Heat will be just fine with Bosh out… at least for a while

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We don’t know yet how long Chris Bosh may be out with a strained abdominal muscle suffered in the Heat’s Game 1 win over the Pacers. We know it was serious enough to keep Bosh out of the second half Sunday, but until an MRI Monday we don’t know how long he’ll be out. Thing is, abdominal strains can take a while to heal.

If the Heat are without Bosh for a while they will be good — they just shift LeBron James over to the four spot. LeBron had an amazing PER of 29.1 when he played the three but it was 37.1 when he played power forward (via 82games.com). The Heat’s starting lineup this year without Bosh — with Shane Battier at the three and LeBron at the four — was +3.3 points per 48 minutes, which is not as good as the team’s +5.9 overall but it is good.

The problem is not LeBron at the four, it’s who comes in when LeBron sits. And it’s what lies ahead of the Heat.

If Bosh is out for any significant amount of time, it’s going to put more pressure on Udonis Haslem when he comes in off the bench, and outside of on the glass he has been unimpressive in the playoffs so far. Ronny Turiaf, who brings a lot of energy and fouls with him, will get some run (especially against the Pacers and Roy Hibbert). Mike Miller is also going to have to step up and pick up some offensive load.

But really, it’s going to be more on Lebron and Dwyane Wade on offense — and that is why the Heat will not feel the pain right now. Those guys can do more. LeBron had a ridiculous game Sunday with 32 points, 15 rebounds, five assists a couple steals and just one turnover. Wade had 29 points. Those two are capable of putting up those numbers or better against anyone on any night.

The Pacers are a good team, they are going to win a couple games this series, but they simply can’t stop the Heat’s two big guns in the fourth quarter and Bosh or no this is the last stop on their playoff train this year.

The real concern in Miami is how long Bosh will be out, because eventually Bosh will be missed.

Where the Heat will start to miss Bosh is if they don’t have him to shadow Kevin Garnett in the next round (if the Celtics advance). Where they would really miss him is if he were still out come the finals. They will need all they have against an Oklahoma City Thunder that comes at you with wave after wave of amazing athletes. Or they will need him to match up with Tim Duncan. Or there is a long shot chance they will need him to match up with the size of the Lakers front line with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, or the Clippers athletic front line as well.

Bosh may be the third part of the triad, but he plays a key role in some matchups, and the Heat will need him back these playoffs. So the MRI on Monday will tell us a lot about the Heat going forward.

Second chance points, clutch LeBron defense earns Lakers win to go up 3-1 on Denver

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It’s a simple and obvious truth about any basketball game: The team that shoots better usually wins.

The Denver Nuggets shot 50.6% in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, including 10-of-28 from three (leading to a true shooting percentage of 62%). The Lakers shot 47.5% overall and 10-of-30 from three (a true shooting percentage of 59.7%). The Nuggets shot better Thursday night.

However, the better shooting team does not win when it gets crushed in another key area.

The Lakers grabbed the offensive rebound on 40.4% of their missed shots — including at three critical possessions in crunch time — and scored 25 second-chance points to Denver having six. Combine that with an aggressive and attacking LeBron James and Anthony Davis getting to the free-throw line 28 times — Denver as a team had 23 free throw attempts — and LeBron playing fantastic defense down the stretch on Jamal Murray, and a team can overcome a shooting deficit.

The result was the Lakers holding off a resilient Denver team to win 114-108, taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Game 5 is Saturday night.

While the Nuggets came back from 3-1 down on the Jazz and Clippers, this series feels different — Denver may have run out of miracles. The way the Lakers closed out this game showed why the Lakers will not go the ways of Jazz and Clippers.

Once again, Davis was the best Laker on the floor, scoring 34 points on 10-of-15 shooting plus playing strong defense (his light rebounding numbers, five in this game, are overblown because the Lakers as a team are rebounding well).

But there are two key reasons the won the Lakers the game — two critical reasons they were able to hold off a Denver comeback when the Jazz and Clippers faltered in similar situations:

• The Lakers were dominant on the offensive glass, as mentioned above. They got a second chance on four out of 10 missed shots (the league average is about 26-27% of missed shots become offensive rebounds). Dwight Howard was doing it early, Davis was doing it late (plus Rajon Rondo had a critical one), but the Lakers getting a second chance to score and run off some clock down the stretch changed the game.

• LeBron James asked to guard Jamal Murray down the stretch — in the final five minutes of the game Murray was 0-of-3 shooting.

“LeBron asked for the assignment and obviously I granted it…” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel said postgame. “Nothing was really working in terms of trying to slow him down until ‘Bron took that assignment.”

Vogel isn’t kidding. Murray was torching the Lakers, getting into the lane, and finding a way to finish — including maybe the best layup of the playoffs so far.

Murray finished with 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, but LeBron held him mostly in check down the stretch (Murray did hit four free throws).

LeBron also had a strong game despite his jumper not falling because he hunted mismatches, throwing the Denver defense into a scramble, plus LeBron commands a double team when he gets the ball at the elbow or on the block and that opens things up.

Another key for Los Angeles was a great first half from Dwight Howard, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds in the first half while keeping the ball out of Jokic’s hands. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 13 points.

Davis rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, limped around on it, stayed in the game and made some plays down the stretch. A slowed Davis would be a reason for concern for the Lakers.

“My ankle feels fine,” Davis said postgame. “I’ve got tonight, tomorrow, before the game to get it back to where it is, but it’s good enough to play. I rolled it pretty bad, but not too bad. I’ll be fine.”

If Denver is going to shock the world, it needs to keep Paul Millsap and his defense on the floor more, then the Nuggets need Gary Harris and other bench players to step up with big moments.

The Nuggets also need to find a way to slow LeBron and Davis. There may not be an answer to that question.

Watch Jamal Murray hit insane hand-switching layup around LeBron

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Are. You. Kidding. Me.

You are not going to see a better layup these playoffs than this one by Denver’s Jamal Murray, going around LeBron James near the end of the first half of Game 4.

Murray went up thinking dunk, had to change his mind because of LeBron, brought it down, went around him, and spun it in off the glass. Insane. It had some people on Twitter referencing the legendary Michael Jordan hand-switching shot. Not sure I’m willing to compare this Murray shot to a layup that helped launch a dynasty, but it’s close.

Murray had 16 in the first half but the Nuggets trailed at the break 60-55 in a high scoring first half. Anthony Davis had 19 to lead the Lakers.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

View this post on Instagram

We’re Sorry Breonna😔🤦🏾‍♂️

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.