Watch Hassan Whiteside score 26 points, grab 22 rebounds in Heat’s win over Pacers (video)

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MIAMI (AP) — Winning consecutive games at home for the first time all season isn’t exactly something to celebrate, particularly when the season is nearly two months old.

For the Miami Heat, it’s a start.

Hassan Whiteside had 26 points and 22 rebounds, and the Heat clamped down defensively to beat the Indiana Pacers 95-89 on Wednesday night. Miami held the Pacers to 37 percent shooting and outrebounded them 58-38.

“Guess that’s what you can expect with a Heat-Pacers game, regardless of who the faces are,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was good for us to grind out another one.”

No, this wasn’t one of those playoff battles with the Pacers that featured LeBron James and Dwyane Wade almost always finding a way for the Heat in recent years. This time, it was the likes of Tyler Johnson and James Johnson coming up big, combining for 29 points off the bench – and Whiteside simply controlling the paint during his 34 minutes.

“I try to lead by example,” Whiteside said.

Paul George scored 22 for the Pacers, who were hoping for a season-best third straight win and instead managed just 10 points in the fourth quarter. CJ Miles added 15 for Indiana.

“This is a game that we should have won,” George said. “It’s frustrating. … We played OK. We just didn’t finish well.”

Neither team led by more than seven, and the Heat got to that margin after James Johnson found Goran Dragic for a layup and a 92-85 lead with 3:35 left.

They needed to hang on desperately from there.

Miami didn’t score again until there were 12.9 seconds left, when Josh Richardson sealed the win with a dunk that put the Heat up five after Indiana didn’t foul. The Pacers missed three 3-point tries that would have tied the game in the final 2 minutes, one by George and the last two by Myles Turner.

The Pacers shot 5 for 18 in the fourth. They went scoreless over a 7-minute stretch in the second half, and Miami took the lead for good during that drought.

“They basically muscled us and broke our offensive execution,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Monta Ellis (right groin strain) was sidelined again, and Rodney Stuckey played through a bruised left knee. … This was the start of Indiana’s sixth of 17 back-to-backs this season. … George has played 19 games at Miami, including playoffs. Indiana’s record in those games is 2-17.

Heat: It was the fourth time Whiteside reached 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game, the second this season. … Justise Winslow returned from a 16-game absence due to a sore left wrist and scored two points in 21 minutes. … Dragic missed his first seven shots before connecting on a pull-up for his first basket early in the third quarter. He shot 4 for 15. … Dion Waiters (groin) missed his 10th consecutive game.

`CANES VISIT

Miami’s women’s basketball team – No. 13 in this week’s AP Top 25 – was at the game, along with coach Katie Meier. For some, it was their first time at a Heat game. “They were so excited,” said Meier, whose team next plays Friday at Florida International.

FREE THROWS

Indiana came into the night as the league’s fourth-best team at the foul line, Miami as the very worst. The Pacers went 14 for 17, the Heat 14 for 25.

UP NEXT

Pacers: Visit New Orleans on Thursday, the second game in a three-game, four-day trip.

Heat: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, the third game on this six-game homestand.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

Rob Carr/Getty Images
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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

image

The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.