NBA Playoffs: Dallas shooters go cold… or was it the Heat?

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It will be the “chicken or the egg” question out of Game 1, and we will not really know the answer until we are well along in this series.

Did the Dallas Mavericks just miss shots, or did the Miami Heat make them miss?

Because the key Dallas shooters were shooting like they played for the Bulls. Jason Terry was 3-of-10, J.J. Barea 1-of-8, Peja Stojakovic 0-3, Jason Kidd 3-of-8. In the two previous series, the Mavericks shot 44.5 percent from 10-to-23 feet, but they were 4-of-14 in Game 1 (28.6 percent). That all was key in Miami’s 92-84 win.

“We had opportunities we just didn’t take advantage of it,” Jason Terry said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Defensively you hold them to 92 points, but offensively that was just a disaster for us….

“You have to finish at the basket, you have to make your wide open shots and we didn’t get that accomplished tonight.”

These were the kind of looks that Dallas hit to beat the Trail Blazers, Lakers and Thunder. Barea got loose in the lane but his floaters rimmed out. Terry got good looks at threes but they fell short.

If you’re a Mavs fan, you hope it was just Game 1 nerves, just one of those nights.

Because the other explanation is that the Heat threw off their rhythm.

Miami is the most athletic and aggressive defense the Mavericks have faced. Oklahoma City and Los Angeles were both plenty long, but neither played with the aggression that the Heat did. The Lakers never bothered to close out on shooters, Miami closed out fast. Shawn Marion curls off a pick and Dwyane Wade still blocks the shot. Shooters felt footsteps.

It looked to be that way with Terry — the closeouts of the Heat seemed to rush him, throw him off his rhythm.

“They are a very good defensive team and it was tough to get shots all night,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said in a postgame interview broadcast on NBA TV. “Both teams shot under 40 percent, so that gives you some idea of how difficult good, clean shots are going to be to get in this series.”

Then on top of all those missed shots — 42 of them — the Mavericks grabbed just six offensive rebounds. Miami got second chance opportunities the Mavs did not.

For Dallas to score enough to win Dirk Nowitzki has to have a big night (he had 27 and was solid), but Jason Terry and one other player have to join him. Shawn Marion had 16 points on 12 shots to help out the cause.

But if Terry and the other Mavs shooters are not more efficient, this series will end early.

Dallas needs to play at a faster pace, not get sucked into a grind-it-out defensive game. They need to run sets that make Jason Terry a playmaker, not just a spotup shooter.

Unlike the Bulls, we know Dallas can knock down open shots. That they didn’t was either just one of those off nights or it was Miami’s athleticism forcing them to rush. Miami will be the same relentless defense in Game 2 Thursday.

That’s when we’ll start to get a clearer picture of what went wrong for Dallas.

Report: Timberwolves fan called Blake Griffin ‘boy’

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With his recent outburst at hecklers in Utah, Russell Westbrook ignited a long-overdue discussion of how fans interact with players during games. The Jazz even recently banned a fan who repeatedly called Westbrook “boy” last year.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t an isolated case of that racist language being used toward a player.

Pistons Blake Griffin confronted a fan in Minnesota in December.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The fan was seemingly ejected. The Timberwolves didn’t respond to questions whether he faced additional punishment.

I’m all for good-natured heckling. Racist taunts are completely unacceptable – and maybe still more common than we realized. Because Griffin didn’t get as enraged as Westbrook on video, this got swept under the rug.

It shouldn’t be Griffin’s responsibility to fix this. Teams must do a better job holding accountable fans who cross the line.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen left awkwardly waving to nobody after apparently offending Suns coach Igor Kokoskov (video)

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Jim Boylen is making friends within the Bulls.

Outside the organization? Not so much.

Boylen and Doc Rivers got ejected for yelling at each other during the Clippers’ win over Chicago on Friday. Rivers blamed Boylen for instigating.

Then, Boylen called timeout with the Bulls up 14 and 40 seconds left against the Suns last night. Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov appeared to take exception.

The Suns intentionally fouled, stopping Chicago from running its after-timeout play. As the game ended, Boylen gave the customary wave to the opposing coach – and was clearly rebuffed.

Kellan Olson of 98.7 Arizona Sports:

Was Boylen trying to rub in the victory? He pulled his starters during the timeout, giving him plausible deniability. It’d also be reasonable to use the timeout as a teaching opportunity for running an after-timeout play.

But the Suns don’t have to like being used for practice. They’re in the midst of a trying season, especially Kokoskov. His bitterness is understandable.

I don’t think either coach was wrong here. Both were doing what was best for their teams. The Bulls should get experience running situational plays. The Suns should find motivation to no longer get treated like a pushover.

Boylen strayed further from the accepted norms, but I rarely support unwritten rules. If the Suns didn’t like it, they should have done something about it – which they did by fouling to stop Chicago’s play. It was petty, but it was well within their rights. Just like the Bulls were calling timeout.

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Lakers-Bucks

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the NBA’s most popular players. They led the league in All-Star fan voting the last two years. Antetokounmpo is favored to win MVP this season, and LeBron is generally recognized as the best player in the world.

So, tonight’s Lakers-Bucks game is losing a lot of luster.

Lakers:

Bucks:

This is what happens when you get a game-winner blocked by Mario Hezonja. You must take a seat for at least one game.

The Lakers are apparently going through with a plan to rest LeBron James in one game of back-to-backs. This isn’t that. The Lakers were off yesterday then have tomorrow and Thursday off.

LeBron missed 18 games earlier this season with a groin injury. That’s the type of injury he could play through – while at risk of aggravating it. Maybe he came back before fully recovered in order to make a playoff push.

LeBron’s activated playoff mode went nowhere. The Lakers are almost certain to miss the postseason. At this point, it makes sense to be cautious with the 34-year-old LeBron.

The Bucks should also be cautious with their superstar – but for the opposite reason. Milwaukee is 2.5 games up on everyone else in the league.

Antetokounmpo injured his ankle against the 76ers on Sunday. He stayed in that game, scoring 52 points in a loss. Hopefully, this is minor. The Bucks also play the Cavaliers tomorrow, so maybe Antetokounmpo will play the other half of the back-to-back.

Damon Jones details J.R. Smith’s soup throw: ‘It was hot as hell’

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J.R. Smith got suspended for throwing soupchicken tortilla, to be precise – at Cavaliers assistant coach Damon Jones last season. Smith’s anger reportedly stemmed from him not sharing Jones’ joking mood that day.

Now, Jones – whom Cleveland fired with Tyronn Lue earlier this season – is revealing his side of the story.

Jalen & Jacoby:

Jones:

It was the bowl plus the soup.

It was the first bowl out of the pot, so it was hot as hell. Yes, it was hot, very hot.

It went everywhere.

I was standing up, and it hit me in the shoulder, arm, everywhere. It hit the wall. I mean, it was a mess.

We didn’t talk to each other for probably three months, not one word. And then, I remember it was a night after a back-to-back. We was in Philadelphia, and we had a conversation and said, “You know what? Brothers have quarrels. I’m sorry. I apologize. Let’s move on.”

Kudos to David Jacoby for asking the important questions. This interview revealed a lot – the soup temperature, where it went and whether the bowl got tossed. Unfortunately, Jones dodged Jacoby’s question about whether Smith threw overhand or underhand. Relatedly, we don’t know the distance of the throw. There’s still a lot to uncover.

Additional context: That game in Philadelphia was just over a month after the soup throw. So, the rift didn’t last quite as along as Jones described. It might have felt like three months, though. Even one month is a long time to ignore someone you see every day.

At least the Cavs had experience with a player not talking to anyone.