When Dallas got hot, Heat made host of bad decisions

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Give Dallas credit — this is not their first massive comeback these playoffs. They are in the finals because they executed better at the end of games better than any team in the West. This is a veteran team that does not easily fluster and they started running a fantastic staggered screen for Jason Terry that the Heat could not stop. Dallas has shooters. Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas earned this 95-93 Game 2 win with their 22-5 run to close the contest out.

But you don’t have a comeback like this without some help.

Miami helped choke this away down the stretch. As our own John Krolik noted, the Heat had spent a season trying to shake a perception of arrogance, of a team celebrating before they won anything. Then, fair or not, they got it back in six minutes.

What did the Heat do wrong down the stretch? A few things.

• Horrible shot selection. With their 15 point lead, Miami went into the NBA equivalent of the prevent defense — they started trying to milk the clock, so they started their offensive sets late in the shot clock. Well, “sets” is a bad description of it. It was more like run out some clock then let LeBron James or Dwyane Wade make a play in isolation. Chris Bosh took some long jumpers late.

Remember the 55-second, three-chance possession the Heat had starting with 1:37 left in the game? Miami was up two and if that becomes four they regain some control. But what happened? A LeBron contested three from the top of the key, a Heat offensive rebound followed by running the clock down and LeBron taking another contested three, followed by another offensive rebound, but eventually Udonis Haslem gets stripped. That typified what the Heat ran late.

We should note, to be fair, the Heat took a lot of bad shots in the first half and at the end of Game 1 — this is a team that when pressured falls back to isolation “hero-ball.” They just have guys who can get away with it more than they should, but it will kill them in this series if they keep it up.

• Bosh on Nowitzki for the final play. Even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had some regrets about not going with Udonis Haslem after the game, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” Spoelstra said. “I know UD probably is really wishing he had that opportunity to defend him. He had gotten a couple over the top, and the end of the game running it all the way down to the clock, could have gone with either guy. Both guys are good defenders.”

• Not fouling/double teaming Dirk Nowitzki on the final play. Miami had a foul to give (meaning they could foul Dirk before he shot and there would be no free throws, just Dallas ball out of bounds). They could have forced Dallas to run an out-of-bounds play with five or six seconds left, an easier play to defend because Dallas would have limited options in that time. But instead, Bosh did not foul, Nowitzki spun to the basket and Haslem never came over to help. Ballgame.

The other option — make someone other than Dallas’ best player beat you. Dallas had fantastic ball movement all night and had made the Heat pay for double teams with open shots. But still, you have to make someone other than one of the best scorers in the game beat you.

The Heat made mental mistake after mental mistake late. Like a team that had thought it had won and exhaled. And you can’t do that against Dallas.

Rumor: Raptors trying to trade up in draft for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
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The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.

Is a coaching change enough to fix them?

Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.

So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.

Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.

All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.

Luka Doncic, Donte DiVincenzo, Jerome Robinson among NBA draft invitees

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Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.

But what about more marginal first-round prospects?

The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.

The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):

Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.

Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.

Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.

This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.

Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.

Report: Rudy Gay opting out of Spurs contract

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.

This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.

I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.

Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.

Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.

Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.

Report: LeBron James’ camp likes Collin Sexton

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In 2014, LeBron James tweeted his fondness for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat traded up to get Napier in the draft, but LeBron left for the Cavaliers that summer, anyway.

Could history repeat itself, this time in Cleveland?

LeBron has already talked up Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, but maybe LeBron and his camp want the Cavs to take a different point guard – Alabama’s Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 pick.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, via Jordan Zirm of ESPN Cleveland:

The Cavaliers should take the best prospect available. Worrying about what LeBron might want makes a mistake only more likely.

LeBron might stay in Cleveland, but as 2014 showed, it won’t be because of a draft pick. If he stays, it very well could be by opting into the final year of his contract. His player-option salary ($35,607,968) is slightly higher than his projected max salary as a free agent (about $35.35 million). If LeBron opts in, the best chance of keeping him long-term is building a better team around him.

That means taking the best prospect at No. 8 or trading the pick for someone who can help LeBron win now. If the top prospect is Sexton, that’s fine. But the Cavs are fare more likely to appease LeBron by getting the pick right in the long run rather than choosing the prospect he wants now.