As always, Erik Spoelstra wants Miami to play faster

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Last season, in the run up to the season, Erik Spoelstra tried to make the Heat’s identity a team that used pressure defense and fast break attacks to overwhelm opponents. And at the start of the season they did that.

But as the season wore on the Heat’s pace dropped back to about the league average (a little below, actually, they finished 19th in the league). In part that was due to injuries, in part due to teams adjusting to what the Heat tried to do. The Heat did play faster than the year before, but not fast all the time (only in spurts).

So guess what Spoelstra’s mantra is again going into this season? From Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel.

Talking to WQAM on Tuesday, Spoelstra shed some light on his game plan for next season.

“I hope to play faster,” Spoelstra said. “We turned it up a gear last year and I think we have the personnel to hopefully go even faster. I think with a normal training camp and a normal season we can build up that habit even more.”

I can find you 29 other NBA head coaches who are vowing to play faster this year, too. It must be part of the “Off-Season Cliche Handbook” the NBA passes out to coaches.

Obviously, part of this is how healthy Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are when they return next season. Wade has said he will be playing his way into trusting his knee, which means he could be a step slower to start.

It seems like the Heat might if they do play more small ball with Chris Bosh at the five. But one of the more knowledgeable Heat guys out there, Couper Moorhead, suggested Bosh may not start at the five next year. He likely finishes games there, but not always start. And if the Heat are saving the small lineup, we’ll see how fast they really play.

But, we know what Spoelstra wants.

Dwyane Wade sinks halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Dwyane Wade is secure in his legacy. He’s an all-time great, and an extra missed 3-pointer during his farewell tour won’t change anything. (It doesn’t hurt that his resumé already includes subpar 3-point shooting.)

So, when many players would hold the ball, Wade heaved in a halfcourt shot to end the third quarter of the Heat’s 110-105 win over the Spurs on Wednesday. It wasn’t the biggest shot of Wade’s season, but it still mattered plenty.

Miami’s lead when San Antonio began intentionally fouling late? Three.

Jonas Valanciunas hits game-winning free throw, spoils James Harden’s 57-point night (video)

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The Grizzlies blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter and a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds of overtime. James Harden scored 57 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter and all 10 of the Rockets points in overtime.

But Jonas Valanciunas saved Memphis from total collapse. He drew a foul on his putback and hit the game-winning free-throw with 0.1 seconds left to give the Grizzlies a 126-125 win Wednesday.

Report: Suns exploring signing Jimmer Fredette

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Jimmer Fredette remains a fascination because he scored a ton at BYU eight years ago and… other reasons.

He has been lighting it up in China, and his season there just ended. Now, the former No. 10 pick could return to the NBA after three years away.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Phoenix still needs another point guard, and the 6-foot-2 Fredette looks like one. But he hasn’t shown the playmaking to play point guard regularly. He’s better, and sometimes even effective, off the ball.

Fredette could have stuck in the NBA with a different attitude. His long-distance shooting was an asset.

But he’s also now 30 years old. A new approach likely won’t be enough. His shortcomings, particularly defensively, will be even more pronounced as his athleticism has declined.

The Suns are bad and will remain bad, with or without Fredette. But their younger players have shown signs of progress lately. Fredette’s high-usage style could interfere with their development.

It’s hard to see the upside here other than a brief uptick in attention.

Marcus Smart shoves down Joel Embiid from behind, gets ejected (video)

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Marcus Smart recently bemoaned the lack of physicality in the NBA.

After Joel Embiid dropped his shoulder into him on a screen, Smart brought some to tonight’s Celtics-76ers game.

Smart shoved Embiid in the back, sending the center to the floor. A cheap shot? Yes. Embiid wasn’t looking. But Smart would surely argue Embiid started it. I also doubt Smart intended to push Embiid from behind. Smart just wanted to get at Embiid as quickly as possible, and Embiid happened to be facing the other way when Smart arrived.

Smart got a flagrant 2 and the accompanying ejection. Embiid received a technical foul.