NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 3: The Triad have found the nexus

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In Miami’s 91-86 win over Oklahoma City Sunday night, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade scored 35 points on 34 shots. That’s a bad ratio. It would indicate that LeBron James (29 points on 23 shots) carried the team. But that’s off, you have to consider everything. The metrics, the plays, the context of the series, the matchups, everything. You have to see the whole board to identify what we saw in Game 3, and in this series.

And what we see is the Triad finding the nexus of their talents, playing together, playing well, and playing at the apex of their potential together, in terms of execution. The shots aren’t falling? That’s fine. The process matters more than the results in the course of a seven-game series ( as long as you win, right?).

What we saw in Game 3 was Dwyane Wade using the pick and roll and the Thunder’s adaptation to push the defense to the perimeter to find Chris Bosh inside for all three of his buckets. That forced the defense to adapt. That opened the perimeter for James to create inside. Their offensive rebounding forced adaptations. And James cutting inside, forcing the defense to slide to help, the doubles they forced, the intensity and execution created more and more opportunities.

But it was the defense that did it.

From the beginning, this Heat team was built on the concept that they had to play amazing defense to win. They had learned from losses to Boston and Orlando that the path to the title was through their defense, that their best use of their athleticism and talent was to extend and control the game defensively. This is a team that outshot the Knicks, outmuscled the Pacers, and outran the Celtics. Now they are grinding OKC down, behind the efforts of the Triad.

Chris Bosh had the best 3-12 game you’re going to find. 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. He posted a -7, but that stat doesn’t cover the late game impact he had. Bosh has also created a ton of possession for Miami by diving on the floor. He’s set the tone.

And that shouldn’t be overlooked, here. The Miami Heat are no longer “too good to try” in terms of these loose balls. They’re getting to the 50/50 balls and outworking the young guys. They look hungrier, more poised, and tougher. Those are nebulous things, but we see it with certain plays. Gone is the indecisiveness. When Wade works in isolation, LeBron’s no longer standing on the perimeter when Wade launches. He’s crashing the offensive glass. Wade’s no longer coasting possessions when LeBron works in the post. He’s cutting to the rim. They’re creating extra possessions and attacking early in the shot clock.

The uneasiness of how to make these players fit is gone, and much of it is seen in an approach that simply has stopped trying to out-think the opponent. The Heat aren’t waiting to make sure things are perfect. They’re using their talents, executing, and forcing things. Defensively, they’re attacking, attacking, attacking and the result in Game 3 was a Thunder team on its heels. There are times when it just seems too much, with Bosh making the smart play, Wade making the aggressive play, and James making the best play, often on one possession. It’s not dominant. It stalls at times. But they are close, so very close to that point where there’s just no way to beat them.

Still, the Thunder hang, hitting tough shot after tough shot, which is to their credit. And in Game 4, everything can be reversed, the Triad can go back into the mud, and it can end just like that. But in an ugly game, the Big 3 are creating what they need to, producing what they need to, building the team they want to.

They’re two games away from a championship.

Whether they stay here in the nexus may decide if those two wins are attainable.

Dejounte Murray says he’s not thinking about extension with Spurs yet

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Dejounte Murray was supposed to be a big deal for the San Antonio Spurs last season. Unfortunately, Murray’s knee injury sidelined those plans until 2019-20.

Now Murray is back on the sidelines for Gregg Popovich and his Spurs, and he’s expected to take a great leap forward, pushing San Antonio to another playoff appearance. Meanwhile, Murray is fast approaching the end of his rookie deal, and an extension is within reach. Still, Murray has said he is not thinking about his contract, and is instead of looking forward to trying to make his team better

Via Tom Osborn:

If Murray and Poeltl don’t sign extensions, they would enter the restricted free agent market in July 2020.

“My mind is not on that at all,” Murray said after practice Monday. “Obviously, I want to be here for as long as I can, but those are things I can’t control. What I can control is getting better, learning and being a great person, being Dejounte Murray.

“If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. My main goal is to help this team get to the playoffs and do big things.”

It’s sort of an interesting question about whether Murray should be given extension, and for how much. On one hand, he has lots of potential and the NBA is a leauge that does pay on what future bounties might bring — just ask Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

But Murray did suffer a catastrophic injury, and so he doesn’t have the resume that some of his other compatiots bring to the table. That may actually play to San Antonio’s advantage, given they can talk him down from his initial number because of his lack of raw statistics.

Tony Parker was shipped out of Texas and ended up playing for the Charlotte Hornets because Murray is thought of as the point guard of the future for the Spurs. How much of that position will pay based off of Murray’s resume is another question altogether, and it looks like we will have to wait for that answer.

David Fizdale says RJ Barrett will spend time playing point guard

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New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett is sure to be a Rookie of the Year candidate, although most projections of the start of the Season predict that New Orleans Pelicans star and No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson will take home that award.

Still, folks expect that Barrett will be a high-scoring opportunity for a Knicks squad that is looking to rebuild in the coming season. To that end, it appears that NY coach David Fizdale is trying to get some more time on the ball, perhaps allow him to shine.

Speaking to reporters this week, Fizdale said that Barrett will be spending some time at point guard.

Via Twitter:

This could be just to get Barrett some more time handling the rock, which we know is important in today’s NBA. But it also could be an experiment in vain of Justise Winslow in Miami, where the Heat decided that a non-traditional player could actually thrive in a ball-handling situation.

New York doesn’t have that many skill the players, and they are sort of trying to figure out what works for them moving forward. Why not take a chance with Barrett at the point guard spot to see if a scoring threat exists with the potential to distribute the ball as well?

If Barrett thrives, it could be an interesting race toward the Rookie of the Year.

Jusuf Nurkic reportedly signs with Rich Paul, Klutch Sports

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Jusuf Nurkic just signed a new contract last summer, but he is already changing agents. Although Nurkic will not be back to start the 2019-20 NBA season, he is already angling for something new by signing with Klutch Sports and Rich Paul.

According to a report from Chris Haynes. Nurkic has signed with Rich Paul in anticipation for his free agency in the summer of 2022. Nurkic has a partial guarantee of $12 million — a deal for the Blazers — in 2021-22.

Via Twitter:

It’s not clear what kind of impact that Nurkic will have on this Blazers roster, or whether he would even be in Portland once things shake out over the next couple of seasons. Portland has to figure out what they’re going to do in the absence of the Golden State Warriors being a top of the Western Conference, and the Blazers have a chance this season to go deep in the playoffs yet again.

Nurkic’s health will be a big part of that, and with his injury, he isn’t a lock to be a huge impact player for Portland until the playoffs. Even still, we don’t know what kind of longevity Nurkic will have given that he’s already broken his leg in addition to his most recent injury.

Signing with Paul is a good idea in terms of trying to get the most out of his potential as a 20-something-year-old, but this might not be the best news for Blazers fans. Paul has a habit of getting the most out of negotiations he can, and often times that means his players end up switching teams.

For now, we will have to watch how Nurkic recovers in his rehabilitation, and how he plays coming back in anticipation or his next contract in a couple of seasons.

Kevin Durant is not a fan of looking at graphs in NBA analysis

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Kevin Durant is known to be Very Online as far as NBA players go, and the newest Brooklyn Nets superstar will have time to spend on Twitter now that we know it’s unlikely he will join his team for the 2019-20 NBA season.

Durant has gotten in trouble by being online in the past, but that hasn’t held him back from tweeting as of late. With advanced analytics still being the bane of the existence of many regular fans, Durant decided to tweet something apparently against the very thought of using statistics to prove one’s point when it comes to NBA basketball.

Specifically, Durant said he didn’t want to look at any graphs when thinking about pro basketball. This came as part of a conversation with Action Network’s Matt Moore, one of the father’s of the modern NBA blogosphere.

Via Twitter:

This isn’t anything new: folks who play the game often seem to feel threatened by the idea of statistics in the NBA. It’s not clear why, given that most people who use statistics to prove a point in professional basketball use both film study and analytic analysis to come to a conclusion. It’s never unilaterally a numbers game, although talking head goobers on afternoon ESPN shows like to prop it up as such.

But numbers are scary, and remain the boogeyman in the NBA. It’s not surprising that a person like Durant — despite his mathematical supremacy over other players — would be weirded out by stats and charts.

If anything, this feels like a direct attack at our own Dan Feldman. Stay strong, Dan-O. Keep doing you. Kevin Durant, meanwhile, won’t be partaking in any hardcore numbers analysis.