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TOUGH TIMES ON SOUTH BEACH: It was difficult to pinpoint what rock bottom was for the Miami Heat this season, following what has proven to be a misleading 24-8 start to the campaign. However, after last night, that question now has an answer. A 129-126 loss to the 17-40 Timberwolves, one in which Miami was actually up by 12 with under four minutes remaining – at home, no less – can now officially be called the Heat’s season nadir.
Miami’s plummet towards mediocrity almost defies logic. After all, they don’t have just one All-Star in Jimmy Butler, they have a second in Bam Adebayo, who is on a rookie-scale deal, as well as a load of other productive role players, like Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, on their roster, along with a supposedly elite head coach to lead them, Erik Spoelstra. So what gives?
Part of it is that during Miami’s slightly flukish start to the year, teams were missing wide-open three-pointers against the Heat at a statistically higher rate than against every other team in the league. That’s no longer happening. Additionally, the team has been without upstart rookie Tyler Herro and veteran big man Meyers Leonard for a few games now, and it’s clear Miami has been missing their impact.
Regardless, even if the Heat aren’t as good as their record indicated to start the season, they probably aren’t as bad as their sub-.500 record over their last 26 games would imply, either. There’s also an element of luck late in games that hasn’t been going Miami’s way, particularly when Butler is asked to score, as the five-time All-Star is shooting 31.5 percent in clutch situations for the season, the worst mark league-wide among players with at least 50 such chances.
That’ll likely improve going forward but even if it does, a season that started so promisingly for Miami has gone completely the other way; now we’re about to see what they’re really made of.
LAST NIGHT IN THE ASSOCIATION: The Sixers suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Cavs 108-94, one in which Joel Embiid exited the game due to a shoulder injury. Already without Ben Simmons for at least two weeks, Philadelphia could be in trouble if they have to play without their star center, too.
Elsewhere, Russell Westbrook and James Harden combined for 63 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in what was a 140-112 Rockets drubbing versus the Grizzlies. That eighth spot in the West is looking very much up for grabs for New Orleans and Portland.
OFFSEASON TRADE CANDIDATES: There’s talk around the league that Spencer Dinwiddie could be available this summer, and two teams, Orlando and Detroit, were already asking about him ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month.
Speaking of Orlando, the Magic have a few too many natural power forwards on their roster, and one of them, Aaron Gordon, drew Indiana’s interest earlier this year.
UGLY SUSPENSION: Former lottery pick Malik Monk, who recently started the first game of his career for Charlotte, has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
COUNT THE STACKS: We went through every player who has a bonus written into their contract to see who’s about to get some extra money at the end of the season, and who failed to meet the criteria. Let’s just say, Clint Capela got absolutely hosed by getting traded from Houston to Atlanta, money-wise.
HOT START: Everyone knows Zion Williamson is balling out to start his career but did you know he’s doing so to the extent that he has the highest point-per-minute average for a rookie in league history? Well, now you know that.
BOLD CLAIM: JR Smith has never lacked confidence and that hasn’t changed, even as he struggles to find another team. The 2016 champion says he’s still better than 85 percent of the players in the NBA.
CONFIDENT OWNER: Mark Cuban says there’s a good chance Dallas wins the protest from the end of the Mavs’ loss to the Hawks and will be allowed to replay the final nine seconds of the game.
CONTENT CREATOR DOWN: Popular NBA highlights YouTube channel FreeDawkins has been wiped from the platform, despite its immense popularity in the basketball community. The NBA says they’re not behind that, though, so put down your pitchforks.
NO WORRIES: Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson knows the pressure is going to ratchet up tenfold next season, so this year, he’s focusing on developing his young players to perform when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving eventually join them.
SALARY QUIZ: WHO’S THIS NBA PLAYER? 🤔
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