NBA Playoffs: The Heat collapse

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After a regular season defined by crunch-time blunders and late collapses, the Heat’s postseason had been defined by gritty closing performances that saw the Heat holding onto close leads or pulling off comebacks in the fourth quarter.

All of that changed during Thursday night’s 95-93 loss, which may end up being Miami’s most important game of the season. With just over seven minutes remaining, Dwyane Wade hit a three right in front of the Mavericks bench to give the Heat a 15-point lead, one of the most comfortable leads the team has had all post-season long.

Then the collapse came. Jason Terry got loose and starting hitting shots and getting to the free throw line, Miami’s defense relaxed and allowed the Mavericks to hit jumpers, and Dirk Nowitzki stepped up to hit the go-ahead three with 26 seconds remaining and a game-winning layup after Mario Chalmers answered Nowitzki’s three with one of his own.

Not only did the Heat do everything wrong; they did what everybody said they would do wrong all year long. They got arrogant and took their eyes off the prize. They got lazy on defense. Most unforgivably, their offense devolved into hero-ball, with James and Wade (mostly James) running down the clock for 20 seconds and firing up a deep, contested jumper instead of trying to run the offense correctly and get the Heat the baskets they needed to hold off the Mavericks’ charge. Overall, the Heat missed 10 of their last 11 shots, which opened the door for the Mavericks to pull off the stunning comeback. If James still doesn’t have his first ring when this series is over, he has only himself and his performance in the final seven minutes of this game to blame.

After the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called the fourth “about as tough of a quarter as you can have,” and that when things started to slide, they “kept on going.” He also called the close to the game “uncharacteristic” for the Heat, which has been true throughout the postseason, but it doesn’t mean they get a do-over on a Finals loss.

James and the Heat worked all post-season long to shake off the image of them as a preening, mentally weak team who couldn’t close out close games and two superstars whose egos would prevent them from playing with each other correctly on offense. After spending the first 16 games and 3.5 quarters of Game 2 shaking that reputation, the Heat earned it right back in seven minutes.

Now, there’s only one way for the team to exonerate itself: win at least one game in Dallas and win the NBA championship. Because if they don’t, this game could haunt them for years to come. After the game, Spoelstra reminded everyone that this is a “long series” and that the Heat will “bounce back.” Spoelstra had better hope his players are up to the task, because if the Heat manage to let a title slip out of their fingers in one of the most dramatic ways possible, it’s going to be a very long summer for one of the most hyped teams in recent memory.

Blake Griffin hits game-winner in OT, finishes with 50 points

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The 2018-19 NBA season has started off a little wild. We have already seen several overtime games, with things sloppy but close as teams run down to the wire.

On Tuesday night, we got another overtime matchup.

As the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia to the floor in Michigan, it ended up being one of the best nights of Blake Griffin‘s career.

Griffin scored 50 points and hit what effectively became the game-winner in overtime.

Via Twitter:

The 50-point effort was the best of Griffin’s career. His prior high-water mark was 47 points in a game against the Indiana Pacers in 2011.

It was just in time, too. Griffin’s frontcourt teammate Andre Drummond was a ejected after a flop by Sixers big man Joel Embiid late in regulation.

Detroit took home the win, 133-132, moving to 3-0 on the season. The Sixers are now 2-2.

Report: Heat, Clippers, Mavericks, Rockets still looking to add Jimmy Butler

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Trade talks for Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler have apparently gone dormant. Things fell through with the most likely deal between the Wolves and the Miami Heat earlier in October, and now we are in sort of a weird limbo state where Butler is still playing for Minnesota.

The season has started, the Timberwolves have new jerseys, but everyone knows what is coming.

It certainly doesn’t mean that interest in Butler’s services have waned. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, four teams still have adding Butler at the top of their list.

Windhorst appeared on Alex Kennedy’s podcast this weekend and said that the Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and Houston Rockets are still gunning for Butler.

Via Twitter:

Windhorst gave a caveat for both Dallas and the Clippers, who have the ability to sign Butler this offseason through free agency. That makes a trade between the Timberwolves and those teams less likely, especially because Minnesota’s asking price for Butler apparently keeps going up (rather than down) as time goes on.

No doubt this saga will continue for some time until Butler eventually gets traded to somewhere strange, like the Milwaukee Bucks.

Much like the Kawhi Leonard situation last season in San Antonio, we could be waiting all season for something to happen on the Butler front.

Prince-themed Timberwolves jerseys leaked

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Things aren’t pretty with the Minnesota Timberwolves right now. The team is still trying to figure out what to do with Jimmy Butler, and a willing trade partner doesn’t seem available at the moment.

But that doesn’t mean that the Timberwolves can’t still look good.

On Tuesday, some of Minnesota’s alternate uniforms for this season leaked on Reddit. They of course made their way to Twitter, and they have a very specific theme: “Purple Rain”.

Via Twitter:

The jerseys are of course based on Prince’s iconic 1984 album/film combo. Prince, a Minneapolis native, passed away in 2016.

Meanwhile the Wolves may be bad, but at least their uniforms will rock.

Ben Simmons out for 76ers against Pistons with back tightness

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DETROIT (AP) — Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons is out Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons because of back tightness.

76ers coach Brett Brown says Simmons is questionable for Wednesday at Milwaukee after he left Saturday’s game in the first quarter against Orlando and did not return. Brown says Simmons wasn’t fully comfortable and that resting him Tuesday boosted the chances he could play Wednesday.

Simmons, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year, was averaging 16.0 points, 14.0 rebounds and 9.5 assists in the first two games before playing just eight minutes Saturday.