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.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.

LeBron James beautifully pass-fakes, makes layup in transition (video)

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LeBron James is a treasure.

Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe is seriously jacked up (PHOTO)

shaq o'neal
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Remember how we we all freaked out when we saw pictures of LeBron James‘ feet back in 2013?

You probably didn’t want to be reminded that it existed, but it does. Still. And apparently jacked up feet is the consequence of a lifetime of playing professional basketball. Once can only assume it has something to do with tight shoes and constant, hard changes of direction in said tight shoes.

We got yet another vision of what basketball shoes can do to feet on Thursday when TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal showed off his, er, little piggies.

Much to the horror of the Internet in general, it was Shaq’s right big toe that took social media by storm. Mostly because it’s not even close to pointing in the right direction.

I’m going to show you what it looks like. Be forewarned, it might just be NSFL.

Via Twitter:

Oh. Oh … why?

Social media reacted appropriately and proportionately:

Shaq did have issues with that toe during the course of his career, and at one point it was so bad that he had to have surgery to remove bone spurs from the toe in 2002.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s all over your TV and the Internet, but here we are. I am sorry.