Heat stay alive, rally to top Cavaliers 124-121 in OT

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MIAMI (AP) — For the Miami Heat, the season is going down to the final night.

They need a win.

They need some help.

But they still have a chance.

Tyler Johnson scored 24 points, including the game’s final four from the foul line in overtime, and the Heat kept their postseason hopes alive by rallying past the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-121 on Monday night. The Heat (40-41) remained No. 9 in the Eastern Conference, a game behind No. 7 Indiana (41-40) and a tiebreaker behind No. 8 Chicago (40-41).

“We think it’s meant to be,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we have to take care of business.”

That, and get some assistance. For Miami to reach the postseason – a near-impossibility after its 11-30 start – either Indiana or Chicago must lose.

Here’s Wednesday’s slate: Miami hosts Washington (which is locked into the No. 4 spot), Chicago hosts NBA-worst Brooklyn, and Indiana hosts Atlanta.

“It’s win or go home,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said. “Win, and we still might go home.”

Hassan Whiteside scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for Miami. Richardson scored 19 points, James Johnson had 16 and Goran Dragic added 15.

Deron Williams had a season-high 35 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Cavaliers, who fell to 0-7 this season when LeBron James doesn’t play. The Cavs were also without Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and fell a game behind Boston for No. 1 in the East.

James sat with a right calf strain. Irving has a sore left knee.

“I thought the effort was great,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “It was unbelievable.”

Kevin Love scored 25 points, Channing Frye had 21 and Kyle Korver had 18 for Cleveland, which wasted a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead and lost in OT for the second straight day.

On Sunday, Cleveland was up 26 going into the fourth in Atlanta. This time, the lead going into the fourth was 11.

“I don’t think you take too much out of it,” Korver said.

Miami survived despite two Cleveland four-point plays in overtime, including one by Williams with 34 seconds left that put the Heat down one. But Miami rallied for its 29th win in the last 40 games.

“Even if we wouldn’t have started 11-30, to go to the last game and have an opportunity to be in the playoffs, you would take that,” Tyler Johnson said. “But I think it makes it that much more special knowing everybody was kicking dirt on us two months ago.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: If history holds, James won’t play Wednesday. He hasn’t appeared in a regular-season finale since 2007. … Thompson sat again with a sprained right thumb. … G Kay Felder (left lower leg) left the game in the third quarter. … Williams had a career-worst 10 turnovers.

Heat: Dion Waiters (ankle) missed his 12th consecutive game. … James Johnson had nine assists. … Miami had a 20-6 edge in second chance points and an 8-0 edge in fast break points.

BIRDMAN VISITS

Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who played for both Cleveland and Miami, was in a baseline seat opposite the Heat bench. Andersen won a title in Miami in 2013. He appeared in 12 games with the Cavs this season before being sidelined by a knee injury.

L2M FALLOUT

The league’s Last Two Minute Report of Sunday’s Cleveland-Atlanta game showed three calls late in regulation and overtime that negatively impacted the Cavs’ chances in what became a 126-125 loss. “It’s too late now. It’s over,” Lue said.

 

Ja Morant admits he was thinking about cameras on baseline during return to court

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Monday night, Grizzlies star rookie Ja Morant returned to the court after missing four games with what was officially called “back spasms,” but in reality was him recovering from his back hitting a courtside cameraman after a fall.

Morant scored 26 to lead the Warriors to a win in Golden State, but he admitted to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes that when he drove the lane and went up he thought about his landing spot and those cameramen.

Following the contest, Morant acknowledged that instead of solely focusing on being the best version of himself, he occasionally found himself thinking about the proximity of camera operators while driving in the paint.

“It’s tough because I know I just have to do more controlled jumps now,” Morant told Yahoo Sports. “But at the same time, I’m just trying not to think about it and still try to play my game. It’s just a tough situation all the way around, honestly….

“I just think player safety should be first and foremost. How I play and where I end up, [cameramen] are right there. Personally, I like to attack the rack, and I feel like that injury came from me attacking the rack and it was just nowhere to land for me.”

Morant echoes the concern of a lot of players and coaches.

The NBA is aware of the issue, back in 2014 they reduced the number of cameramen on the baseline by half (down to 10 per side) and created a four-foot-wide “runway” on either side of the stanchion that players can run up if they have a full head of steam.

That’s not close to eliminating the problem. The NBA is not going to remove those cameras — the NBA is in the entertainment business, and those cameras provide some of the best video angles and still shots to show fans — but expect it to take another look and review its process here.

What we don’t want to happen is the game loses a promising young player like Morant for a lot more than four games after a run-in with a cameraman.

Bulls’ Otto Porter out at least one more month with fractured foot

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The Chicago Bulls miss Otto Porter. He was a starter on the wing for nine games, scoring 11.2 points per game, hitting 40 percent of his threes, playing solid defense, and the Bulls offense was 8.3 points per 100 possessions better on offense when he was on the court. He’s a steadying influence as a veteran.

However, he has been out the last 16 games with a foot injury, and he’s going to miss at least another month, the Bulls announced Tuesday. The Bulls said Porter saw a specialist and he “confirmed the bone injury and healing response in Porter’s left foot consistent with a small fracture that has become more clearly defined with repeated imaging over the last five weeks.”

What that means for Porter is another month in a boot.

Chandler Hutchison‘s bruised shoulder has him in street clothes, too, which means Kris Dunn will remain the starter for now. Denzel Valentine has used a bump in minutes to show some growth in his game, play fairly well, and make a push for even more run of late.

But without Porter, the Bulls are not the same.

 

 

Report: Kevin Love would prefer to play for Portland if traded

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are listening to trade offers for Kevin Love.

Love’s reaction to this is essentially “whatevs.” He’s been in the middle of trade rumors for four years now, it’s as constant and annoying in his life as taxes.

However, if he is going to get traded, he’d prefer to go home to Oregon and play for Portland, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Love would prefer to play for his hometown Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple league sources. The Blazers make perfect sense as a destination for Love; they need help for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after the team has been decimated by injuries….

The Blazers have the salaries to make a deal work with the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) or Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million).

There were previous reports Love just wants to go to a contender. That said, there is logic to him wanting to go home, and there is a good fit in Portland, a team that needed help at the four before injuries rocked the roster. Love is averaging 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, is shooting 37.1 percent from three, and remains one of the best outlet passers in the game.

Making a trade work is trickier. Bazemore has to play a much larger role after Rodney Hood was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, his availability is up for debate.

Hassan Whiteside can make the trade numbers work with his expiring contract, and Whiteside won’t be missed once Jusuf Nurkic (and even Zach Collins) returns from injury. However, the Cavaliers are going to want draft picks or young players to help with their rebuild to make this trade. Would the Blazers throw in a protected first to make this happen?

There also is this question any team trading for Love has to ask itself: Do we want to take on the three-plus years remaining on his four-year, $120 million contract? That’s a lot of money and years for an All-Star player who is productive but aging, and also has a lengthy injury history.

Portland can also try to trade for Danilo Gallinari and his expiring contract with the Thunder, which has a lot less risk involved.

Love, however, would be popular in Portland, and he would help the team.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.