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Raptors Serge Ibaka throws punches at Marquese Chriss in NBA fight

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Serge Ibaka was suspended for one game two seasons ago after throwing punches at Robin Lopez. Last season he was suspended for a game for throwing punches at James Johnson.

Ibaka is going to miss more than one game for this β€” there’s a pattern and the league is going to come down hard.

With one second to go in the third quarter Monday night, the Raptors tried a length of the court pass to Ibaka, who was being defended by Cleveland’s Marquese Chriss. It appears Ibaka hooks Chriss, Ibaka goes to the ground, Chris appears to have said something, and Ibaka gets up and goes hard at Chriss, grabbing him by the neck and throwing punches.

Ibaka and Chriss were both ejected.

Watch the replay and it appears Chriss was just defending himself, the league should go light on him.

After this incident, the Raptors came apart as a team and lost 126-101. To add injury to insult, Kyle Lowry turned his ankle late in the game.

Pat Riley: Heat will pursue two max players in 2020

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In the 1995-96 season, the Heat traded for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

In 2004, the Heat traded for Shaquille O’Neal.

In 2010, the Heat signed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Will Miami makes its next star splash in 2020?

Near-star Josh Richardson is locked into a relatively cheap contract for two more years. Bam Adebayo has two more seasons on his relatively low-paying rookie-scale deal. Justise Winslow, who’s maybe finding his groove, is guaranteed two more seasons on his rookie-scale extension.

That core could appeal to free agents in 2020, when Hassan Whiteside‘s, Ryan Anderson‘s and Goran Dragic‘s contracts expire.

Heat:

Heat president Pat Riley, in an interview with Jason Jackson:

We’re chasing a playoff spot when we’re young. And then we’re going to be chasing some players that can come in. If we can get one or two players to come in with this group, this young group, then I think the sky’s the limit for this team in the next couple years.

We’ve done this four times now, had a good group of players, young players, and then either through free agency or through trade brought the superstar in.

In 2020, we’ll have a lot of room. We’ll also have the possibility to have enough room to go after two max contracts. And we’re going to do that. So, we’re planning that 2020 will be the room year.

We’re very fluid. We’re very on top of it. And we are a destination place, Jax. The tax, the sun, the beautiful city. It’s a very progressive city, diverse city. So, we are a destination place. And we’re going to be moving in that direction.

That’s quite ambitious. But Riley has executed grand plans before. That will only embolden him to pursue this one.

It won’t be easy.

Miami projects to have just $34 million of cap space in 2020. A single max salary that summer projects to be $30 million-$41 million, depending on the player’s experience.

James Johnson ($16,047,100) and Kelly Olynyk ($13,598,243) have player options for the 2020-21 season. It’s difficult to see a 33-year-old Johnson or 29-year-old Olynyk declining those options. The Heat also owe Dion Waiters $12,650,000 that season.

Of course, there’s plenty of time to unload contracts. If this is Riley’s vision, keep an eye on those three players between now and next year’s trade deadline. Miami could also move its next two first-round picks to unload salary.

But even if the Heat clear double-max cap room, whom would the spend it on?

Anthony Davis is the big prize in 2020 free agency. After that, it’s slim pickings.

Most of this year’s All-Stars are already under contract for 2020-21. Several more – Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker, D'Angelo Russell and Nikola Vucevic – will be free agents this summer. While some could sign a one-year or 1+1 contract to return to free agency next summer, I wouldn’t bet on that. Dwyane Wade will be retired by then and is already in Miami. Dirk Nowitzki will also likely retire by then, but even if he doesn’t, he’s neither leaving the Mavericks nor commanding a substantial salary.

That leaves Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Simmons will be eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Even if he doesn’t sign one, he’ll be restricted in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to see him getting away in free agency that year.

Lowry will be 34. The Heat showed interest in him before, but that was five years ago. As he leaves his prime, he won’t draw nearly as much attention.

Aldridge will become a 2020 free agent only if waived. His $24 million salary for 2020-21 is $7 million guaranteed. But if his team would rather pay him $7 million to leave than $24 million to stay, that’d say something about his value.

Other players will emerge. This is far from set in stone. But a little more than a year out, the 2020 free-agent class looks very weak.

Is that really the year the Heat want to splurge?

Riley has already once admitted he regretted saying he planned to go whale hunting. I wonder whether his 2020 plan will eventually inspire a similar evaluation.

Justise Winslow finding his lane at point guard

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DETROIT – Asked whether point guard is his best position long-term, Justise Winslow cocked his head to the side as if he were contemplating while also nodding several times as if he were certain.

Finally, he answered

“Right now, it’s looking like it,” Winslow said, breaking into a smile.

It’s still a little strange to view Winslow – who has spent most of his career as a 6-foot-7 forward – as a point guard rather than a forward moonlighting at point guard. But the longer he covers for injured Heat point guard Goran Dragic, the more it seems Winslow has found a fit.

In 24 games since clearly seizing the starting point guard job, Winslow is averaging 14.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game. Miami is scoring 110.0 points and outscoring opponents by 4.9 points per 100 possessions with Winslow on the court during this stretch – better marks than the team posted with Dragic.

Eventually, Dragic will get healthy, and the Heat haven’t said what they’ll do then. But don’t mistake Winslow’s delay in answering about his optimal position with uncertainty.

“I’m not doubtful. I just don’t know what the future holds for me,” Winslow said. “But, right now, I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity. I love playing point guard.

“It’s whatever this team needs, but at the same time, you’ve kind of got to look out for yourself in this league and play to your strengths.”

Miami hasn’t overwhelmed Winslow with point-guard duties. Teammates – including James Johnson, Tyler Johnson (before he got traded) and Dion Waiters – sometimes bring the ball up and initiate despite Winslow being on the floor. The Heat play slow and run few fastbreaks with Winslow at point guard.

But his methodical approach works in the halfcourt. He can see over most perimeter defenders. He has the size and strength to get to spots where can find passing angles. He has made some creative finds. All that has been displayed in his pick-and-rolls:

Winslow’s 3-point percentage during this stretch (38%) is up from prior in his career (32%). That’s still on a relatively small sample (106 attempts), and he has shot better in a sample that size before. But Winslow never matched this volume of 3-point attempts earlier in his career. He is more confident beyond the arc, and he says it’s directly related to his position change.

“Dribbling it up, initiating the offense, that kind of helps me get a feel for the ball,” Winslow said. “And I think that’s kind of where the shooting percentage is coming.”

Teams still tend to go under screens against him, but with him at point guard, they can’t ignore him. It’s far easier to defend 5-on-4 with the non-threatening shooter off the ball. When he’s the primary ball-handler, you have to account for him.

Winslow remains a versatile defender, capable of guarding any position. He’s not suddenly guarding more point guards. But with Winslow at point guard surrounded by a typical 2-3-4-5 – as opposed to small forward surrounded by a typical 1-2-4-5 – the Heat can use bigger lineups with that tend to defend better.

After talking a while about playing point guard, Winslow was asked whether he had any more thoughts.

“I love to pass, man. I love to make plays. I love the easy play, the simple play. I love the reads. I love the challenges behind it. I love the responsibility of nights like this, if we don’t win, I like the responsibility and the blame, you can say. I like just the quarterbacking mindset and position of point guard. I like being in control. I like running the show. I like getting my teammates open,” Winslow said, finally taking a breath. “Yeah.”

Miami’s James Johnson put Kyrie Irving in his poster (VIDEO)

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Let’s give Kyrie Irving some credit here: He tried to slide over and make the play. Plenty of other players β€” elite NBA players β€” would have made the business decision not to get in the way of this one.

Irving did. It just didn’t end well when Miami’s James Johnson attacked the rim.

That’s not to say some Celtics didn’t block a Johnson shot on the night.

And that was not the best Boston blocked shot of the night.

Miami was in control of this one in the fourth quarter.

Kawhi Leonard scores 30, Danny Green hits game-winning three, Raptors beat Heat

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MIAMI (AP) β€” Kawhi Leonard scored 30 points, Danny Green‘s 3-pointer with 22.7 seconds left put Toronto ahead for good and the Raptors improved the NBA’s best record to 26-10 by topping the Miami Heat 106-104 on Wednesday night.

Green had 18 points and once again hit a key shot late for the Raptors.

Fred VanVleet added 16 for the Raptors, who survived a wild fourth quarter that saw 12 lead changes and four ties. Miami had three shots on the game’s final possession, with Dwyane Wade and Justise Winslow missing 3s and Wade having a chance at a tip-in that wouldn’t fall.

Winslow scored 21 points for Miami, which saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Josh Richardson scored 17 and Hassan Whiteside scored 16 for Miami, which was 6 for 12 from the foul line – while Toronto was 19 for 23.

James Johnson and Tyler Johnson each scored 12 for the Heat, while Wade had 10. Pascal Siakam added 10 for the Raptors.

Winslow’s layup with 35.2 seconds left put Miami up by one, and on the next Toronto possession Green found himself wide-open in the right corner – nearly the identical spot from where Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer to deny Green and Leonard the 2013 NBA title when they were with San Antonio.

Green connected, the Raptors got the game’s last stop and escaped to move to 7-0 against the Southeast Division this season.

Miami led 58-44 at the half and extended the lead to 17 early in the third quarter, before Toronto went to a zone – the defense that the Heat have been using so well of late – and the game changed. VanVleet made three 3s and had 11 points while Leonard added 10 in what became a 31-12 run over the last 8:10 of the quarter by the Raptors, and they took an 81-79 lead into the fourth.

Winslow made a wild layup for a 99-93 lead that came after an 8-0 Miami run – and the Raptors needed about a minute to respond with a lead-taking 8-0 run of their own. VanVleet connected on a 3, Siakam added a three-point play and Leonard drew a blocking call against Winslow that the Heat didn’t like with 1:19 left that he turned into a pair of free throws and a 101-99 Toronto edge.