Kurt Helin

MIAMI, FL - MAY 13:  Cory Joseph #6 of the Toronto Raptors fouls Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat as he shoots during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 13, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Heat guards get help to win Game 6, what happens in Game 7?

1 Comment

Raptors’ All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan had an impressive 59 points on 48 shots on Friday night.

The Heat’s guards Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade countered that with 52 points on 42 shots.

Miami won the game, and the difference was that Dragic and Wade got help — Joe Johnson had 13 points, Justise Winslow a dozen, and even Josh McRoberts added 10. No other Raptor player broke double digits.

That success sets up a Game 7 showdown Sunday where the same rules apply: Whichever team’s guards get the most help will advance to face the Cavaliers in the next round.

Good luck predicting who that will be in this up-and-down series.

Miami’s most successful lineups in Game 6 were small — either Luol Deng or McRoberts were the tallest players. Small ball worked at home — in part because guards Wade and Josh Richardson combined for five blocks — and has had some success on the road. Toronto had no lineups that matched it Friday night.

Toronto’s best lineups the last couple games have had Bismack Biyombo at the heart of them — he doesn’t provide much offense (although he had a nice Game 5), but his defense keeps those driving Heat guards from getting to the rim with impunity. He was making plays like this on Friday night:

It just wasn’t enough.

This hasn’t been the prettiest basketball series, but it has been the closest of these playoffs, and it is headed to a Game 7. One that feels relatively unpredictable given the injuries and the up-and-down nature of both teams.

But if one team’s stars are getting plenty of help come Sunday, put your money on them.

It’s Game 6, so yes Luol Deng and DeMarre Carroll are playing

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 05:  Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors dribbles around DeMarre Carroll #5 of the Toronto Raptors during an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre on December 05, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s Game 6 of the second round of the NBA playoffs, if you are out you should be legitimately injured.

Meaning the Heat’s  Luol Deng and the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll will both go on Friday night in Game 6 in Miami.

This does not change the big men — Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas and Miami’s Hassan Whiteside — from being on the sidelines.

With those bigs out this series has become a random set of lineups trying to match up with one another. Random being the key word — predicting how Game 6 will go is a fool’s errand.

Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis on being taller than 5’9″: “I’d be No. 1 or No. 2”

DES MOINES, IA - MARCH 19:  Tyler Ulis #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats is fouled by Collin Hartman #30 of the Indiana Hoosiers in the first half during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 19, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Does the NBA have another Isaiah Thomas on the way?

Thomas, now the Celtics’ 5’9″ All-Star point guard, was famously selected with the “Mr. Irrelevant” 60th and last pick in the 2012 draft. But he battled his way onto the Kings’ roster, into playing time, into being “The Pizza Guy,” and eventually into being an All-Star in Boston.

Is Kentucky’s 5’9″ Tyler Ulis the next guy in that line?

In one sense no, because Ulis likely will get taken closer to 20 than 60. But in terms of being disrespected for his height, maybe. Here is what Ulis told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

“I keep a good attitude because my confidence is high,” he said here as part of the pre-draft combine. “I don’t really think about what people say. Everything’s always worked out well. I was this small at the high school level and it worked out. Obviously it worked out in college. And I feel like it’s going to keep working out….

“I feel like if I was 6-1, 6-2 I’d be No. 1 or No. 2,” Ulis said. “But I’m not 6-1, 6-2. I’m 5-9. I got what I have, I love it, I feel like I’ve worked for what I got. I’m just going to keep playing.”

Ulis was considered a good, pesky defender at the college level, but when most NBA guards are at least four inches taller, that can present a defensive challenge. Ulis’ college coach John Calipari had nothing but praise or his guard:

“I’ve coached a lot of great leaders and great point guards in all my years of coaching. Tyler Ulis is the best floor general that I’ve ever coached. What I loved is he grew into that position. You couldn’t speed him up and you couldn’t slow him down unless he wanted to do one of those things. He coached the team this season as much as I did, and I’m proud to say that.”

The height is an issue, particularly on defense. Here is what PBT’s NBA Draft expert — and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson said of Ulis:

Ulis, the SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, was the spark that kept the Kentucky offense going, and along with his leadership, Ulis showed a penchant for hitting big shots when the team needed them. Small, 5’9”, and quick, Ulis is a tremendous ballhandler with great control. He is a threat in the pick-and-roll where he can disappear behind a screen, and he has the space to knock down the jumper or try to get into the defense. He has very good vision, and while not a flashy passer, he is a smart one, and he knows where to get teammates the ball in spots where they can score quickly. Ulis has knocked down some big jumpers this year, but his long-range shooting still isn’t great, just 34 percent, and because of his size, he needs time and space to get his shot off. He has improved his ability to score around the basket, using his size and speed to an advantage to create space for a short or mid-range jumper. Defensively, Ulis is a pest, and he can create chaos with his ability to seal off the perimeter. As for the NBA Draft, Ulis doesn’t have the strength or athleticism of say an Isaiah Thomas, so the NBA will be a major adjustment, but he is smart and could be a decent back-up at the next level.

He’s expected to be drafted around 20, give or take a few spots. I hear what our man Isaacson is saying about Ulis not being a starter at the next level, but after watching Thomas the past few seasons I’m not writing anyone off.

The shoelace that turned around DeMar DeRozan, may have extended Raptors season

TORONTO, ON - MAY 11:  DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors waits to be introduced prior to the first half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 11, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Getty Images

We will see Friday night (and, if needed, Sunday) if the Toronto Raptors can close out the Miami Heat and reach the franchise’s first-ever conference finals.

If they do, a shoelace may play a significant role.

For the handful of you who suffered through Game 5 of the Miami/Toronto series, you saw the TNT cameras showing the Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie wrapping DeMar DeRozan‘s injured thumb in a shoelace. That would be the breaking out of his slump with 34 points DeRozan. So what is the deal with the magic shoelace? ESPN.com’s Mike Mazzeo got McKechnie talking (via Ball Don’t Lie):

“It’s not the first time I’ve done it. I’ve done it many, many times,” McKechnie said at the team’s morning shootaround Friday prior to Game 6 at American Airlines Arena.

“I think the first thing to understand is that the process is actually a very traditional way of treating injured fingers. It’s used to create pressure and compression. You start very firm and you actually release pressure as you go through (wrapping it). Once it’s completely covered in the string of the shoelace you mobilize the joint so you actually get tissue drainage and mobilization and you get immediate recovery in range (of movement).”

McKechnie used to work for the Lakers, where he said he used the same technique on Kobe Bryant, whose banged-up fingers are 30 years older than the rest of his body due to the abuse.

So the technique works. The question is can DeRozan and his wrapped finger stay in attack-and-score mode on the road with a series on the line? Miami is a roster where plenty of guys — not just Dwyane Wade — wear championship rings and will not just roll over. DeRozan and Kyle Lowry both need another big game to close this out, or we will all be subjected to a Game 7 Sunday. And we have seen the Raptors get tight in a Game 7 before these playoffs.

Quote of the Day: Gregg Popovich knows Spurs’ loss isn’t interplanetary concern

gregg popovich spurs
Getty Images

“They just discovered 1200 new planets, someone just lost a basketball game, get over yourself.”
—Gregg Popovich, coach of San Antonio Spurs, via Casey Keirnan of News 4 San Antonio

That’s about the most Popovich thing to say ever.

NASA did locate 1,284 new planets, although they are a little out of range for your summer vacation plans. It is a huge deal in the scientific community, and is the kind of thing that reminds us the trivialities of our daily lives that can absorb and overwhelm us at times are not that big, and usually not that important.

That said, the next couple months will see a lot more analysis and words written about the Spurs needs — athleticism along the front line, to start — than those lonely planets.