Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade disappears in Game 4 of Finals

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After the thorough thrashing the Spurs delivered in a Game 4 victory over the Heat that placed them one win away from the NBA title, it’s perhaps unfair to single out one player’s performance as the reason for the loss.

But watching Dwyane Wade struggle through this one, it’s hard not to believe that his disappearance at the most critical of junctures was something more than simply an off night.

Wade started 1-of-10 from the field through the first three quarters, and chipped in two more buckets in the fourth quarter’s garbage time to finish with 10 points. Eight of those attempts came right at the rim, and he converted just one — partially due to San Antonio’s defensive presence, but more because of a clear lack of elevation or explosiveness when taking those shots.

In addition to the shooting woes, Wade looked a step slow all night long, and lacked any type of energy that would show he was playing at 100 percent. Look at the way Kawhi Leonard badgered him into a turnover late in the fourth — you can say the game was over by then, and surely, it was. But Wade wasn’t able to elude the defender, and ended up falling down as the ball was stolen.

There was another example on the defensive end here, where Wade looked gassed and didn’t even bother to hustle into the paint or jump for a rebound that he might have had a chance at if he had exerted the effort.

For those looking to chalk it up to fatigue or simply being washed up, this has not been the way Wade’s performed this postseason.

In the six Conference Finals games against the Pacers, Wade averaged 19.8 points on 54.5 percent shooting, and posted 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting as recently as Game 3 of the Finals. No, this was definitely different — even if he or his head coach weren’t willing to admit it afterward.

“No,” said Erik Spoelstra, when asked if there was something different about Wade in this one. “You have to credit their defense as well. It looked like he had a couple of opportunities. A couple he just missed, and that happens through competition, and Leonard got a piece of another one. Made a heck of a play on that. He was able to at least get into the paint a few times, but once they got up by 15, then we started to lose a little bit more rhythm from there, and that was everybody, not just exclusive to Dwyane.”

“Yeah, I just missed them,” Wade said, when it was pointed out he seemed to lack his usual explosiveness on his shots. “You know, I’m a very accurate shooter, so I don’t like missing. I’m not used to missing around the basket. But law of averages, man. The ball just didn’t go in. But I’ll take those same opportunities next game for sure.”

We don’t know exactly what was ailing Wade in Game 4, and even if he had put up one of his more traditional statistical lines, it’s likely the Heat still would have been crushed due to the way the Spurs flawlessly whipped the ball around to the open shooter in executing their offense.

But we do know that if Wade can’t bring anything more to a potential elimination game on Sunday, the Spurs will be crowned champions before the night is finished.

“You have to look at yourself and see what you can bring better to the game to be able to help this team,” Wade said. “Then as a team we’ve got to continue to trust and believe in each other, like we’ve done for four years here, like we’ve done all season. I’m confident that we will do that.”

Sit back and watch the top 10 dunks from the first five weeks of NBA season

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Who doesn’t love a good dunk compilation?

Well, somebody probably just said “bah, humbug” but is that the person you really want to hang out with?

The fine folks at NBA.com put together the Top 10 dunks of October and November, and when Rudy Gobert dunking over Kristaps Porzingis is all the way down at 10, you know it’s a good list. Put off starting your Christmas shopping, at least for another 2:44, and watch the video.

Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Here you go.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Chance The Rapper performs on Camp Stage during day one of Tyler, the Creator's 5th Annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival at Exposition Park on November 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Want to watch Chance the Rapper throw dodgeballs at mascots? Of course you do. How is that even a question?

Above you can see just that from Chicago Friday night (where Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls knocked off the Cavaliers). Benny the Bull is on his side as well, while the Cubs’ mascot and others try and stay out of the way.

I’ll take this over another kids’ dribbling contest any day.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobili hustling saves lead to Spurs bucket (VIDEO)

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That’s about the most Spurs play ever.

During the third quarter of San Antonio’s win over Washington Friday night, LaMarcus Aldridge saved the ball from going out-of-bounds on the baseline, he threw it out high to Manu Ginobili, who had to leap and save it from going into the backcourt. Two hustle plays. From there the Spurs whipped the ball around the perimeter, and it ended up back to Aldridge on the baseline, where he nailed the 12-foot jumper.

Eventually, the Spurs would get a Kawhi Leonard jumper to give them the victory.

LeBron on Cavs’ three-game losing streak: “We got to get out of the honeymoon stage”

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James wipes his face as he looks down after guard Kyrie Irving missed a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Chicago. The Bulls won 111-105. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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For a team that is 13-5 and atop the Eastern Conference standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been their intimidating selves consistently this season. There have been flashes during a 13-2 start, but mostly they win on talent, or when they flip the switch for a half, but they haven’t looked like a tested team working on building good habits through the first quarter of the NBA season. They have an elite offense, but their defense is surrendering 105.1 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the league.

It’s been worse the last four games. The Cavaliers had to come from behind to beat the Sixers, then got blown out by the Bucks and Clippers. Friday night, Cleveland lost to Chicago, giving the Cavs a three-game losing streak, and LeBron James had enough. He sent a message to his team through the media (from the Associated Press):

“We got to get out of the honeymoon stage,” James said. “You got to play the game, the right way. We’ve got to battle every night like we ain’t won nothing. Last year is last year. After ring night is over with, now it’s a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over. It’s time to play some real ball and be physical, especially in the trenches. Giving up 78 points (in the paint) is ridiculous. We’ve got to man up. Everybody.”

The Cavaliers would be far from the first team to have a championship hangover, and considering the five-decade title drought in Cleveland before that win we should have expected one of those “I can’t get off the couch, I’m just going to lay here and watch golf all day” kind of hangovers. As Gregg Popovich has said before, its human nature to let up after a big win.

However, the blowout loss at the hands of the Clippers Thursday — the only title contending team the Cavs have faced this season — should be a wake-up call. The fact is the Cavaliers are still playing well enough to beat everyone in the East, but their real tests come in the form of the Warriors/Clippers/Spurs out West. Right now it’s hard to picture the inconsistent defense of the Cavaliers lifting them past any of those teams in four out of seven games.

LeBron has been to six-straight Finals for a reason — he does not let up. And he’s going to have to shake this team out of its malaise to get them back to an elite standing.

It’s also the first week of December. It’s we’re having this same conversation the last week of March about the Cavaliers then it’s okay to start looking for the panic button in Cleveland. For now, trust LeBron to be the leader this team needs. Calling them out was just step one.