Kurt Helin

Dwyane Wade reaches milestone, Heat roll past Cavaliers 122-101

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MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade got a hug from his close friend LeBron James before the game, a milestone in the third quarter, a rest for the entire fourth quarter and an easy win to enjoy when it was over.

That’s a night to savor.

Wade scored 24 points and became the 41st player in NBA history to reach 20,000, rookie Josh Richardson added 19 and the Miami Heat led wire-to-wire on their way to beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 122-101 on Saturday.

Goran Dragic had 18 points and 11 assists for Miami, Joe Johnson also scored 18 and Hassan Whiteside finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Miami led outrebounded Cleveland 42-26 and led by a season-high 33 at one point.

James had 26 points for Cleveland and sat out the final 15 minutes, the outcome by then already decided. Richard Jefferson scored 20 and Kyrie Irving had 14 for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland had one real burst during the game, an 11-0 run in the second quarter that cut a 15-point Heat lead down to 40-36. Other than that, it was all Miami.

Richardson continued his brilliant play of late, the rookie making all three of his 3-point tries in the second quarter to help Miami take control for good. Wade went into the locker room at halftime with 19,997 career points, and the only drama at that point was when he would get the milestone basket.

The answer came quickly.

Wade, who came into the game 13 shy of the milestone, scored a minute into the third to get to 19,999, then got a short floater in the lane to drop moments later. He got a standing ovation at the next dead ball, and a video tribute later in the quarter.

The Cavs were befuddled all night. About 90 minutes before the game, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said center Timofey Mozgov would be in the Cavs’ starting lineup. Sometime in the next 45 minutes Lue apparently changed his mind, starting Kevin Love at center instead and not playing Mozgov at all until benches were cleared early in the fourth quarter.

Love was on the bench with two fouls before the game was 3 1/2 minutes old, the Cavaliers surrounded James with four guards during one stretch of the half and nothing really worked. Miami’s lead was 31-19 after a quarter, 65-44 at the half, and Love finished with just seven points in 16 minutes.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: In Cleveland’s two trips to Miami this season, the Cavaliers have led for a total of 21 seconds. … Cleveland has not won in Miami since Jan. 25, 2010, going 0-11 since – with James being a member of the Heat for seven of those games. … Including playoff games, it was the sixth time in James’ career when he took 20 or more field-goal attempts and didn’t get a single trip to the free throw line.

Heat: Dragic, who rarely dunks – and rarely is putting it mildly – had a chance early in the fourth quarter and appeared to lose the ball on the way up. He made the shot anyway, laughing about it as he headed back on defense. … Miami has scored at least 100 points in 10 consecutive games, its longest such streak since 1994. … Johnson is 23 for 39 from 3-point range since joining the Heat. … Chris Bosh and James had a brief on-court talk after the game, and James then huddled with Wade as about a dozen photographers surrounded them.

RARE TYPE OF LOSS

Saturday marked only the third time in 69 games this season in which Cleveland never had the lead. The only other games were Dec. 1 against Washington and Jan. 18 against Golden State, when the Warriors went into Cleveland and embarrassed the Cavaliers in a one-sided rematch of last season’s NBA Finals.

HEAT SINCE LEBRON

Miami is now 4-0 at home against Cleveland since James ended his four-season stint with the Heat and returned to the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014. Each of the wins has been by double-digits.

 

Spurs defense holds Warriors to season low, San Antonio wins 87-79

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) drives around San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw, of France, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
Associated press
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Last week against Portland, Golden State scored 81 points in the first half.

But up against the best defense in the NBA, the Warriors shot just 37.8 percent overall, 25 percent from three, and their unstoppable force Stephen Curry hit just 1-of-12 from three.

That is not going to get it done against the Spurs.

San Antonio beat Golden State 87-79 in a game where the host Spurs controlled the style of play from the opening tip. It improves the Spurs to 35-0 at home and serves as a reminder to anyone who thought the Warriors were on a cake walk to another trophy that at least one team has some answers for them.

This game was played at San Antonio’s pace and in their style (just 90 possessions, nearly a dozen below the Warriors average). Curry admitted the Warriors could not get comfortable in their offense.

Which is a huge credit to the Spurs, as the Warriors forced the game toward their small ball style from the start. With Andrew Bogut out injured the Warriors went to their small ball lineup to start, with Brandon Rush. Gregg Popovich countered by sending Tim Duncan to the bench and starting Boris Diaw in his space. Duncan only played eight minutes, and for long stretches Popovich went with a double point guard lineup of Tony Parker and Patty Mills. Consider that a glimpse into the future — when the Warriors go to their death lineup in the playoffs, the Spurs feel they can match up. (To be fair, the Warriors are without Andre Iguodala, a key part of their best small lineup.)

Lineups weren’t the only thing the Spurs tried. They picked up Curry out to 30 feet, they did a good job switching and challenging threes, they used LaMarcus Aldridge more in the paint (26 points, but on 25 shots), and they seemed to run the offense through Kawhi Leonard less (18 points still, and he was a beast on the boards).

The Spurs defense was at the heart of everything — it had the Warriors rushing. The Spurs contested 37 Warriors shots and they hit just 35.1 percent on those. However, the Warriors had 36 uncontested shots and hit just 38.9 percent on those.

Klay Thompson led the Warriors with 15 points, but on 20 shots. Curry had 14 points, but on 18 shots. Looks they have hit against other teams did not fall against the Spurs, which is a bit luck but San Antonio’s smart defense had something to do with that.

The other key was the Spurs bench outplaying the Warriors bench — the Warriors starting five by itself was just -4 on the night, but the Spurs bench has been better this season and that came tough on Saturday.

Is this game indicative of what we will see in late May when these teams meet in the Western Conference Finals? (And we all know that is coming, right? Sorry Oklahoma City.)

No. Not completely. The Warriors were short-handed without two of their top six players, and they were on the second night of a back-to-back. They missed shots they often make.

But if anyone thought the Spurs simply could not keep up with the Warriors, this game proves them wrong. The first meeting between these teams was the anomaly. This game showed some of how these teams plan to attack each other in the playoffs, and the San Antonio had to like how their strategies work.

The Spurs can hang with and challenge the Warriors. This is an elite team who knows how to defend, knows how to get the shots it wants, and that can win you a title.

Is that enough come the Western Conference Finals?

Ask me in June.

Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant help Thunder withstand Paul George’s 45 points

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after hitting a three-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Indianapolis. Thunder won 115-111. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Associated Press
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Russell Westbrook had his second triple-double in two nights, Kevin Durant had 33 points and 13 rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame Paul George‘s 45 points to beat the Indiana Pacers 115-111 on Saturday night.

Westbrook finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, his 14th triple-double of the season. Durant nearly had one, too, finishing with eight assists to lead Oklahoma City to its fourth straight win.

George added seven rebounds and four assists but missed a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left that could have tied it.

Indiana erased a 10-point halftime deficit and regained the lead early in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold it.

After Indiana took its last lead at 98-97 with 8:28 to go, the Thunder answered with a 9-0 run.

Durant sealed it by going 3 of 4 on free throws in the last 3 seconds.

Only Magic Johnson has recorded more triple-doubles in a season than Westbrook over the last 25 seasons. Johnson had 17 in 1988-89.

But Durant stole the show. He was 11 of 20 from the field, made three 3s and 8 of 10 free throws – including one he intentionally missed with 2.0 seconds left to run out the clock.

George was just as good, finishing 14 of 29 and making four 3s – the last of which turned into a four-point play to get the Pacers within 112-108.

The Pacers spent most of the night playing catch-up after blowing an early 13-2 lead.

When they finally did catch the Thunder, the Pacers couldn’t pull away and then went cold against one of the league’s best teams.

PLAYOFF REST

After clinching a playoff spot with Friday night’s win in Philadelphia, first-year Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan was asked before the game whether he would start resting his players. He didn’t Saturday. But it could happen over the next few weeks. “As the season unfolds, I think that could be part of the plan,” Donovan said.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Enes Kanter had 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. … Durant topped the 20-point mark for the 55th consecutive game. He needs one more to match the longest streak of his career. … Oklahoma City is 6-7 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.

Pacers: All five starters reached double figures including George Hill, who had 20 points and nine assists. … Indiana must wait until Monday night to try and extend the league’s longest active streak of consecutive winning seasons on its home court (26). Indiana is 20-13 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season…. Guard Ty Lawson missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left foot but coach Frank Vogel is hopeful Lawson will play Monday night.

 

Tyson Chandler doesn’t want to be part of rebuilding project in Phoenix

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29:  Tyson Chandler #4 of the Phoenix Suns walks on to the court before the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 29, 2016 in New York City. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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When the Phoenix Suns signed Tyson Chandler last summer to a four-year, $52 million deal, they saw themselves as a team on the rise in the West with quality guard play — and they were in the hunt for LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Suns are 19-50 this season and poised to restart the rebuilding process they were on a couple of years ago before the surprise 48-win season.

Chandler, at age 33, does not want to be part of a rebuild, he told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“For me, especially where I am in my career, I want to win. I want to win now. I’m not in any kind of rebuilding stage. So if that’s the case, it ain’t where I’m supposed to be.”

You can’t blame the man for wanting to win.

However, he didn’t re-sign in Dallas (they targeted DeAndre Jordan), and he took the money to go to the Valley of the Sun. He didn’t hook up with other contenders or even borderline contenders. Fair enough if he thought the Suns would be better than this, but they were not contenders.

The Suns likely will shop Chandler this summer, as they did at the trade deadline, but there wasn’t much of a market for him then, and it’s unlikely that’s going to change. He’s a 33-year-old coming off a down season and with some injury history who is owed $39 million over three years after this season. Even with the rising cap that’s a chunk of change, $13 million a season, and again teams see him as on the downside of his career. Other teams will not offer much in return, if they have any interest in the first place.

Report: Kurt Rambis thinks Rajon Rondo would work well in triangle for Knicks

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 03:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Sacramento Kings during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 3, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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We know Carmelo Anthony wants to try to recruit Rajon Rondo to the Knicks this summer.

Apparently he is not the only guy who thinks Rondo would be a great fit for the Knicks, he’s got coach Kurt Rambis in his corner. That according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

The Knicks are campaigning openly to see if they can find a new starting point guard next season. Carmelo Anthony lobbied for free-agent-to-be Rajon Rondo earlier in the road trip — and he will grace the Garden on Sunday, when the Kings face the Knicks. According to an NBA source, Rambis is high on Rondo and what he can do in the triangle.

A few thoughts and questions here.

Is Kurt Rambis going to be around to coach whoever is the point guard next year?

How much triangle are the Knicks going to run?

Will the Knicks still feel the same way about Rondo after getting an up-close look at him Sunday?

Jackson wants a guard who can penetrate, but Rondo doesn’t do that like he used to, in part because defenders do not respect his shot and go under every pick, playing back off him to take away the drive. It hurts the Kings’ spacing — the starters play much better when Darren Collison is subbed in for Rondo (although the sample size numbers there are very small). Rondo is putting up raw numbers this season — 11.9 points and 11.9 assists a game — but he’s not establishing an offensive flow, and his defense has slipped considerably.

Is Rondo an upgrade over Jose Calderon (who is good with being reduced to a bench role next season)? Sure. But not as much of one as some might think.

The Knicks do need a point guard this summer, but they have a lot of bigger picture questions they need to answer first.