Winderman: Cold dissection of every Miami Heat word may lead to fewer of them

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The media work room at AmericanAirlines Arena is the last thing you would expect in South Florida. It is a frosty experience.

How cold? A certain transplanted journalist brought in to cover the team this season has been known to wear a ski cap while filing his articulate-yet-arctic postgame viewpoints.

Yet the chill doesn’t stop there.

Already this season, after a series of profanity laced Twitter posts regarding LeBron James, Esquire essayist Scott Raab has had his media credential revoked.

He showed up for Wednesday night’s game against the Suns as a spectator in a seat that would make any journalist envious of Esquire’s apparent expense budget, not far from where Heat President Pat Riley sits.

And yet when it comes to picking at the carcass, the sense is the chill only figures to increase.

For their part, the Heat’s Big Three largely have been gracious with their interview access. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each make podium appearances after games, staying until the last question is asked, including several bordering on banal. Wade also speaks after morning shootarounds, as does Bosh. James offers his pregame thoughts about 90 minutes before each tipoff.

Just about every question is answered. Such pregame access has becoming increasingly rare in a league heretofore known for its expansive pregame access.

And yet, you may want to get your fill now, because patience may be running thin.

Take Wednesday’s ESPN postgame walkoff interview with Bosh, the type of innocuous hit-and-run that tends to offer more sweat than substance.

Asked about particularly intense work leading into Wednesday’s game, after the Heat has lost three of their previous five, Bosh responded of coach Erik Spoelstra, “He knows he has to meet us halfway. He wants to work; we want to chill.”

The instant Twitter feedback? Bosh doesn’t want to play for Spoelstra.

The nearly as instant Twitter feedback? Pat Riley won’t be sitting close to Esquire essayists in the stands much longer.

The reaction was similar to the fallout from James quotes a week ago, when he first addressed Spoelstra playing him 44 minutes against the Celtics and Utah coach Jerry Sloan having the ability to get his team to close out last week’s comeback victory against the Heat.

It is not what the Big Three are saying; it is what is being interpreted.

There were a couple of other such moments Wednesday. First, James offered about Bosh, “It was great to see him finally crack the 30 point barrier that D-Wade and I have already accomplished this season.”

There was a brief post-interview debate in the media room about how that would play out, if it would be taken as an it’s-about-time comment.

Later, James offered, “D-Wade is, for the most part, going to always be our leading scorer.ย  He’s going to be the guy that’s going to get the most shots.”

Because the words came after a win, there was no follow up about James perhaps wanting some of those shots, envious, if you will.

Yes, the Heat certainly will make things interesting this season. They already have with their rollercoaster start.

But it is the wordplay that thus far has been the most fascinating.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

No Giannis Antetokounmpo, no problem as Bucks win 16th straight

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
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MILWAUKEE (AP) โ€” No Giannis was no problem for the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

Reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out but the Bucks kept on rolling, getting 29 points from Eric Bledsoe and 24 from Khris Middleton in a 127-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans that extended their winning streak to 16 games.

The Bucks (22-3) tied the second-longest winning streak in franchise history and moved closer to the franchise record of 20 set during the team’s 1970-71 championship season.

Antetokounmpo sat out with a right quad tendon injury, missing his first game this season. He has missed time with concerns about overuse injuries in his leg before.

Antetokounmpo did not participate in the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning and quickly was ruled out.

“I don’t think we know exactly when it happened,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “This morning the soreness was such that he was not able to play tonight. The severity of it, we’re hoping it’s not too serious.

“We’ll take it day by day and we’re always going to err on the side of caution.”

The rest of the Bucks stepped up.

“I think we took a little more ownership of what’s going on out there,” Middleton said. “When Giannis is out there, he draws such a huge crowd that we play through him a lot. Without him tonight, we know we have to do a little bit more.

“It was a great test; they play with a fast pace just like us. I think we did a great job.”

Veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova, starting in place of Antetokounmpo, had a season-high 18 points and nine rebounds. George Hill contributed 13 points off the bench.

Bledsoe drove aggressively and scored 11 points in the third quarter to answer a Pelicans rally, and he finished making a season-high five 3-pointers and going 10 for 13 from the field while adding six assists.

“I try to get in the paint as much as possible,” Bledsoe said. “If I don’t have a shot, I kick it out to my teammates and trust them to make the right play.”

New Orleans (6-19) lost its 10th straight game despite a season-high 31 points from J.J. Redick. Brandon Ingram had 25 points and 10 rebounds and point guard Jrue Holiday added 21 points.

A frustrated Redick spoke up in the locker room at halftime, when New Orleans trailed by 23 points.

“It’s not like this is the first time we’ve had a talk at halftime,” Redick said. “I would say emotionally sometimes you reach a tipping point. That’s the timing of that.”

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said his team needs to communicate better.

“It’s the quietest group I’ve ever been around, even on the plane and in the meal room,” Gentry said. “But we do have to get them talking on the court and have them communicate on the court.

“When we do, we’re pretty solid. I thought we did a good job in the second half of communicating. But when you’re trying to come back from 25 to-28-point deficits, the least little thing is going to have a glaring effect.”

The Bucks hit six of their first eight attempts from 3-point range, including 3 of 3 by Bledsoe, to take a 28-12 lead.

Milwaukee led by 23 points in the opening quarter before New Orleans closed the period on an 8-0 spurt to pull within 35-20.

The Bucks used a 17-0 run to grab a 56-28 lead in the second quarter before settling for a 69-46 halftime margin. Middleton and Bledsoe each had 13 points and Ilyasova and Hill added 11 apiece.

The Pelicans outscored the Bucks 40-36 in the third quarter.

New Orleans pulled within 120-108 with 2:51 remaining but Middleton hit a pair of jumpers to put the Bucks safely ahead.

 

Watch James Harden score 55, including 10 threes, to beat Cleveland

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CLEVELAND (AP) โ€” James Harden scored 55 points – 20 in the fourth quarter – and Russell Westbrook added 23 points as the Houston Rockets withstood an unexpected scare from Cleveland and held on for a 116-110 win Wednesday night over the free-falling Cavaliers, who have lost eight straight and 14 of 15.

Harden matched Kyrie Irving‘s arena record for points in a game, and his fourth with 50 or more this season bailed out the Rockets, who allowed the Cavs to score 24 straight points in the second half.

Cleveland was still up 108-107 when Harden, who came in leading the NBA in scoring at 38 points per game, dropped a floater in the lane. After a turnover by Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson, P.J. Tucker hit a 3-pointer from the corner and Clint Capela had a dunk following another Cleveland miscue.

The inexperienced Cavs crumbled in the final minute, making three turnovers.

Capela added 13 rebounds for Houston, which figured to have an easy time with the Cavs, who are struggling under first-year coach John Beilein.

Cleveland, though, came to play and was led by rookie Kevin Porter Jr.‘s season-high 24 points. Collin Sexton added 18 and Kevin Love had 17 points and 11 boards.

Harden connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-2 run in the third quarter when the Rockets, who were sleepwalking through long stretches of the first half, appeared to take control.

But Houston relaxed, and Cleveland went on a jaw-dropping 24-0 run – all without Love, who was on the bench with a head laceration – over a 4:43 stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to a take a 99-88 lead on Porter’s bucket.

 

Grizzlies’ Ja Morant absolutely destroyed Aron Baynes with dunk (VIDEO)

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We may have a new Dunk of the Year.

Memphis rookie Ja Morant is an athletic freak, one confident enough in his skills to go right at a big switched onto him. Say Phoenix’s Aron Baynes. On a critical fourth-quarter possession.

RIP Aron Baynes.

Memphis won the game 115-108.

Victor Oladipo not near return to Pacers rotation

Associated Press
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“But heโ€™s still a ways away.”

Those are not the words Pacers fans want to hear about Victor Oladipo. Their team is playing well โ€” 15-9 with a top-10 defense โ€” but they are not a real postseason threat without their best player, who is recovering from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. Before the season, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said he was “hopeful” Oladipo would be back in December or January.

It looks like it’s going to be the back end of that timeline. At best. From J. Michael of the Indy Star, speaking to coach Nate McMillan.

Oladipo will have to be eased back in when he does return, he’s not going too hit the ground running at 40 minutes a night.

The Pacers look like a lock playoff team in the East even without Oladipo, they can afford to bring him along slowly. The hope would be to have the All-Star up to speed and integrated into the offense when the playoffs do start. If that happens, the Pacers become that team that the elite squads want to avoid early.