Jarrett Allen

Spencer Dinwiddie’s 26 points help Nets snap seven-game losing streak

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NEW YORK — Spencer Dinwiddie scored 26 points and had a career-high 14 assists as the Brooklyn Nets snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 117-113 win over the Miami Heat on Friday night.

Rodions Kurucs scored 19 points and Taurean Prince added 17 for Brooklyn.

Jarrett Allen finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for his team-high 17th double-double of the season.

Jimmy Butler scored 33 points and Bam Adebayo added 22 for the Heat.

Miami’s Duncan Robinson missed a 3-pointer from the corner with 5.7 seconds left.

The Nets came up with several clutch plays down the stretch.

Caris LeVert hit a step-back 3-pointer to give Brooklyn a 112-111 lead with 1:09 remaining.

Prince hit a floater in the lane that extended the lead to 114-111 with 25.9 seconds left.

Butler hit back-to-back jumpers and a layup to give Miami a 109-100 lead with 5:09 remaining, but Brooklyn responded with a pair of 3s by Dinwiddie and LeVert to cut the deficit to three with 3:37 left.

The Nets turned up the defensive intensity in the third quarter and held Miami to 20 points in the period, which ended in an 89-all tie.

Miami led 69-57 at the half. Butler led all scorers with 19 points. Brooklyn attempted three free throws in the first half and relied on perimeter jumpers.

Miami shot a blistering 65% from the field in the first quarter and Butler scored 13 points as the Heat took a 42-32 lead.

Kurucs made a season-high three 3-pointers in the first quarter for Brooklyn.

What was better, Jarrett Allen’s dunk on Mike Muscala or Jarrett Allen’s block of Terrance Ferguson?

Jarrett Allen
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
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Chris Paul took over late in the Thunder’s win over the Nets last night.

But earlier in the game, it was the Jarrett Allen show.

The Nets center dunked on Mike Muscala:

And blocked Terrance Ferguson‘s dunk attempt:

Allen is one of the NBA’s most fearless rim protectors. Unlike Aron Baynes, Allen can really get up and contest finishes.

Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard gets his ring then destroys his old team

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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) Kawhi Leonard got his ring then destroyed his old team. Board man got his ring.

The Toronto Raptors and their fans handled the return of Kawhi Leonard with nothing but class. The video tribute was spot on, and having the court light up to retrace his “shot heard around the World” was brilliant. Having the guys Leonard played with out to greet him at center court was a great touch, having Kyle Lowry present him the ring was perfect, and the crowd responded with an extended standing ovation (a few did boo Paul George, as if Leonard leaving was his fault). Doc Rivers said after the game he’s not seen any team do it better and he’s right.

Leonard then repaid that love by showing what he and his new teammates can do, crushing the Raptors with relative ease.

Lenard had 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, but credit OG Anunoby for making him work for those buckets. Leonard has struggled at points this season — he shot 2-of-11 against Toronto at Staples Center last month — and part of that was his knee was bothering him. Scouts talked about him not looking as explosive or comfortable, but that has changed of late, he is moving well and getting tho his spots.

Another former Raptor, Lou Williams, added 18 points. The Clippers bench, as it usually does, had their way and outscored the Raptors bench 44-18. It was a good win for the Clippers after getting thrashed themselves by the Bucks last Friday night. They needed a quality road win.

The Raptors are 1-4 in their last five with losses to Miami, Houston, Philadelphia, and now the Clippers in that stretch. Toronto is 3-8 against teams over .500. It’s concerning, and it will force Masai Ujiri and the Raptors front office to consider their plan to keep this core together through another playoff push — if a team comes calling with a good offer for Marc Gasol, do the Raptors say yes?

Wednesday was a reminder that without Leonard, there is a ceiling on this Toronto team.

2) Cleveland opts not to trap James Harden, he drops 55 and carries Houston to win. For the past couple of weeks, teams have adopted a new, aggressive strategy against Harden — aggressively double team him at midcourt, force him to give up the ball, and dare any other Rocket to beat them. (Zach Lowe breaks it all down beautifully at ESPN.)

The strategy has had mixed results. When good defensive teams do it (the Clippers, for example, tried it) they’ve had some success, especially if they can force Russell Westbrook to take threes. When bad defensive teams do it (say, Atlanta) Harden still carves them up. The Rockets are 5-5 since teams started trying it, but they have the fourth-best offense in the NBA in that stretch (their defense and mental vacations during games are what has let them down).

Cleveland is not a good defensive team, third-worst in the NBA coming into Wednesday night, so the Cavaliers didn’t try to trap The Beard. They went with a more traditional defense, and Harden carved them up for 55 points.

Houston had a comfortable lead in this game but had one of its in-game mental vacations and let Cleveland score 24 in a row to take an 11 point lead. That’s when Harden took over and scored the Rockets’ next 15 points to get them back into the game.

Harden is carrying the Rockets this season (which is why he’s in the thick of the MVP race, again), but if the team can’t tighten up its game and stop having those in-game lapses there is only so much Harden can do.

3) Grizzlies’ rookie Ja Morant may have thrown down the dunk of the year. When we talked about athletic freaks leading up to the last draft, talk instantly turned to Zion Williamson. With good reason.

However, people seemed to sleep on what a good athlete Ja Morant is. If you want proof, why not go as Phoenix’s Aron Baynes about it. Morant flat-out destroyed Baynes on an early contender for Dunk of the Year.

Notice that came on a critical fourth-quarter possession — you’ve got to love the way Morant is willing to attack in that situation.

• Bonus Thing to Know: DeAndre Jordan is going to make sure Jarrett Allen looks good before taking the court.

Jonathan Isaac could end Magic’s long-running star search

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Even as the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac considered himself a “project.” He was committed to developing, taking it slowly if necessary. Yet, he also wanted to perform well. And he was a 20-year-old adjusting to professional life. As much as he tried to stay balanced, pressure was mounting.

Then, Isaac suffered an ankle injury that November that would sideline him most of his rookie year.

“I could take a deep breath and just get my head right,” Isaac said.

Most players would be devastated by that setback. That Isaac found the blessing in disguise says something about him – and how he got where he is today.

Isaac has emerged as one of the NBA’s top young talents, a real candidate to become Orlando’s first consensus star since Dwight Howard. I already regret omitting Isaac from our list of the top 50 players in 5 years. He is especially a revelation for an expensive, stuck-in-the-middle Magic team.

Though it’s far too soon to shut the door on it, Aaron Gordon still hasn’t made the leap. Markelle Fultz has encouragingly found his footing as a helpful NBA player – but without a reliable jumper, which evaporates his high-end upside. Mo Bamba has struggled so far in the NBA. Nikola Vucevic (an All-Star last year, but likely a one-time All-Star), Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross are too old to expect them to have significant untapped potential. Orlando is too good to tank into elite draft position.

If the Magic are going to get a breakthrough star anytime soon, Isaac is by far their best bet.

“I just want to be great,” Isaac said. “I just want to be an all-around player. I want to be able to help my team win every single night and be the reason why we win.”

That’s big talk for a player who has been content to blend in since entering the spotlight.

Isaac, who considered jumping straight from prep school to the NBA, enrolled at Florida State as a clear one-and-done prospect. Yet, he attempted just eight shots per game for the Seminoles as a freshman, often deferring to Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

“He came in and never talked about it, never said, ‘I’m one-and-done. I’m out of here,'” Bacon said. “He just played the game the right way every night. Just a great guy.”

One of Isaac’s biggest marks in Tallahassee was repeatedly blaring loud music early in the morning. Bacon even heard it across the hall.

“You can’t really complain to Jon, though, because he wasn’t a guy that did anything wrong,” Bacon said.

Isaac continues to push his limits.

He recently brought up Pascal Siakam, who won Most Improved Player, won a championship then signed a max contract extension with the Raptors. A ring is far-fetched any time soon, but those other goals are within reach for Isaac.

Isaac will be eligible for his own rookie-scale extension next offseason. His projected max? About $181 million over five years. The way Isaac is trending, the Magic – even with all their bigs – might pay it.

A Most Improved Player candidate, Isaac has increased his PIPM from +0.2 last season to +2.3 this season – a jump of 2.1. That’s one of the biggest increases in the league.

Here are the biggest PIPM increases in the NBA, with the left side of the bar showing a player’s previous high, the right side of the bar showing his 2019-20 mark and the difference listed in the middle (minimum: 500 minutes):

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Player Previous high 2019-20 Difference
Luka Doncic (DAL) +1.0 +6.2 5.2
Devonte' Graham (CHA) -1.9 +1.7 3.6
Jarrett Allen (BRK) +0.0 +2.7 2.7
Kelly Oubre (PHO) -1.6 +0.9 2.5
Wendell Carter (CHI) -1.6 +0.8 2.4
Jonathan Isaac (ORL) +0.2 +2.3 2.1
Brandon Ingram (NOP) -1.1 +1.0 2.1
Collin Sexton (CLE) -4.3 -2.2 2.1
Evan Fournier (ORL) -0.1 +1.9 2.0
T.J. Warren (IND) -1.0 +1.0 2.0

Unlike most others on that leaderboard, Isaac is coming off a pretty reasonable year. Among rotation regulars who’d already posted a positive PIPM, only Luka Doncic and Jarrett Allen increased theirs by more.

Isaac rates so highly because of his defense. He has a shot at an honor that eluded Siakam – an All-Defensive team.

The 6-foot-11 Isaac covers a lot of ground with his mobility and length. He reads the floor well, especially for his age. His second jump is elite. He can bite on pump fakes and still re-elevate quickly enough to contest shots. His versatility allows him to guard players across the positional spectrum, and he’s an active help defender.

Now, his main-matchup individual defense has caught up with Isaac getting stronger over the offseason.

“Just watching film, I like the way that I look,” said Isaac, who leads the NBA with 2.8 blocks per game. “Like I said, you watch film just, ‘Man, you look good. You look bigger.'”

Isaac ranks second among forwards in defensive PIPM (minimum: 500 minutes):

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The dramatic growth for Isaac could come offensively. He’s averaging 13.1 points per game (up from 9.6 last season), but his usage percentage remains below average (18.7).

Yet, Isaac shows flashes – dunks from way above the rim, smooth outside shooting, improved ball-handling.

Could he eventually become more of a go-to player?

“The nature of most players that you coach is this: They have a way that they play, and they improve, but the very nature of how they play doesn’t usually change much,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “A guy who builds his game around defending, rebounding – usually, that has to remain his strength. And then as he grows in say other areas, you become a more well-rounded player. He’s not going to go from being a great team defender with a defensive mindset to a guy who’s going to want the the ball every play to play in the pick-and-roll. I don’t think. It doesn’t usually happen.”

Isaac isn’t so sure.

Though he played the way Clifford described in college and in the NBA, it wasn’t always that way.

“In high school, I was the man,” Isaac said, beaming. “In high school, I was the guy. I remember, I was putting up – I had 44 one night. I was putting ’em up. All 3s, too.”

Does he want to shift toward that role again?

“Absolutely,” Isaac said. “I think every guy wants to be that guy. I want to continue to work until I am.”

Isaac said he’s experimenting offensively, testing his limits and getting increasingly ambitious. Creating off the dribble, posting up – what’s his ceiling?

“Sometimes, I feel like I’m out there and I can do whatever,” Isaac said.

So far, he hasn’t strayed too far for his coach’s liking. “Everything he does on the floor makes sense to me,” Clifford said. Isaac gets benefit of the doubt because he works hard and carries a positive disposition. His attitude is so welcome.

Even in a short interview, Isaac repeatedly brings up a mantra.

“I’m not where I want to be,” Isaac said. “But I’m much, much farther along than where I started.”

Once again, Spencer Dinwiddie steps up with Kyrie Irving out, scores 32 in Nets win

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NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving is getting closer to a return, and at some point he will face his former team.

When he does, the Brooklyn Nets can only hope he plays as well as Spencer Dinwiddie.

Dinwiddie had 32 points and 11 assists while Irving remained sidelined, and the Nets beat the Boston Celtics 112-107 on Friday to split a home-and-home series. The Nets are 6-2 in the games Irving has missed, in large part thanks to Dinwiddie’s play.

Irving missed his eighth straight game with a right shoulder injury but was at the arena to get an evaluation and watch from the bench along with Kevin Durant. Coach Kenny Atkinson said afterward that the All-Star point guard has started work on the court and would miss one more game before potentially being ready to rejoin a team that has done well in his absence thanks to Dinwiddie’s strong performances.

“When Kyrie comes back I think that’s just going to give us a team with more depth, a more powerful team. But listen, he’s playing as good as anybody in the NBA right now in my humble opinion,” Atkinson said of Dinwiddie.

The Eastern Conference player of the week last week matched his highest assist total of the season and was two shy of his best scoring performance of the season.

“The role’s completely different so obviously there’s a change there,” Dinwiddie said. “My approach to the game is very similar either way, so whatever the team needs to win and then the role kind of dictates what that is.”

Jarrett Allen added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Nets, who bounced back from their 121-110 loss in Boston on Wednesday to win for the fifth time in six games.

Jayson Tatum had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics, who had won two straight. Kemba Walker finished with 17 points and six assists, but the Nets handled Irving’s replacement much better this time after he scored a season-high 39 points Wednesday.

Boston coach Brad Stevens talked about the importance of a strong start with the early tip, but the Celtics couldn’t deliver it. They were called for a double dribble and a 3-second violation during a six-turnover first quarter, when the Nets opened a 14-point lead. Boston was much sharper in the second, with Tatum making four 3-pointers, including one that cut it to 58-55 at halftime.

The Nets extended it back to 14 in the third when Dinwiddie hit his second straight 3-pointer, but Boston got it back down to 87-81 by the end of the period. Again, Brooklyn pushed it back to double digits in the fourth and held on after Boston cut it to four in the final minute.

“It was too late,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “We tried to turn it on too late and it burned us in the end.”