Heat, Pacers both look for someone to knock down jumpers in Game 3

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Buckets.

You can break down the offensive sets in great detail and point to flaws. You can pull out all the advanced statistical analysis you want. All of those things are there to be in service to getting buckets — and sometimes that comes down to the Jeff Van Gundyism that it’s a make-or-miss league.

In Game 2, there were a lot of misses.

Part of that is the Pacers are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the Heat one of the most aggressive in terms of traps and jumping passing lanes. That has an effect.

But both teams just missed some good looks in Game 2. Uncontested jumpers where just missed.

Both Miami and Indiana are in search of more buckets in a key Game 3 in Miami, with the series tied 1-1.

For Miami, that scoring can come from a couple logical places.

First, Chris Bosh needs to make some three pointers and space the floor better, maybe pull Roy Hibbert out of the paint some. Right now the Pacers have ignored Bosh out by the arc and he is 1-of-9 from three in this series (and according to Sports VU cameras, six of his eight missed threes are uncontested). Bosh has hit some jumpers from the top of the key and elbow areas (3-of-5 through two games) but by and large the Pacers are helping off him and not paying a price. He is 8-of-21 shooting for the series. Miami needs that to change.

The other thing Miami needs seems obvious but they haven’t consistently stuck with it this series — put the ball in LeBron James’ hands. As our own Dan Feldman pointed out at ESPN, through the first two games LeBron touched the ball once every 44 seconds, which sounds like a lot, but in the regular season he got a touch every 30 seconds he was on the court. When the ball is in LeBron’s hands good things tend to happen, Miami needs him to make those plays in more than just the last five minutes of he Game.

For the Pacers that has to start with Paul George and David West knocking down good looks. And Lance Stephenson continuing to (he has struggled in Miami). George started the last game 1-of-11 shooting before he got a concussion (from which he has been cleared to play), and finished 4-of-16. He was just 2-of-6 in the paint but the bigger problem was 0-of-5 from the midrange. George has to knock down his jumpers because those will be the cleanest looks he gets.

David West’s ability to knock down midrange shots and elbow jumpers is a big part of his offensive game, but he was just 2-of-8 form there.

What the Pacers have to keep doing is hitting threes — they are shooting 44.7 percent from beyond the arc for the series, making the Heat pay for their aggressive doubles and leaps into passing lanes. Miami had been all to often doubling from one pass away and the Pacers have made Miami pay on those.

Whichever teams gets its buckets is going to be up 2-1 by the end of Saturday night.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.