Another day, another good defensive game, another Heat win

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The storyline going into this game was that it was the Milwaukee Bucks back in 1972 that snapped the Lakers 33 game winning streak, and now they had the chance to snap the Heat’s streak at 20.

That 1972 Bucks team had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. With all do respect to Monta Ellis and Larry Sanders, it’s not quite the same thing.

In 2013 we saw a lot of what we have seen from the Heat in the 20 games prior — very good defense (the Bucks shot 37.1 percent from the floor) and big games from the big three and the Heat pulled away for a comfortable 107-94 win on the road.

That makes 21 wins in a row for the Heat, the third longest streak in NBA history. They can tie the second longest — 22 wins from the fluke run of the 2008 Rockets — with a win Sunday over Toronto. If you’re looking for the next game that could likely trip up the Heat look at Monday — the second game of a back-to-back facing Boston, a good veteran team that will be fired up for the challenge.

The Heat took control of this game in the second quarter when they went on a 12-2 run, one that not so coincidentally started after Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade re-entered the game. Wade had returned from taking a bad fall in the first quarter and having to pass a concussion test, but he still finished the game with 20 points and 9 assists playing more of a facilitator role than normal.

Chris Bosh was the best of the big three on this night, he had 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting, with 7 rebounds thrown in. His jumper was falling and that just spaced out and the Bucks defense, which left room for LeBron James to slash into the paint. He had 28 points.

The Heat led comfortably in the second half, and any time it felt like the Bucks would make a run one of the big three would shut it down. Or they’d get a three from Shane Battier or a good defensive play from Norris Cole (hey, that can happen).

The Bucks vaunted backcourt could not knock down shots like they needed — Monta Ellis was 3-of-11, Brandon Jennings was 6-of-15 and J.J. Redick was 4-of-11. That’s not going to get it done against the Heat.

This well could be a first round playoff matchup, and while one should be careful about reading much into playoff results based on regular season games, you get the feeling this wouldn’t last very long. The Heat and their defense are just too much.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.