Phoenix Suns v Miami Heat

Dywane Wade is hot, which is forcing LeBron to adjust his game

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One of the key reasons the Miami Heat offense really came together two years ago was Dwyane Wade agreed to take a step back and let LeBron James be the focal point of the offense. The season before they basically traded turns and that couldn’t get them past the Dallas Mavericks in the finals. Wade adjusted and the Heat thrived.

Now LeBron James is adjusting.

The “Wade knee maintenance program” has been a big success — in his last 10 games he is scoring 22.2 points a game on 55.1 percent shooting, plus he is getting to the free throw line 6.4 times a game. He is attacking and 48.7 percent of his shots have come within 8 feet of the rim in his last 10 games.

Wade has the ball in his hands more and that has thrown LeBron off a little bit, he told Shandel Richardson at the Sun-Sentinel (hat tip SLAM).

“He’s played so well of late,” James said. “He’s been handling the ball a lot as of late. I’ve kind of gotten out of rhythm. I’ve got to figure it out….

“It’s a challenge,” James said. “When [Wade] was in and out, I knew exactly what I had to do and exactly how to attack the game. His health has gotten better. It’s going to be better for the team but it’s kind of got me out rhythm as an individual. It’s not like our first year playing together. It’s something that we figured out in Year One. You can’t take it for granted. You still got to try to figure it back out and that’s something I’m going through right now.”

It’s more than just Wade. LeBron has had a number of games like the Cavaliers one from Tuesday night, where he gets off to a fast start (25 in the first quarter) only to slow down in the second half, the fourth quarter specifically (although LeBron made a couple big blocks late). It was Chris Bosh with a dozen in the fourth Tuesday night — and Wade was taking the night off. Whether he is tired, this is remnants of the broken nose or what, LeBron hasn’t quite been himself of late.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $110,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Wednesday night’s games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $12,000. Starts at 7pm ET on Wednesday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Expect LeBron to figure it out. Expect the Heat to figure this out. This is when an experienced title team starts to really put the pieces together for a title run, and Wade and LeBron have done this dance before. They can put the pieces back together again.

The bigger question is will that be enough for a three-peat?

Watch it again: Epic dunk contest duel between Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon

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TORONTO — I am always hesitant to say a player/team/situation is one of the best of ever because the history of the NBA is filled with greats. We tend to overstate how good something current can be.  That said…

That was one of the best dunk contests ever.

Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon put on a show for the ages. Gordon had the best dunks of the night (in my opinion), but LaVine is consistently amazing, every dunk he does is flat out ridiculous.

Officially, LaVine won. In reality, we all won. Enjoy watching it one more time.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.