67RIEFNS No. 7: Warriors’ starting lineup

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the doldrums of the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Bob Myers’ hard work paid off.

The Warriors general manager’s painstaking pursuit of Andre Iguodala included convincing Iguodala to sign while simultaneously clearing the necessary the cap space – and it worked.

The result? Iguodala turned the Warriors’ starting lineup into one of the NBA’s most effective and complete units.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dominated last season.

Of the NBA’s 30 most-used lineups, none had a better net rating than the Warriors’ starters, who outscored opponents by 15.4 points per 100 possessions.

And they did it by dominating both ends. Their offensive rating (112.4) and defensive rating (97.0) would have both led the NBA.

Here’s how the league’s 30 most-used lineups stacked up offensively and defensively. (Click here for an interactive version where you can mouse over each logo to see players and exact offensive and defensive ratings.)

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  • Bottom right: above average offensively, above average defensively
  • Top right: above average offensively, below average defensively
  • Bottom left: below average offensively, above average defensively
  • Top left: below average offensively, below average defensively

Peerless far into the bottom right, that’s the Warriors’ starters.

Within the 30 most-used lineups, only two were better offensively – one on the Clippers (Chris Paul, Darren Collison, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan) and one on the Timberwolves (Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic). With Collison on the Kings and Love on the Cavaliers, neither lineup will be around this season.

Likewise, the only better defensive lineups – the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, P.J. Tucker, Channing Frye and Miles Plumelee; the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah; the Pacers’ George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert; the Wizards’ John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Marcin Gortat; and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts and Al Jefferson – have broken up with Frye in Orlando, Boozer in Los Angeles, Stephenson in Charlotte, Ariza in Houston and McRoberts in Miami.

Yet, the Warriors’ top lineup remains.

Between Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut, it’s difficult to find a skill left uncovered.

Curry and Thompson bomb away from beyond the arc. Lee scores inside. Curry and Iguodala keep the ball moving. Lee and Bogut clean the glass. Bogut protects the rim. Iguodala and Thompson defend perimeter.

The puzzle pieces fit seamlessly.

Steve Kerr, please don’t mess with this lineup. It’s basketball bliss.

Timberwolves win first road game in 52 days, top Heat (video)

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MIAMI — Jordan McLaughlin’s layup with just under nine seconds left put Minnesota ahead for good, D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and the Timberwolves added to Miami’s late-season stagger by beating the Heat 129-126 on Wednesday night.

Malik Beasley scored 21 points, Juancho Hernangomez tied a season-high with 17 and McLaughlin added 13 for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were down by 12 with 3:59 left, then closed on a 20-5 run to get just their second victory in 20 games.

Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with 13.8 seconds left put Miami up 126-125, but McLaughlin’s layup on the next Minnesota possession put the Timberwolves on top to stay. Butler’s layup with 3.2 seconds left got blocked by Russell, and the Wolves held on.

Minnesota snapped a nine-game road losing streak, getting its first road victory since beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5.

Kendrick Nunn led Miami with 24 points. Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler — back after a two-game absence for personal reasons — had 18 for Miami. The Heat fell to 23-4 at home and have dropped seven of their last nine overall.

The Heat stayed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia lost in Cleveland earlier Wednesday, a game where 76ers star Joel Embiid departed early because of a shoulder injury.

The Heat have had major trouble closing games of late — a 22-point lead late in the third quarter against Cleveland on Monday was frittered away in what probably was the worst loss of the season, until now anyway — and a long film session and meeting on Tuesday clearly didn’t solve the issue.

They were up 121-109 with 3:59 left, and 123-112 after a layup by Butler 24 seconds later.

And Minnesota — a team that came into the night with one win in a span of 48 days — still wasn’t finished off. The Timberwolves scored the next 11 points to tie the game, getting five of those points from Beasley and a tying free throw from McLaughlin with 46 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Minnesota’s 27 attempts from 3-point range in the first two quarters was a first-half franchise record. … The Wolves are 4-0 in road games against Southeast Division teams this season, and 6-19 in all other road contests.

Heat: Adebayo played through a sprained right ankle, pushing his consecutive-game streak to 144 — extending the fourth-longest such streak in team history. … Goran Dragic’s first basket was a 3-pointer, and that pushed him one point past Grant Long (5,473) for 10th on the Heat career scoring list. … Nunn got his third consecutive rookie of the month trophy in a brief halftime ceremony.

JOHNSON RETURNS

Wednesday marked James Johnson’s first game back in Miami since the trade that sent him to Minnesota earlier this month, a move that sent Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to Miami from Memphis. “I think Minnesota is seeing what kind of versatility he can bring to the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

LOOKING AHEAD

A large contingent of fans from Slovenia were in attendance Wednesday — and more are coming Friday, when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks. At last season’s Dallas-at-Miami game, more than 2,000 Slovenians were in attendance to watch their nation’s two best NBA players, Dragic and Dallas star Luka Doncic, go head-to-head.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Orlando on Friday night.

Heat: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Trae Young blocks 7-foot Mo Bamba at rim (video)

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Trae Young might be the NBA’s worst defender.

He’s small (6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan). His athleticism is far from imposing. He also carries a massive load for the Hawks offensively, leaving little energy for defense.

But he still blocked 7-foot Magic center Mo Bamba at the rim.

Not a great moment for Bamba.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

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Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.

Zach LaVine: Trash talk directed at Dennis Schroder, not Bulls coach Jim Boylen

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During the Bulls’ loss to the Thunder yesterday, Zach LaVine appeared to say, “I have f—ing 40 points!”

Many assumed LaVine was snapping at Chicago coach Jim Boylen. But LaVine clarified his target was Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

I take LaVine at his word.

Want to make a case LaVine dislikes Boylen? You’ll just have to point to all the other evidence.