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Three Things to Know: C.J. McCollum drops 50 in three quarters, then drops mic

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) C.J. McCollum drops 50 in three quarters, then drops the mic. I, for one, welcome our new C.J. McCollum overlord…

On the second night of a back-to-back, C.J. McCollum had one of the most impressive offensive nights in Trail Blazer history. It started from the opening tip — he scored 28 points in the first quarter alone on 11-of-14 shooting.

He didn’t slow down from there, he was hitting everything and finished the night making 18-of-25 from the field and averaging 1.71 points per shot attempt. He was hitting from everywhere, check out this shot chart.


When it was all over McCollum had 50 points in three quarters, then didn’t play in the fourth because the Trail Blazers were so far ahead of the Bulls and went on to win 124-108. McCollum joins Klay Thompson as the only player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in three quarters. Here’s one more look at his insane night.



2) Cavaliers pick up a win over Heat to hold on to the third spot in East.
It’s been a long January for the Miami Heat, they were 5-8 in the month, had just lost Kevin Love to a hand injury that requires surgery, trade rumors were (and are) swirling around the team, and they were only half-a-game ahead of the Heat for the three seed in the East.

Then on the final night of the month, Cleveland held on for a win over the Heat that helps them hold on to that three seed, 91-89. For now.

This was a close game at the end, the kind of game the Heat have been winning all season — they have 22 wins in games within five points in the final five minutes in the NBA, most in the league — but when you live in close games the scales tend to balance out over time. In this one the Heat remained ice cold from three all night, hitting just 3-of-28 from beyond the arc, and that included a clean Tyler Johnson look to tie late. Miami also had the chance to tie the game in the final seconds: Down 2 with 7 seconds left after a missed Kyle Korver free throw, James Johnson drove the length of the court and went right at LeBron James, expecting to draw other defenders and kick out, but when LeBron did a great job staying in front of him and the other Cavaliers defenders covered Heat shooters, Johnson got near the rim, picked up his dribble, and had nothing. He didn’t even get a shot off before the buzzer. It was ugly.

Which fit, because it was a sloppy game from both teams, but right now the Cavaliers will take a sloppy win. They will take any win. The schedule doesn’t ease up on them in February, the Houston Rockets are up next, but Cleveland could use to string together a few wins, get back on a roll, and look like the team we all came into the season expecting to be the team to beat in the East. Cleveland may still have that team in them, but it hasn’t looked like it for a while now. Especially on defense. Some wins could change that perception.

3) RIP Rasual Butler. One of the best-liked players in the NBA during his 13-year career, passed away late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in a single-car accident in the Studio City area of Los Angeles.

Butler reportedly lost control of his SUV at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, the car flipped and hit a wall, and he and his wife — R&B singer Leah LaBelle, who many may remember from American Idol in 2004 — died in the accident.

The NBA world was shaken.

Butler was the definition of hard-working and professional. He was a playground legend in Philly as a youth, then went on to play four years at LaSalle University. He was drafted in the second round by the Miami Heat back in 2004, and while most guys drafted where he was don’t pan out Butler — thanks to his work ethic and ability to mold into different systems — went on to play 13 NBA seasons (for the Heat, Hornets, Clippers, Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, Pacers, and most recently in 2015-16 for the Spurs). He was a swingman who could defend, hit threes, play within the system and be solid every night. Last season he played in Ice Cube’s Big3 league.

More importantly, he was one of the best-liked guys in the league. He was real. Butler was trusted by coaches, beloved in the locker room, and, at least in my interactions with him, was both professional and smart, the kind of guy you’d want to sit down and have a beer with.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Josh Richardson’s layup lifts Heat past Jazz, 103-102 (VIDEO)

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MIAMI (AP) — Josh Richardson‘s layup with 5.1 seconds left capped a Miami rally from eight points down in the fourth, Donovan Mitchell missed what would have been the winner at the buzzer and the Heat beat the Utah Jazz 103-102 on Sunday.

Tyler Johnson and Goran Dragic each scored 16 points for Miami, which has won four straight – all by single digits, the Heat’s longest stretch of such games since November 2012.

Richardson and Hassan Whiteside each had 14 points, James Johnson scored 13 and Kelly Olynyk had 12.

Mitchell scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, but couldn’t save Utah from dropping its seventh straight on the road. He went into the backcourt to take the final inbounds pass and wound up taking a jumper from the right side that missed as time expired.

Rodney Hood scored 17 points, Thabo Sefolosha added 13 and Derrick Favors 11 for the Jazz. Utah was up eight with 6:59 left, and was still up by five in the final 2 minutes before Miami closed on an 8-2 spurt.

Richardson’s winner came after the Heat called a timeout with 7.8 seconds left, after corralling the rebound off of Hood’s miss. Richardson got to the rim with ease, laid it in and Miami moved back to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s ready for the next jump,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The jump is ready for him. It’s just a matter of when.”

Miami improved to 2-14 when trailing after three quarters.

The Heat led for 20 of the 24 first-half minutes, but their lead was only 49-47 at the break.

Mitchell was 3 for 12 in the opening half, after going 5 for 14 against the Heat when the teams met in November. It was like he was due to break out – and did just that, needing only 3 minutes to score Utah’s first 11 points of the second half.

He made his first five shots of the third, ended up 6-for-8 for 13 points in the quarter and Utah took a 75-74 lead into the fourth.

 

Shaun Livingston ejected after headbutting referee (VIDEO)

via NBATV
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Lots of players seem to be getting tossed from NBA games lately, including Golden State Warriors players like Kevin Durant. Now, Warriors guard Shaun Livingston has been ejected from Sunday’s matchup against the Miami Heat for making contact with an official.

The play came in the second quarter of the matinee contest, after Livingston felt he was fouled by Tyler Johnson on a post up.

Livingston immediately turned around and got close to Courtney Kirkland, the baseline official. Then, it got weird.

While Livingston was certainly occupying space close to Kirkland, that’s sort of normal and accepted in the NBA when a player is heated and ready to send a few words toward an official. It’s typically seen as the ref’s job to keep their cool. Kirkland appeared to make the first step toward Livingston, entering his space, and it’s possible that Kirkland was the one who made the initial contact with Livingston. It’s hard to tell.

Here’s the slow motion replay via NBATV, and the whole play as it happened.

That’s … weird stuff. Even if Kirkland didn’t make the move to touch heads with Livingston, he certainly appeared to have stepped into the Warriors guard’s space in a way that’s not expected or befitting an official. Their job is to remain as stoic as possible to deescalate players, and I’m not sure Kirkland did that here.

We’ll have to wait for word from the NBA on Monday to hear more about whether Livingston, Kirkland, or both will be disciplined further.

Which John Wall play was more impressive in Wizards’ win over Heat?

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John Wall scored 27 points in the Wizards’ 102-93 win over the Heat tonight, but his most impressive highlights came without him scoring.

Which was more impressive?

Wall nutmegging Hassan Whiteside in the open court to start a Washington fastbreak finished by Otto Porter:

Or Wall running hard to block Tyler Johnson‘s transition layup from behind:

Three questions the Miami Heat must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 41-41, missed playoffs

I know what you did last summer: The Heat solidified a competitive roster by re-signing James Johnson and Dion Waiters, signing Kelly Olynyk and extending Josh Richardson to long-term deals. Miami also drafted Bam Adebayo.

THREE QUESTIONS THE HEAT MUST ANSWER:

1) Are the Heat more a team that went 41-41 or finished 31-10 last season? Miami started 10-31 last year, better than only the Nets. The Heat then went 31-10 in the second half, behind only the Warriors.

So, which team is it?

Miami returns its eight most-used players, so they’ll have a chance to build on their chemistry, which clearly improved as the season progressed. They bought into Erik Spoelstra’s system and developed confidence in it and themselves.

But the larger sample tends to prove more reliable.

The Heat aren’t suddenly a 62-win team over a full season, but they probably believe a 41-41 baseline inaccurately discounts their progress. For a team with so much stability, it’s tough to tell where Miami stands entering the season.

2) Where does Justise Winslow fit? Winslow missed the Heat’s final 48 games last season, i.e., all of their turnaround. Miami’s late-season game plan was built around Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters taking turns attacking the rim while the other spotted up beyond the arc along with a couple other sweet-shooting forwards.

Winslow, with his suspect jumper, can’t play in that system without completely undermining the spacing and floor balance.

Sure, Winslow adds tenacious defense. He can be active offensively, getting out in transition. But his shooting is not only a problem, it’s a direct threat to the game plan the Heat grew comfortable in.

Maybe Spoelstra can find a rotation that positions Winslow to succeed. He’s not a bad player. But how many minutes will be available for him? And what does Miami do offensively during them?

3) Where does Miami find internal growth? Dion Waiters and James Johnson got into shape, had career seasons in contract years then signed lucrative long-term contracts. Kelly Olynyk is also coming off a contract year that netted a large lengthy contract. Goran Dragic and Johnson are on the wrong side of 30. Hassan Whiteside is already 28.

This doesn’t look like a team with a ton of untapped potential, not ideal for a franchise that has gotten a taste of championship contention but now looks locked into early-round playoff exits.

Still, the Heat’s “program,” as they like to call it, has a remarkable track record of developing players.

Justise Winslow could make a difference with or without a jumper – but especially with a jumper. Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder have come along nicely – and maybe even have more leaps in them. Bam Adebayo certainly offers enticing upside.

Heck, maybe Waiters, Johnson and Olynyk remain hungry. Dragic could stave off aging another couple years. Whiteside is still inexperienced given his years outside the league, so maybe he has more room to grow than the typical player his age.

The Heat won’t have cap space for the foreseeable future, and they already traded a couple future first-round picks. They’re probably too good to draft a blue-chip prospect anytime soon, anyway. This is their team. It’s at least fine.

Do Miami’s current players have the capacity to turn it into something more?