heat execute in final minutes, Rockets still learning, fall in Miami

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Midway through the third quarter you had to like how the Rockets were playing against the Heat in Miami.

Tied 92-92, the Rockets got what seemed like their 5,347th floater in the lane of the night, this time it was Chandler Parsons over Chris Andersen. The Rockets players did not fear the Heat shot blockers all night. At the other end, Chris Bosh missed a clean look at a three then Birdman missed a clean tip, Dwight Howard pulled in the rebound and threw the outlet to James Harden who pushed it up one-on-three, then pulled up and knocked down a three. It was is 97-92 Rockets.

Everything went south for Houston soon after.

Miami closed the game on a 15-0 run as they executed and attacked, while the Rockets took poor shots and seemed when a couple bad calls didn’t go their way fell apart. The result was a 113-104 Heat victory.

Miami needed this win, having lost five of six coming in and even with the win they are three games back of Indiana for the top spot in the West. Now the Heat get three of four against sub-.500 teams and a chance to try and chase down that record.

Four Houston it was another game with fantastic offense much of the night but not enough defense or execution when it mattered.

Rockets fans will be quick to point to some bad calls — and there were. LeBron should have been called on a pick for holding Jeremy Lin. The technical foul on Patrick Beverly after a hard but clean foul on LeBron was ridiculous. You know what good teams do in that situation? Put it behind them and overcome it.

It’s games like this where we’re reminded that this Rockets team is young and still learning how to win together. Lessons that will get furthered in the playoffs (where they still should make the second round but need to defend more consistently).

For the first time since he shed the mask LeBron was aggressive again and finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He wasn’t sharp, however, with five turnovers to go with his five assists, and you can credit Chandler Parsons and the Rockets defense for that.

But with the attention on LeBron it left Dwyane Wade to attack James Harden — 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting — and Ray Allen to shoot over everyone and score 25 points on 7-of-11 from the floor (4-of-6 from three). Chris Bosh added 18 points on 12 shots and played well.

Harden had 30 points to lead the Rockets, Howard added 21 points and 14 rebounds.

But they came apart at the end.

It started with 4:26 left and the Rockets up 102-98 — after a made basket by Beverly Howard tipped the ball to the official, and was assessed a delay of game, the second one so it led to a technical. By the letter of the rule and how the league has called it all year that is a delay of game — technically Miami could have taken the ball out faster because of what Howard did, you don’t have to like the rule (I don’t, it should only be called when trying to slow the other team up from inbounding the ball) but the league has called it that way all season.

After that Houston was a mess on both ends.

First Wade attacked Harden off the dribbled and scored. Miami’s pressure defense then never let the Rockets get off a good shot and the result was a Chandler Parsons prayer that was not answered. Then Allen got wide open underneath for a lay-up — this is the pick where James held Lin, but even if he doesn’t Lin will be late arriving (LeBron is a big screen) and Parsons didn’t recognize it and cut off the passing lane. Jeremy Lin then chose a poor time to just chuck a three. Ray Allen didn’t miss his three at the other end.

And so it goes. The Rockets shoot 0-of-6 down the stretch and the one good look — a Harden lay-up attempt off penetration — rimmed out. Miami just kept making plays.

It was a rough week for the Rockets, losing to the Thunder, Bulls and now Heat on the road. But that’s how you learn lessons, and the teams that persevere through it become better, become contenders down the line.

Can we just relive that epic Dunk Contest one more time? Here’s the mixtape.

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TORONTO — Talking to NBA people, fans, and media around Toronto Sunday it seems every conversation starts with some version of “last night’s Dunk Contest was INSANE!

Because it was.

Andre Drummond threw down an impressive two-hand power slam with an assist from soccer playing Steve Nash. Will Barton‘s first dunk might have won him the contest in some weaker years. And we’re not even talking about them because of the eye-popping show that Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine put on.

Before we move on and talk trade rumors or actual All-Star Game, or whatever is coming next, can we just bask in the joy of that dunk contest one more time? The fine folks at NBA.com put together this mixtape version of the Dunk Contest, I’m passing it along.

Savor this people, it doesn’t get any better than what we witnessed Saturday night.

Michael Jordan to Klay Thompson: “Go ahead and break” Bulls’ 72-win record

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 25:  Owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, watches on during their game against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NBA - NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Barring a major injury, it seems almost inevitable at this point that the Warriors will surpass the 1996 Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season and vault themselves into the conversation of the greatest NBA teams in history. All year, members of that ’96 Bulls team have weighed in comparing the teams, but one guy who hasn’t given his thoughts publicly is Michael Jordan.

Apparently, during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Jordan gave Klay Thompson his blessing for the Warriors to go for 73. Via CSN’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude:

Not that the Warriors need anybody’s permission to go after the record, obviously. But it had to be cool for Thompson to hear directly from Jordan that he respects what the Warriors are doing and wants them to break his own record. In all likelihood, they’ll do it.

Report: No suitors for Boston’s David Lee. So far.

Boston Celtics' David Lee comes down after dunking during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are rumored to be involved in a lot of trade talks that in reality are going nowhere — Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Al Horford. The buzz around the league is none of those deals are coming together, in part because Boston is protective of its picks (particularly things like the 2016 unprotected first round pick of the Brooklyn Nets).

What the Celtics would love to talk about is finding a new home for David Lee. But that is proving difficult, reports Mark Murphy of the Boston Globe.

Lee, who has fallen out of Brad Stevens’ rotation, and would welcome a move to a playoff team that has a role for him, is not drawing suitors.

“David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” said the source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’s his contract. David Lee’s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.” … Isaiah Thomas has been doing his part when it comes to selling players on the virtues of being a Celtic.

Lee is making $15.5 million this season. He’s always mentioned in those superstar trade rumors with Boston because they can use his salary to help match a more expensive players’ contract. But on his own, that’s been a much tougher sell.

Hopefully, the Celtics can find a taker; Lee deserves to be in a place where he has a chance to at least contribute a little. He’s not a starting caliber player anymore, but we saw in the NBA Finals last season in the right circumstance he can play a key role.

Craig Sager and his flashy suits return to All-Star weekend

Craig Sager
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TORONTO (AP) — The All-Star game in New York was a little less colorful last year.

Craig Sager, the TNT sideline reporter known for wearing flashy suits, missed the NBA’s annual midseason gala for the first time since he started doing them in 1988. Another bout with the leukemia he’s been battling for the last few years resurfaced, and Sager was forced to sit out while undergoing more treatments.

Sager considers the All-Star festivities the most important weekend of the season for him, and so it pained him to have to watch on television while receiving his treatments.

“It was hard for me not to be there, but I had to address my health,” Sager said. “To be able to get that in remission and be able to go through this year, it’s going to be extra special for me. I’ve really been looking forward to this a long time.”

That’s right. Sager is back for All-Star weekend in Toronto this year.

He spent the week leading up to it in Houston receiving his monthly treatment, which included a blood transfusion, to make sure he was healthy enough for the trip. Once he arrived in Canada, he was easy to spot.

“I just saw him,” Spurs coach and longtime foil Gregg Popovich said after the Western Conference team practiced on Saturday. “His suit spoke to me. It blinded me for a second.”

It’s been an emotional run for Sager, the longtime fixture at NBA games. He has needed two bone marrow transplants and still has to make those treks to Houston once a month. He has returned to the sideline for games this season and is feeling so well that he was scheduled to do both the Saturday night activities that include the 3-point shootout and the dunk contest as well as the game on Sunday.

“I feel great. Got my weight back. Got my strength back,” Sager said. “I’m back to playing golf.”

Two of his youngest children – daughter Riley and son Ryan – will be with him on the court this weekend serving as a ball boy and ball girl.

And of course, Sager will do a round with Popovich on television during a quarter break on Sunday. The two have turned the sideline interview into a passion play,

“He’s been an iconic figure in the NBA. He does a great job,” Popovich said. “His sense of humor is obvious. we have a lot of fun going back and forth with that. To have him back where he belongs, obviously we’re happy for him and his health. But for the league it’s great too, because he’s a fixture that everybody enjoys.”

Sager called the support he has received from Commissioner Adam Silver, coaches, players and fans “humbling” and said he was looking forward to coming back to his favorite event of the season.

“It’s been very uplifting, very therapeutic,” Sager said. “Very supportive on their part. That really has been very helpful to me, my treatment and my drive to get back.”