NBA finals Game 1 preview: It’s more than LeBron and Dirk

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It’s one thing to watch the tape and read the report.

Dallas knows it has to turn Dwyane Wade and LeBron James into contested jump shooters, not let them drive or get going in transition. Miami knows it needs to front Dirk Nowitzki, force him to put the ball on the floor going right and bring the quick double once the ball is on the floor.

It’s another thing entirely to execute it.

These two teams reached the finals because they have executed better than anyone else in their conference. Both have played amazing in the fourth quarter. Now comes Game 1 of the NBA finals and while both sides know what to do, pulling it off will be the key.

We’ve given you a lot of previews and things to think about, but to me here are the real keys. The ones besides Dirk and LeBron

Chris Bosh will be big for the Heat if he gets going. Dallas has struggled with stretch fours or any big who can step out and knock down a jumper, the most recent being LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland. Miami is going to use Bosh to pull Tyson Chandler away from the rim and if that works it opens up driving lanes for Wade and LeBron. If Chandler sags off Bosh, the Heat have to make him pay for that.

On the other side, how will Dallas’ shooters spread the floor on the Heat. Miami was able to slow Derrick Rose way down by putting up a wall of defenders in front of him, packing the paint. Chicago could not make the Heat pay for that by knocking down threes, the Mavericks must. How well those shots are contested and how many fall will be key.

How well does the Dallas zone work? Miami’s going to see it, if they dice it up they won’t see it for long but if they struggle they will see a lot of it.

Dallas is going to really test the Heat’s pick-and-roll defense. Dallas has also not faced a team that uses guys this athletic to defend the pick-and-roll. That is going to be an interesting battle.

Can Dallas’ bench have a big impact, or does the fact they will always see at least one and usually two of Miami’s “big three” change that equation.

When it is tight late, which team is going to make the most plays. Both have been fantastic these playoffs in the fourth quarter, but something has to give starting Tuesday night.

We’re not going to get all the answers tonight, but we’ll get some. We’ll start to get an idea. Come on by the PBT live blog starting at 9 pm Eastern and we’ll have some fun.

Bulls’ Denzel Valentine likely to miss entire season

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Bulls wing Denzel Valentine has had a rough go of it.

A lottery pick two years ago, battled ankle injuries during his rookie year and underwent ankle surgery after the season. He stayed mostly healthy last year, but his season still ended early for knee surgery. Then, over the summer, he got torched in the Drew League by Frank “Nitty” Session, who questioned how Valentine was in the NBA:

And now…

Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago:

Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He’ll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.

The long end of that timeline will keep Valentine sidelined the entire season. The short end would allow him to return late in the year, but with Chicago so dismal, there’s little incentive to rush him back.

Valentine is under contract next season, the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He might need to prove himself to make Nitty’s question still relevant.

Report: J.R. Smith and Cavaliers separating as they seek trade

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DETROIT – Yesterday – yesterday! – J.R. Smith explained why he didn’t leave the Cavaliers when, a few weeks ago, they pulled him from the rotation and gave him the offer to step away.

“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”

But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.

Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.

If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.

So, the stalemate continues.

If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.

Report: ‘At the direction of his attorney,’ 76ers G Markelle Fultz to stop playing and practicing, see specialist

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Markelle Fultz said his shooting problems were due to injury, and just a couple weeks ago, he insisted he was generally healthy.

But something is clearly amiss.

The 76ers guard finally appears to be acknowledging it.

David Aldridge of The Athletic:

Should we read into Brothers – usually identified as Fultz’s agent – being referred to as Fultz’s attorney? That sounds ominous.

There has been back-and-forth between Fultz’s and the 76ers about who deserves blame for his struggles.

J.R. Smith: Cavaliers are tanking

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J.R. Smith said he wants the Cavaliers to trade him.

But that was right after they told Smith he’d be shut down. He has been playing regularly lately.

Still, Smith isn’t pleased with Cleveland.

J.R. Smith, via Jason Lloyd of The Athletic:

“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith said. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”

And as long as the Cavs are operating this way, Smith is not interested in being part of it.

“Not if the goal isn’t to compete, to win,” he said.

If that’s what the Cavaliers are doing, that’s smart. They need premier young talent, and a high draft pick is the best way to acquire it. Because they owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-rounder, the Cavs need to tank hard rather taking half-measures.

But I also understand why Smith wants no part of it. He’s 33 years old, and he doesn’t have time to wait around for a rebuild. He wants to win now.

Smith should shame the Cavaliers for tanking. That should be a consequence of their plan, even if it’s the right one. He is a casualty of it. If he shames Cleveland into trading or buying him out, all the better.