LeBron, Wade able to share “alpha dog” role just fine

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Because some people just need to criticize LeBron James no matter what he does, there were ridiculous columns out about LeBron James shrinking from the spotlight after the Heat won Game 3. Questions LeBron just shot down in his press conference.

But, this situation in Miami is different than what we saw with the Lakers the past few years, when that was Kobe’s team unquestionably. It is different than the current archetype of what a championship team should look like, based on Jordan’s Bulls teams. When Jordan was the alpha dog. When the game was on the line for those teams, you knew the play was an isolation for their star and he would make things happen.

The Heat are not LeBron’s team. They are not Dwyane Wade’s team. They share the team, the spotlight, the alpha dog role. At the end of Game 3, they got together to run a pick-and-roll rather than an isolation for one of them. At other times they each have taken over at the end of games. They each have called out teammates.

They can share top billing. That was the entire point of this “big three,” so that one guy did not have to carry the load every time. That has worked out well for them, even if some fans struggle to get their arms around it.

At one point in the fourth quarter Game 3, Wade yelled at LeBron, and when Wade was asked about it this was his response (reported by our man Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel):

“Them guys understand. They know me. I understand them. If things are said to each other, it’s all in the better for the team. It’s all about winning. I want it. LeBron knew that. The things I was saying to him, I was saying to Chris, wasn’t nothing they wouldn’t say to me. It was something they would say to me in the Chicago series and vice versa. We have enough respect for each other… I don’t know if I got in his face, but I was just trying to do what leaders do and do what captains do. Step up and say what you feel at that point in order.”

Wade is telling how it looks in the Heat locker room — there is not one unquestioned leader. Nor does their have to be for this to work. There is a belief from that Jordan/Kobe mindset that the best players not only have to dominate their opponents, they have to dominate their teammates as well. Jordan lashed out in practice, when Kobe came into the league he wanted to play and beat all his teammates in one-on-one games.

A mythology grew up around that. Fans bought in. As if that was the only way to win. But it is not.

This is not some new idea — Tom Ziller was writing about it a couple weeks ago, our own Rob Mahoney had a post on this same topic back in August. Mahoney noted out that the whole science behind the alpha dog in a pack of wolves was faulty in the first place.

The Heat are close to winning a title and doing it their way. LeBron, for all the perception that he has to be the center of the universe, has set that aside. Wade welcomed in a co-leader. They both took less money to make it all happen. They both have taken over at the end of games, and in Game 3 they both passed to the open man when the game was on the line.

They are sharing the alpha dog role, and because of their relationship that works well for them. You don’t have to like it, but you had better get used to it.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.

Rockets survive gut punch from Warriors, even Western Conference Finals at 2-2

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The Houston Rockets can only win against the Golden State Warriors in one way: ugly.

During their Game 2 blowout against the defending champions, Houston’s 22-point victory was ugly for the Warriors. In Tuesday’s Game 4 win, it was ugly for the Rockets despite the 95-92 score in their favor.

Golden State came out of the gates hot, scoring the first 12 points of the game as it was clear that the Warriors were drawing off of the home crowd back in Oakland. Houston eventually settled, coming back with a massive 34-point second quarter. Mike D’Antoni, using an abbreviated rotation, found a way to up his team’s defense on the Warriors, clamping down on Golden State from the 3-point line.

The Rockets took a 53-46 lead into the half, and needed to brace for the coming changes from Steve Kerr’s squad.

Unsurprisingly, the Warriors answered with a 34 point quarter of their own to open the second half. Golden State found their range from 3-point land as — guess who — Stephen Curry started to go nuclear. Kevin Durant, who scored 27 points but shot a woeful 37.5 percent from the field, started to slow even as he got open looks off jumpers above smaller defenders.

Then came the fourth quarter.

Houston remained resolute, and full of energy as PJ Tucker and Chris Paul jumped for loose balls and battled for rebounds. Meanwhile, Golden State appeared to slowly run out of gas. Steve Kerr said as much after the game, intimating that his own shortened lineup without Andre Iguodala could have played a role.

D’Antoni, who obviously had a game plan to better defend Durant, then focused his attention toward Curry. The Warriors point guard finished the game shooting 1-for-8 in the fourth quarter, including a miss on the final shot of the game.

Curry scored 28 points with six rebounds and two assists. Durant added 12 rebounds and three assists to his scoring total. Draymond Green contributed 11 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists.

For Houston it was Harden who led the way with 30 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Paul had 27 points to go with four assists and two rebounds. PJ Tucker, who scored just four points, grabbed a whopping 16 boards. Clint Capela was much the same, scoring eight points while grabbing 13 rebounds.

This season’s Western Conference fighters has been both puzzling and Expected. Well the variants of victory margin has been much greater than any of us anticipated for both sides, the fact that the coaches on each bench are trying to out dual each other each game Runs with the idea we have of some of the best playoff series in NBA history. In fact, the back-and-forth battle between two teams as they trade winds is perhaps what makes be later rounds of the NBA playoffs so worth watching.

Houston’s victory was gritty, and defensive, and not much to look at. True to his persona, after the final horn Rockets point guard Paul called it, “A fun game.”

While we finally got ourselves a close conference finals game out West, the question now turns to what the teams will do for Game 5 back in Houston. Will this series become more competitive? Or will Houston and Golden State continue the back-and-forth, big-margin victories we’ve seen thus far?

No matter what, there’s no doubt the Rockets will be trying to recapture the defensive aura they held in Game 4 as Golden State tries to find a way to break through it.

Report: Suns could have traded for Kristaps Porzingis last season

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I’m going to need New York Knicks fans to read this one with their eyes closed. Ready? Here we go.

The Phoenix Suns recently won the right to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. That means they will be adding a player like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, or Marvin Bagley to their young roster. Last season, Phoenix selected fourth and picked Josh Jackson. It’s a rebuilding process, to be sure.

But a new report says that if Phoenix would have decided to instead trade the pick they used on Jackson, they could have had Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis.

Seriously.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Phoenix had an opportunity to put together a package that would have sent Porzingis to Arizona. That anything the Suns had, plus the No. 4 pick, would have made that happen is just another testament to why Phil Jackson had to go in New York.

Via the Ryen Russillo show:

The Knicks actually hit on Porzingis, and although he may be out for the entire year next season, he’s a keeper to build around, not to trade. On the other side of things, why the Suns didn’t include that pick and pull the trigger is a head scratcher, although we don’t know the full details of the proposed package.

No doubt New York fans are glad the Suns didn’t decide to accept the offer without that pick.

Watch James Harden dunk all over Draymond Green (VIDEO)

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Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals started off hot for the Golden State Warriors. The defending champs scored the first 12 points of the game, but the Houston Rockets rallied before the half was over to take the lead, 53-46, at the break.

One of the biggest highlight plays from Houston came courtesy of James Harden late in the second quarter.

The play came with 6:06 left to play in the half and with the Rockets pushing on the Warriors in transition. Harden found himself with the ball at the top of the key and with an open lane. That forced Draymond Green to slide over as a help defender, and the result was a thunderous dunk for Harden over the Golden State defensive stalwart.

We’ll forget that Chris Paul probably either travelled or double-dribbled before Harden got the ball on the play.

Golden State leads the series, 2-1.