The Heat had largely cruised through these playoffs unscathed before Saturday night’s Game 3 loss to the Nets, winning all six contests before that and being rarely challenged to this point of the postseason.
But after falling under a barrage of three-point bombs and looking largely uninspired throughout much of the second half, LeBron James and his teammates may finally be feeling as though the postseason has arrived.
“It has felt like the playoffs and it hasn’t,” Chris Bosh said of the past few weeks. “We didn’t have that desperation in this game, but usually, a loss will do that and you’ll come back with it.” …
“This is a series now,” James said. “I’ve been part of a lot of series. I understand it’s never won in two games.”
This is the first bit of adversity Miami has faced in the team’s bid to get back to a fourth straight Finals, and a let down at some point was to be expected, especially against a veteran-loaded team like the Nets that, perhaps more than any other, isn’t likely to be intimidated by the Heat’s championship resume.
Game 4 means everything for Brooklyn, just as Game 3 did before it. Going down 3-1 would put the Nets in an essentially impossible situation, and it will be no easy task surviving what’s sure to be a bounce-back effort from the Heat in the next one.
There’s an old playoff saying, however, that states that a series doesn’t truly begin until one team wins on the other’s home floor, either stealing or solidifying the home-court advantage. A Nets win that would tie the series at 2-2 wouldn’t upset that balance, even though reducing this round to a best-of-three would certainly intensify the feeling from James that his team has finally begun to experience a challenge.
It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway
Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.
One shoe Kevin Durant is officially the greatest rim protector of all time.
He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.
Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”
I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.
His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”
He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.
Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.
Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.
Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance
NEW YORK (AP)— The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.
Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.
NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.
Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling