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Three Things to Know: Here are your 2018 All-Stars… now let’s talk snubs, it’s more fun

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) All-Star reserves selected, and there are some serious snubs (particularly in the West). As sports fans, we like to talk about who got screwed/left out more than who actually deserved something. We argue about who is 69th in the NCAA Tournament and should have gotten in, because that is more fun than saying “well, they had that mid-season slump, lost to good teams, and weren’t getting out of the first day anyway” even if that’s the reality.

This year’s NBA All-Star selections played right into that. There was no way to make the All-Star selections and not snub people — particularly in the loaded Western Conference. Last summer the NBA’s talent pool got in a covered wagon and headed West young man, to the point that even with injuries opening up spots (Kawhi Leonard) some guys were going to get left out.

NBA coaches picked the reserves, and those were announced Tuesday. Here are your 2018 NBA All-Star teams:

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Starters: Stephen Curry (captain), James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins.
Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Starters: LeBron James (captain), Kyrie Irving, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid.
Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Kevin Love

Remember that this year the captains — LeBron and Curry — will select the teams in a playground-style draft (first from the pool of other starters, then the reserves). They can choose whoever they want regardless of conference — if LeBron wants to fuel rumors he’s headed to Houston he can choose James Harden first. This draft would be an awesome idea — if it were televised. But to spare feelings, it will not be (the NHL did it with the players standing right there, and somehow they survived). The NBA blew that one.

Who got snubbed? The Clippers’ Lou Williams has had a career-best season and carried that team to the edge of the playoffs despite a rash of injuries.

Paul George deserved a spot. Russell Westbrook made his case.

Andre Drummond was the odd-man out in the frontcourt rotations in the East (the coaches went with four guards in the reserves).

A couple of those guys will get in when players who make the team bow out due to injuries in the next couple of weeks (the game is Feb. 18 in Los Angeles). It happens every year (the injuries are usually minor, but for veterans who have been there before a few times they are happy to stay home with their families and recuperate). But that’s not fun to talk about either, so who else do you think got snubbed?

2) Before he went off on All-Star selections, Russell Westbrook went off on Nets and hit game winner. Want a good test for which fans are not really paying attention to the NBA this season? It’s the ones that say, “The Nets suck, why couldn’t we blow them out?” The Nets are not deep with talent, but they are scrappy, play smart and hard, and do not go quietly into that good night. They give everyone trouble.

That’s what happened with the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday. The Nets battled, and it took a Russell Westbrook game winner to save OKC’s bacon.

Even then, the embodiment of the Nets Spencer Dinwiddie — a point guard who battled his way into the league, got his chance, and is not letting go — almost won it for the Nets.

Brooklyn has a lot of tough losses this season, which in itself is a moral victory. And they’ve racked up enough wins to piss off Cavaliers fans. Brooklyn — with injuries to D’Angelo Russell for most of the season and Jeremy Lin for all of it — have gotten as much out of their talent as could be hoped for this season.

3) LeBron James became the youngest player in NBA history to get to 30,000 points. Could he catch Kareem? Early in the Cavaliers ugly loss to the Spurs Tuesday — a game that had a stark difference in execution levels, speaking to all things wrong in Cleveland — LeBron James became only the eighth player in NBA history to pass the 30,000 point mark. It’s another milestone in an all-time great career (and he got a nice ovation from the hoops-smart San Antonio crowd).

Some are now asking, can he catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the all-time points lead? If he wants to, yes. The question is how much does he want to. LeBron ended Tuesday night with 30,021 regular season points, which is still 8,366 behind Kareem. The last two seasons in Cleveland, LeBron has averaged just more than 1,900 points a season. If he can stay healthy and roughly keep up that scoring pace — he just turned 33 — it will take about four more seasons after this one to get near Kareem.

LeBron could get there, but the reality is he’ll have to play five more NBA seasons at an All-Star level racking up a lot of points (and again, staying healthy). He could do that, I have no doubt. Whether he will want to, or whether he will step away from the game before then, is the question. He has the drive to get there, but he’s also someone who will want to step away with his game near his peak, not fade into his later years and see himself as a role player. There’s a lot of factors at play, including his family and if he is contending for more rings (what really matters to him), but if he wants the record, he could get it.

Miami injuries: Goran Dragic tears plantar fascia; Bam Adebayo tweaks shoulder

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The Lakers physically overwhelmed the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — and it led to some Miami injuries that could dramatically impact the rest of the series.

Heat starters Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both had to leave the game with injuries, not to return.

Dragic left the game in the first half not to return with what multiple reports have said is a torn plantar fascia. There is nothing official from the team, but this is a bad sign.

As Jeff Stotts wrote at In Street Clothes, it is possible to play through a torn plantar fascia but it is both very painful and limiting.

If he plays again this series, the Dragic that returns would be a shell of the Dragic that used his quickness to tear apart the Boston defense in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dragic’s ability to blow by his man in isolation and get into the paint helped make Miami’s offense a threat, and without this penetration they floundered against the Lakers’ length. Rookie Tyler Herro got the start in the second half for Miami Wednesday, and for the game he was -35 (tying the All-time NBA record for worst +/- with Kobe Bryant from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals).

Another of the Miami injuries was to starting center Adebayo, who tweaked the shoulder that had bothered him in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.

There was no update from the team (as of this writing), but Tim Reynold of the Associated Press wrote Adebayo himself expects to play.

Adebayo is crucial for the Heat — he is their best defensive rebounder and the guy they will turn to in the crunch to cover Anthony Davis. He struggled against the length and physicality in

Having Dragic and/or Adebayo out will reduce the already-slim margin for error for Miami in this series to almost zero.

“We’re still expecting to win. We still know that we can,” Jimmy Butler said of the Heat mindset after the game. “Like I said earlier, we want [Dragic] out there with us. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder. We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward with or without Goran we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”

The NBA continues its fast pace of games in the Bubbe: Game 2 of the NBA Finals is Friday night. Less than 48 hours away

 

Lakers crush Heat with Anthony Davis only center on floor

Lakers star Anthony Davis
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Anthony Davis dislikes playing center.

The Heat let him get away with it.

The Lakers’ victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals turned on the six minutes where Davis was the only center on the floor. No Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris or JaVale McGee for Los Angeles. No Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk or Meyers Leonard for Miami.

The Lakers outscored the Heat by 18 points in those six minutes!

Davis dominated. He scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, blocked dunk-contest champion Derrick Jones Jr. at the rim and passed to a wide-open Alex Caruso for a 3-pointer during that first-half stretch.

Davis wasn’t too shabby the rest of the game, either. He finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks and was a team-high +23.

Davis’ 34 points rank among the among the highest-scoring NBA Finals debuts since the NBA-ABA merger:

  • 48 points by Allen Iverson in 2001
  • 36 points by Michael Jordan in 1991
  • 36 points by Kevin Durant in 2012
  • 34 points by Adrian Dantley in 1988
  • 34 points by Anthony Davis in 2020

Especially deep in the playoffs, teams have mastered using small lineups to flummox lumbering centers. But that’s not Davis. He’s mobile and skilled like a wing. And he still has size advantages at 6-foot-10.

Some shorter players can at least bother Davis, who prefers to avoid banging inside against stronger opponents. See de facto Rockets center P.J. Tucker. But a frontcourt featuring three of Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, Solomon Hill and Jones lacks the brute force to compensate for its height shortcomings against Davis.

Adebayo’s lingering shoulder injury hangs over Miami’s ability to match up. Though he has size, Olynyk is far from an ideal defender. Leonard, who got a DNP-CD tonight, might have to play in Game 2 Friday.

Lakers go on 75-30 run, blow out Heat in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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All-season long, one of the first things opposing coaches would say after facing the Lakers was, “it was so hard to adjust to their length and physicality.”

The Miami Heat learned that lesson the hard way Wednesday.

The Heat raced out to a 13-point lead early in Game 1 of the NBA Finals as they forced the Lakers to become jump shooters. Then those shots started falling, Miami started missing, the Lakers started running, and everything came apart for the Heat. The Lakers closed the first quarter on a 19-3 run.

That run became 75-30.

“It’s been that way all year long, whenever we start to miss a couple shots, we don’t do what we’re supposed to do on the other end,” Jimmy Butler said.

That was the ballgame.

The Lakers were physically dominant, shot 15-of-38 from three (39.5%), and blew the Heat out of the building in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, 116-98. LeBron James finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. Anthony Davis added 34 points and added three blocked shots — Miami had no answer for him inside.

The Lakers led by as many as 32 before some good garbage time play from Miami — 18 points from Kendrick Nunn — made the final score look more respectable than the game itself was.

Game 2 of the Lakers vs. Heat Finals is Friday night.

“You know, from that moment when it was 23-10, we started to play to our capabilities,” LeBron said. “We started flying around. We started getting defensive stops. We started sharing the ball a lot better offensively and just got into a really good groove.”

“The Lakers set the tenor, the tone, the force, the physicality for the majority of the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward.

More disturbing for the Heat are the potential injuries to critical players.

Goran Dragic did not come out of the locker room for the second half and had X-rays on his foot. While there is nothing official, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports he tore his plantar fascia. He is officially TBD, but it will be a difficult injury to play through. It’s devastating blow for Miami.

With Dragic out Tyler Herro got the second-half start, and in Game 1 he tied an NBA Finals record being -35 for the game (Kobe Bryant, Game 6 of 2008 Finals against Boston).

In addition, Bam Adebayo went back to the locker room in the third quarter, appearing to have aggravated the shoulder issue he had against Boston. The team said X-rays were negative, but he did not return to the game.

This game turned on Adebayo. On media day Tuesday he said, “You got to be smart about ticky-tacky fouls.” He knew he couldn’t get in foul trouble, and yet he did, picking up a second foul in the first quarter, sending him to the bench. Up to that point the Heat were up three, but when he went to the bench the Laker run started.

“Our guys are just hustling their tails off, flying around on the defensive end, and then playing effort offense, as well,” Laker coach Frank Vogel said of the Lakers’ run through the second and third quarters. “Really pushing the tempo on the break, attacking the paint, and crashing the boards. Just the pace of the game really picked up in those two quarters, and obviously, they were the difference makers.”

The Lakers got 13 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and 11 from Danny Green (who hit three from beyond the arc).

Miami’s defensive game plan was to double LeBron when he drove, make him pass out, and dare the other Lakers shooters to beat them. The Lakers role players did and that was a key difference.

Miami got 23 points on 13 shots from Jimmy Butler, but he also tweaked his ankle during the game. Herro had 14 points but on 6-of-18 shooting, and as a team the usually sharp-shooting Heat shot 31.4% from three.

Because of the rapid pace of games in the bubble, the Heat have just two days to regroup and try to make this look more like a series — Game 1 looked like the varsity vs. the JV.

“We talk about how damn near perfect that we have to play, and that was nowhere near it,” Butler said. “There’s nothing to be said. We can watch all the film in the world, we understand, we know what we did not do, what we talked about we were going to do, we didn’t do. We didn’t rebound, we didn’t make them miss any shots, we didn’t get back, all of those things led to the deficit that we put ourselves in.”

Miami guard Goran Dragic doubtful to return to game with foot injury

Goran Dragic injury
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Goran Dragic, like seemingly every member of the Miami Heat, couldn’t find his rhythm in the first half — 3-of-8 shooting, three assists, but some missed defensive assignments as the Heat started to fall behind.

Part of that may have been a foot injury — Dragic did not come out for the second half and his return is doubtful with a left foot injury, the Heat announced.

There are no other details on the injury as of yet.

Tyler Herro started the second half for Miami in his place.

The Heat has struggled with the Lakers length — and Los Angeles can’t miss from three — with that has the Heat down 26 early in the third quarter.