NBA Playoffs: Heat move ball, make shots, play defense, draw first blood

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Coming into the NBA Finals, everyone was expecting a battle between Dallas’ smooth, sweet-shooting, ball-movement heavy offense and Miami’s aggressive, swarming, athletic, grinding defense.

Not only did the low-scoring game go the way the Heat wanted it to, but the Heat flipped the script on the Mavericks and beat them in the areas Dallas was supposed to have the biggest advantage in: ball movement and three-point shooting. The result was a 92-84 Heat win.

Right from the beginning of the game, it became apparent that the Mavericks haven’t seen a defense like Miami’s in this playoffs, and that it’s going to be a struggle for them to get easy baskets in this series. Miami swarmed the ball-handler, set good traps, brought hard doubles at Dirk Nowitzki whenever he had the ball, overloaded the strong side and recovered back to the weak-side shooters at an impossibly fast rate.

Overall, the Mavericks never got the space they needed to be effective on offense, and only shot 16-45 (35.6%) on two-point jump shots. The Heat didn’t play great offensively either, failing to crack the 40% mark from the field, but they managed to survive by winning the battle on the boards, moving the basketball, and knocking down three-point shots as well as they have all playoffs long.

Every team’s defensive strategy against the Heat is to pack the paint and force Miami to beat them from the outside, and Miami’s shooters have had mixed success when they’ve been asked to knock down the open shots created by Bosh, James, and Wade. Against Dallas and their zone defense, moving the ball and knocking down threes is even more important for Miami than it was against Chicago and Miami, and Miami’s shooters were up to the task.

Mike Bibby made some Miami fans nervous early by missing all four three-point shots he took, with three of those four misses coming in the first quarter, but his teammates were there to pick up the slack. Mario Chalmers came off the bench to pour in three three-pointers without a moment’s hesitation. Mike Miller, who has looked like a completely new man since his breakout game against Chicago, showed no hesitation whatsoever and hit half of his four threes.

LeBron made four of his five threes, with two of those threes coming off the dribble and one of them being a ridiculous 25-foot fadeaway drifting right that took the Heat lead from one to four as the third quarter came to a close. Wade pitched in two threes of his own, including a tough fadeaway with just over three minutes to go that put the Heat up by nine and essentially ended the game.

Miami needed to make Dallas feel their defense and work for every one of their points, and they did. On offense, they needed to move the ball and hit shots to beat Dallas’ zone, and they did. It was only one game, and the Heat didn’t even shoot 40%, but they successfully set a blueprint for what they need to do in order to get past the Mavericks and win LeBron James and Chris Bosh their first rings.

Kyrie Irving on video with Kevin Durant: ‘Me and one of my best friends talking’

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The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).

Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:

Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):

It’s just crazy. This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. It doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league even more by doing bulls— like that, of just putting fictitious things on what we’re talking about. It’s crazy.

It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.

That wasn’t a denial.

Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.

Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:

I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.

But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.

So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.

Report: Hawks didn’t clear John Collins’ airplane dunk until shortly before dunk contest

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There were two memorable dunks in this year’s dunk contest:

The Hawks nearly stopped us from seeing that latter spectacle.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Saturday:

Now, there’s a little curve ball here. The last update that I had was that the Hawks hadn’t approved John Collins jumping over an airplane yet and that they were a little bit were worried that he was going to trip on it and injure himself.

After watching the dunk, I understand the Hawks’ reluctance. Collins broke the plane!

At least he seemingly emerged unscathed.

Report: Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry trying to convince NBA to soften stance on Anthony Davis

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The NBA reportedly threatened to fine the Pelicans if they sat a healthy Anthony Davis.

Then, Davis got booed by New Orleans fans. He got injured in another game. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps as general manager and elevated Danny Ferry to interim general manager.

New Orleans is reportedly uncertain how to handle Davis the rest of the season. But a key step to changing course is gaining NBA approval, and that’s apparently what Ferry is seeking.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

There were strong signals in Charlotte that the Pelicans — with Danny Ferry now serving as their acting general manager in the wake of Friday’s firing of Dell Demps — intend to re-engage the N.B.A. this week in hopes of convincing league officials to rethink their stance about forcing them to play Davis.

A big question: What does Davis want? He failed to give a straight answer about about his long-term future, but maybe he can explain his desire for just the rest of this season. He previously said he wanted to play, but that was before he got booed and hurt – developments that could change his thinking.

If Davis wants to keep playing, the players’ union could take up his cause. That might not be a fight the league wants.

Heck, the league might still want Davis to keep playing, regardless. The injury risk was real when the league handed down its initial edict. Unemotionally, Davis’ shoulder scare shouldn’t change the calculus. Davis is in the midst of a great season. Him being a healthy scratch for a month-and-a-half would be a black mark for the NBA.

But NBA commissioner has had Ferry’s back before, even reportedly urging the Bucks to consider him for general manager after Ferry made a racist remark that ended his Hawks tenure. Maybe Ferry will convince the league in a way Demps couldn’t.

If so, attention to will turn to Davis and his desire to keep playing.

Dwight Howard reportedly to return to Washington D.C., start on-court steps in recovery

Associated Press
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The return of Dwight Howard should solve all the Wizards problems…

Low hanging fruit jokes aside, Howard was expected to be out two-to-three months for back surgery that happened at the end of November, that would have him back in the coming weeks, and he is now on his way back to the nation’s capital, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Howard played in nine games for the Wizards this season, scoring an efficient 12.8 points and grabbing 9.2 rebounds a game.

The Wizards have been starting Thomas Bryant, with Bobby Portis playing some five behind him, in recent games. How Howard fits into that when healthy will be a question for coach Scott Brooks.

The Wizards would need to make up three games and jump three teams in the final 24 games of the season to make the playoffs.