Heat show some hints of balance

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The Miami Heat are still anything but a finished product. Their offense still relies far too much on LeBron and Wade freestyling out on the perimeter while the other watches from the opposite side of the floor. Their defense has been up-and-down lately. Mike Miller has been a huge disappointment, and Bosh has been far more inconsistent than he was supposed to be. These are not who the Heat thought they would be when LeBron announced he was taking his talents to south beach and the Heat had their pre-season celebration.

The Heat didn’t look perfect on Thursday. LeBron and Wade still have very little synergy between them, even though the Heat finally went to some Wade/James pick-and-roll sets in crunch-time. Even though Chris Bosh was finally involved and aggressive against the Lakers, the Heat offense didn’t really use him to make things easier for Wade and James, or vice versa — they just had three primary options instead of two.

All of that being said, the Heat showed just how dangerous they can be when they get something out of their supporting cast. The Heat never appeared to be rolling on all cylinders, but they got offense from enough different sources to keep the Lakers off-balance. Bosh was a force on the low block and on the glass, at long last. Mike Miller drained some catch-and-shoot threes and made some nice plays off the dribble. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who the Lakers didn’t exploit on defense, had some nice moments from the high post and at the rim. Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby both kept the floor spaced with some catch-and-shoot threes.

With those players taking the pressure off of James and Wade, they were able to help the Heat win without having to do anything. Neither player shot particularly well, but James was able to facilitate the offense and Wade had some key drives late in the game that put the Lakers away. And Wade did a great job against Kobe Bryant, who always seems to press a little bit when he plays LeBron; he’s now dropped eight of his last 10 games against James’ teams.

The Heat are capable of being more than a two-man team. They have shooters, they have guys who can make plays, and they have Chris Bosh. Time will tell if the Heat can become more than the sum of their parts when it matters most, but Thursday’s game was a reminder that they don’t need to be more than the sum of their parts to beat one of the best teams in the league.

Physical therapist: LeBron James should have missed six months

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The Lakers initially called LeBron James day-to-day with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas.

He missed more than five weeks.

Maybe he should have sat even longer.

Karen Joubert, via Complex Sports:

Maybe LeBron returned too soon. This injury allowed that, even if it put him at risk of reaggravation if not fully recovered.

Maybe LeBron just healed especially quickly. Even among world-class athletes, he is an elite athlete.

Maybe Joubert is exaggerating. People tend to do that with LeBron’s body.

There’s plenty of room for interpretation, but it sure looked like LeBron was still hobbled.

What does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers going forward?

The pessimistic spin: LeBron did lasting damage to his body by returning so soon. This (failed) attempt to get the Lakers into the playoffs this season will undermine him in the future.

The optimistic spin: LeBron has still been excellent these last few weeks. If he gets fully healthy during his longest offseason in 14 years, he should be even better next season.

Kyrie Irving on whether returning to Cleveland means something to him: ‘Not at all’

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Kyrie Irving spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers. He developed into a star with them. He won a title with them, even hitting the championship-winning shot.

With Irving’s Celtics playing in Cleveland tomorrow, Irving reflected on his time there.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic:

Irving is so clearly over the Cavs.

He was probably over the Cavs even while playing for them.

Lakers fan barely moves net while making halfcourt shot (video)

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The Lakers have had a rough season.

Last night went pretty well, though – especially for one fan.

The Lakers beat the Kings, and this fan swished a halfcourt shot to win $45,000.

CJ Fogler:

The Lakers need more outside shooting. Maybe they could turn to some of their fans.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drives past/through all the Cavaliers for dunk (video)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is undeniable.

Watch this video. He’s the only Bucks player in sight on the court. All five Cavaliers appear. Antetokounmpo dunks anyway.

He dribbles past Jordan Clarkson then through David Nwaba and Tristan Thompson. Nik Stauskas and Brandon Knight are shading close enough to narrow his potential path. None of it matters.

Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone anyone we’ve ever seen.