It was raining threes in Brooklyn as Nets hand Heat first loss of playoffs

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In a virtual must-win Game 3 at home the big-spending Brooklyn Nets threw out a starting lineup making $68.6 million.

But it was two guys making a combined $4.6 million and coming off the bench that were the spark.

Andray Blatche was attacking inside and had 15 points, shooting 5-of-7 inside 8 feet and keying the Nets in the first half. Mirza Teletovic had nine points in the third quarter (12 for the game) knocking down threes, all the while doing a good job defending LeBron James.

Combine that with the Nets having a hot shooting night from three, hitting 15-of-25 from beyond the arc, and the Nets got the win they needed.

Brooklyn pulled away in the third quarter and cruised to a 104-90 win, handing Miami its first loss of these playoffs. Miami still leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 coming Monday night.

The tale of this game can completely be told from beyond the arc.

Brooklyn not only hit 15-of-25, they were 11-of-18 from above the break. Johnson led the way hitting 5-of-7 on his way to 19 points n the night.

The Heat started out 2-of-2 from three then proceeded to hit 1-of-16 through the heart of the game. Miami hit a few more late to make the numbers look a little better, but in the third quarter the Nets did a much better job of getting back in transition to take away easy buckets, they clogged the paint to take away driving lanes and the Heat did not make them pay with the three ball.

The Nets played with a new energy (call it desperation?) from the opening tip. Early on Deron Williams was pushing the tempo, finding Johnson for a couple threes in transition. Nets attacking more in transition 15-10 early.

Yet they couldn’t pull away early because Miami opened hitting 8-of-11 shots, and because of LeBron James — he had 16 of his 28 points in the first quarter. The Heat put up 30 in the first frame and looked like they could just outscore the Nets. This was a two-point game at the half, the Nets up 51-49 and, like the first two games, it felt like the Heat were just waiting to kick it into another gear.

But from there the Heat just could not knock down shots, even missing a lot of open looks — they had just 14 points on 17 open jumpers, according to Synergy Sports. Teletovic did a good job on LeBron taking away easy driving lanes, turning him into a jump shooter in the second half. LeBron still had 28 points and was the one Heat player looking like he wanted to end the series Saturday night. Dwyane Wade had 20 points but needed 18 shots, Chris Bosh had a dozen points on 11 shots.

Meanwhile the Nets went on a 9-0 third-quarter run to pull away because they had balance. D-Will dished out 10 assists, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for 24, Shaun Livingston was attacking the rim and finished with 12 points.

This felt like a playoff game — it got testy at points. Pierce got called for a flagrant foul for grabbing LeBron James by the shoulders (he made the shot anyway). Ray Allen and Alan Anderson got double-technicals after they got in a little pushing match after being tied it. The series got physical.

It was an impressive outing from the Nets all around, but there remains one question:

Can they repeat that performance?

They shot 52.8 percent as a team and you can expect Miami to bounce back with a new level of energy Monday night. Brooklyn is going to have to stay hot in this series, they are going to need guys coming off the bench with big nights, they are going to need it all.

And they are going to need it Monday night, because they are in trouble if they head back to Miami down 3-1.

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant betting odds favorites to win MVP

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Unlike the early projections for the NBA title next season, the MVP race seems wide open.

Russell Westbrook put up ridiculous numbers on his way to the award last season, but now he is going to share the rock with Paul George. James Harden made a legitimate case and would have won most seasons, but now he will have the ball in his hands less with Chris Paul running the show.

Who is going to win? Westbrook and Golden State’s Kevin Durant are the early betting line favorites, with these odds courtesy of online gaming site Bovada.

Russell Westbrook (OKC) 7/2
Kevin Durant (GS) 9/2
Kawhi Leonard (SAN) 13/2
LeBron James (CLE) 15/2
James Harden (HOU) 8/1
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 17/2
Steph Curry (GS) 11/1
Anthony Davis (NOP) 16/1
Paul George (OKC) 25/1
Chris Paul (HOU) 25/1
Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 25/1
DeMarcus Cousins (NOP) 33/1
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 33/1
John Wall (WAS) 33/1
Blake Griffin (LAC) 40/1
Nikola Jokic (DEN) 40/1
DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 50/1
Joel Embiid (PHI) 50/1
Kyrie Irving (CLE) 50/1
Damian Lillard (POR) 50/1
Draymond Green (GS) 60/1
Ben Simmons (PHI) 66/1
Gordon Hayward (BOS) 70/1
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 75/1
Jimmy Butler (MIN) 75/1
Andrew Wiggins (MIN) 75/1
Kevin Love (CLE) 100/1
Kyle Lowry (TOR) 100/1
Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 100/1

Yes, it is far too early to discuss this. As a voter, I don’t even start to make a list of serious candidates until midway through the season (then that list evolves as the season wears on). But it’s fun to speculate about.

To me, the smartest bet on the board seems to be Kawhi Leonard — he could have won last year, and if anything the Spurs are going to ask more of him this season. I think Harden has a chance to win it this season even with CP3, same with Westbrook, but it feels less likely. It’s hard to imagine one Warrior being picked above the others for the award. If Giannis Antetokounmpo finds his jumper it could happen, but that feels more like something a couple seasons away. Same with Karl-Anthony Towns being in consideration.

If you’re going to bet on Kevin Love, just donate that money to charity where it will do some good.

If Jeff Hornacek doesn’t work out with Knicks, is David Blatt next in line?

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It’s not fair to judge Jeff Hornacek of his first season as coach of the New York Knicks. Phil Jackson made some poor roster decisions — don’t hire a coach that likes to play fast then go sign Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah — and then there was the on again, off again, on again triangle offense looming over everything.

This season Hornacek will sink or swim on his own terms, and his ability to develop Kristaps Porzingis into a true franchise cornerstone and put Tim Hardaway Jr. and other young players in good positions around them.

If not, is former Cavaliers coach David Blatt lurking? Frank Isola of the New York Daily News says it’s something to watch.

Blatt, who has enjoyed tremendous success abroad, owns an impressive resume. No question about it. But you know the old saying, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And Blatt has connections with people in high places inside the Knicks front office, namely team president Steve Mills and newly hired front office executive Craig Robinson…

Mills is going to give Hornacek every opportunity to succeed in New York but Mills, who is said to have strong opinions about how the team should be coached, also wants to see results. That begins with Hornacek repairing his relationship with Kristaps Porzingis, who did not connect with the head coach last season and ultimately skipped his exit meeting with Jackson, Hornacek and Mills in April.

Repairing that relationship with Porzingis is crucial. We’ll see if Hornacek can do that and get this team moving in the right direction.

Blatt wants to return to the NBA, but his he the guy to connect with Porzingis? Blatt’s problems in Cleveland had far less to do with Xs and Os than it did relationships with players — Blatt was saying he wanted to team to play faster long before Tyronn Lue said that when he took over, but Lue could get players to buy in and listen. Blatt couldn’t. Blatt came in expecting to be handed respect, touting his European resume (that NBA players shrugged at), and demanding deference rather than building partnerships with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Blatt came off as needing to be the smartest guy in the room, always. Basically, Blatt could not handle the player/power dynamic in the NBA (coming out of Europe, where coaches have absolute power, like an American college coach). Has he learned how to deal with it?

Before we get to that question, Hornaced gets his shot. The real test for the Knicks comes after Christmas, when they spend most of a couple of weeks on the road (due to the Grammys coming to Madison Square Garden), it’s a tough couple of weeks, and the team could struggle in that stretch and not recover. Hornacek has to have the team playing well enough, and buying in enough by then, to survive that trip. Do that and he will stick around. If not, the sharks are circling.