After a few games of the LeBron James show with the pace slowed (while Wade recovered from a sprained ankle), the Miami Heat with Wade returned to their high-pressure, up-tempo style of play — you know, kind of like Mike D’Antoni was brought in to run in New York but never given the parts to execute. It wasn’t a perfect game from Miami, but when everything was on the line in the fourth the Heat overwhelmed the Knicks and ran away to a 99-89 win.
Wade looked rested and about as healthy as can be, with 28 points on 19 shots. The Heat were back to being a highlight reel for a night, with just a bunch of ridiculous dunks.
But that’s not won them the game. It was their defense.
The Heat were a pressure defense again and forced 19 Knicks turnovers — that was nearly one in five trips down the court for New York. And a lot of those turnovers became runouts for the Heat and big dunks. Miami is too good to give them a bunch of easy baskets and expect to win.
The other thing the Heat defense did was take away good looks going toward the basket for the Knicks — without Carmelo Anthony or a point guard who can create for others, the Knicks were relegated to launching threes.
Which they did with reckless abandon taking 43, but making 18 (41.9 percent). That is what kept them in the game.
But you live by the three, you die by it. In fourth, Heat focused on chasing everyone off the arc and make them put it on the floor or contesting the shot. The Knicks still hit 3 of the 8 they took that quarter, but they also turned the ball over and that led to runouts and… well, we’ve already covered that.
Give the Knicks credit, they gave a spirited effort. They hustled, they defended moderately well, they tried hard at what they thought would work. D’Antoni said he would stretch the floor with Carmelo out, and while this may have been the extreme of what he meant it kept New York in the game. Bill Walker was 7-10 from three for 21 points, Toney Douglas added 16.
But the Knicks don’t have the players to run D’Antoni’s system the way it was designed (that problem only gets worse with ‘Melo in the lineup). The Heat do. When the tempo gets up the more athletic team wins, and that was the Heat in this one. Handily.
And they put on a show in the process.
Kevin Durant tells fans: ‘Watch the f—ing game and shut the f— up’ (video)
One witness who was sitting in spitting distance from the incident tells us … the heckler was just saying the typical NBA fan trash talk — calling KD names like, “Cupcake” and other insults.
Another witness tells TMZ Sports … the hecklers had been bombarding KD with the “cupcake” insults to the point where it became unbearable.
That witness tells us KD complained to the refs at one point but the fans were not removed or disciplined in any way.
We’re told the group laughed off the incident because they knew they got to him and ramped up the trash talk even more for the rest of the game.
Durant obviously has a history of confrontingcritics. But that’s usually online, not in person.
The NBA generally fines players for getting caught on video talking to fans this way. The league doesn’t seem to have a problem with players responding to fans when it’s not on video. Hecklers’ days are made when players respond, but the league doesn’t seem to account for that.
It’s an unfair system, but it’s the one Durant is in.
He and Golden State are also in a three-game losing streak. Snap that, and Durant will probably become more friendly.
Joel Embiid had a spectacular missed windmill dunk
Each night in the NBA there is a lot of action, a lot to unpack. Which is why every weekday morning during the NBA season we bring you three things you need to know out of the night before, to keep you up on all the big happenings around the NBA.
1) Kemba Walker is destroying everyone, including the Celtics Monday night. But Boston has issues. The Boston Celtics, the team that was the favorite in the East going into the season, the team everyone thought they had to beat, is getting beat. A lot more than we expected at 9-8 to start the season. What started as “don’t freak out they just need to get Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward meshed into what they do” has become legitimate reason for concern because the Celtics can’t get key boards, and that elite defense is not slowing their opponent’s best scorer often enough.
Monday night that opponent was maybe the hottest player in the NBA: Kemba Walker. He certainly is the most entertaining player in the league right now he and dropped 43 on the Celtics and yelling “this is my s***” after a big bucket.
Walker is a fringe MVP candidate right now (the way Damian Lillard jumped into the conversation a year ago) and he should thank new coach James Borego. His new Spursian offense has spaced the floor for the Hornets (not having Dwight Howard in the post and clogging the lane helps, too) and Walker is driving into that space and making plays. And if you play back on him, he will destroy you with off-the-dribble threes.
All of that does not change the fact Boston has issues compared to where we thought they would be right now. We went into the season knowing rebounding would be a concern but it has been worse than expected (like at the end of the Hornets’ game, when Charlotte was getting key offensive boards to keep plays alive). The Celtics have the 27th ranked offense in the NBA this season because the ball stops too much — Terry Rozier has been a problem here — plus the team is just not knocking down jumpers (Boston is third in number of three pointers taken a game but 21st in percentage at 34.5 percent). Brad Stevens can’t find a rotation he likes — Aron Baynes started in place of Gordon Hayward Monday — and Stevens just can’t find the toughness we expected from this team on a nightly basis.
Maybe we will get to March and April and shake our heads thinking “why did we worry about Boston?” They can still put this thing together and get up to be a top two or three seed (they are currently four games back of the Raptors, ground not easy to make up because Toronto is good).
But we are now 17 games in, approaching a quarter of the season, and these issues have not gone away in Boston. It’s time to admit this team is flawed right now and it might not be able to put it all together like we expected.
2) The Wizards are a disaster, they are open to trades… and it’s not going to be that easy. The dumpster fire in our nation’s capital… wait, let me be more specific, there are a lot of dumpster fires in our nation’s capital right now.
Being open to breaking up its core is something Washington should have been doing last summer (if not earlier) — the chemistry issues around this team are not new. They’re worse right now, but they are not new. Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis kept doubling down on the core guys and thought they could fix the chemistry issues by changing coaches or role players (Marcin Gortat was the guy shipped out last summer and was seen as the chemistry problem… the Clippers look really good with him on the roster, by the way, great chemistry there). But the real problem was the core itself.
Grunfeld has come around to that, but now the trade value is down for all of those guys because of the team’s struggles. Talking to sources around the league there is by far the most interest in Beal, who is just 25 and an All-Star player at a position of need around the league. He’s also the one of the three the Wizards least want to trade, so that will take a massive offer (the kind more often seen in July than mid-season).
Last in interest from teams is Wall. We can talk about how Wall’s contract will make him very difficult to trade — his designated veteran max contract kicks in next season, he has four years at an average of more than $42 million a season left on his deal after this one — but that may not even be the worst part right now. Wall is coasting on the court too much right now, not playing like an elite player at all, and the bigger problem is the best player on the team sets the culture. Stephen Curry set the “fun but work hard” tone in Golden State. LeBron James sets the tone for the Lakers and that tone won titles in Cleveland and Miami. Tim Duncan set the tone for the Spurs for two winning decades and five rings. What culture is Wall setting right now as he jogs through plays and has his hands on his hips? Forget the money, nobody wants to trade for that player, period. (Well, don’t forget the money, but the combo of the money and his attitude make him almost impossible to move right now.)
3) Joel Embiid backs up his trash talk and puts up 33 on Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns. This summer, Joel Embiid said No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton would get his a** kicked this year once the games got real. Embiid lived up to that on Monday night, almost doubling Ayton in points (33-17) and rebounds (17-9). Embiid was making plays on both ends of the floor.
But it was not all perfect for Embiid — this missed dunk is not something Ben Simmons is going to let Embiid forget.
MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks have been plagued lately by sluggish first-half performances.
They got away with it again Monday night.
The Bucks fell behind by 17 points before rallying to down the Denver Nuggets 104-98. Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 29 points and Eric Bledsoe added 23, including two late 3-pointers.
Antetokounmpo added 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, which came from 22 down in the first half to beat the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. The Bucks also fell behind by double digits in the first quarter in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to do a better job to try to set the tone,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think we did a better job this game, but we can do a lot better. I think our talent saves us. I feel like we are so talented that even when we are down 10, down 15, we can always get back into the game.”
The Bucks swept the two-game season series against the Nuggets for the first time since 2009-10.
Jamal Murray had 17 points, eight rebounds and a season-best nine assists for Denver, which has lost six of its last seven games.
“We still have confidence. We just aren’t winning games,” Murray said.
“I was really pleased with the fight and the competitive spirit. We gave ourselves a chance against a very good basketball team on the road,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But there are no moral victories. We’ve got to start winning these games.”
The Bucks led 78-77 heading to fourth quarter. The teams exchanged leads until Milwaukee went on a late 8-0 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Bledsoe.
“I think Eric is in a really good place,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He is understanding what we need in different moments.”
Denver pulled within two points with less than a minute left on Jokic’s 3 but Khris Middleton, who had been 0 for 7 from deep, answered with a 3-pointer to put the Bucks up 103-98 with 27 seconds left.
After trailing by 10 to start the third quarter, the Bucks grabbed the lead late in the period on a slam dunk by Antetokounmpo.
Denver used a 17-4 to start the second quarter to build a 17-point lead and held a 56-46 advantage at the half. Milwaukee closed the half on a 10-3 run.
The Nuggets led 29-25 after the first quarter, sparked by nine points from Gary Harris.