Mateo’s Hoop Diary: NBA’s All-Star Game is a waste of time

The All-Star Game was once an anticipated, star-studded spectacle that attracted casual observers, hard-core fans, and those who covered the game because of its dazzling plays, fierce competition and passionate participants. Now, it’s a sham. – an unserious, nearly three-hour lollygag fest that sedates viewers at home and players can’t wait for it to end.

Believe it or not, defense was once expected and highlight plays on that side captivated the crowd and audience at home.

For example, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rejected six shots in the 1980 ASG. In 1987, Hakeem Olajuwon was so active on D that he fouled out. In 1990, coach Hubie Brown, working as a broadcaster, said during the first half of the game, “Guys are making shots, but the defense is right up there, challenging it, and you can feel the intensity level. People are in this game and appreciate defense.”

What changed? Players don’t have interest, and many insult the intelligence of observers with drivel: We don’t want to get hurt.

It’s gotten so bad that at last year’s postgame presser, Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone (2023 West ASG coach) said it was the worst game ever played and that he didn’t know if it was fixable.

Then Utah forward Lauri Markkanen tried to be diplomatic, saying games with high and low RPMs are worthwhile. “It’s fun to get out there and do some dunks and stuff like that. But we’re all competitors. I think everyone would enjoy [it] if we play against each other and it gets competitive.”

And Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was asked at press if more defense is preferred. He said, “Safety first right? You don’t want anyone to get injured.” He added that the exhibition in Chicago in 2020 was the best one he’s been a part of. (Seventy 3-pointers were attempted in the 2020 ASG.)

Word. And the fans don’t want to get ripped off. Imagine forking out between $400-27,000 for some seats and/or meet and greet passes, then most of the players treat the event like a walkthrough. It wasn’t cute when Warriors guard Stephen Curry laid down as if artillery fire was blasting to the side as Giannis Antetokounmpo advanced on the break for a dunk in 2017. And LeBron James hammering the rim on uncontested lobs is boring, too.

And worst of all, the broadcasters, who in fairness are league partners, gaslighting the audience into thinking what they are watching is quality is some underhanded trash.

The reality is injuries can happen at any moment a player steps on the court- for training or competition- and that’s something reps in the NBA office will tell you themselves. The attitude adopted by current All-Stars disrespects the past entrants that busted their rears in this exhibition when the league wasn’t a billionaire-dollar empire. The OGs going hard in the ASG helped grow the game and, in turn, the league, making everyone richer and happier today.

These players don’t have a clue or are too shallow to care. In 1964, way before guaranteed contracts, undervalued NBAers, such as Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas, Wayne Embry, and the remaining All-Stars threatened to sit out of the game before the league’s first national TV exhibition as union leader Tommy Heinsohn and unofficial member and attorney Larry Fleisher pushed for a boycott. These ballers had something to lose.

According to Sam Smith’s Hard Labor: The Battle That Birthed the Billion-Dollar NBA, owners tried to bully the players to suit up, informing them the league would dissolve if it got humiliated on TV. But pensions and workplace rights mattered to the athletes more. Eventually, owners caved, in writing, to discussing pensions at a later time. Subsequently, the show went on, and Robertson won Most Valuable Player at Boston Garden that evening in front of 13,464 fans.

Perhaps current hoopers wouldn’t give fans the proverbial bird if more knew what it was like for the torchbearers previously. And sadly, the way things are going today, players have inadvertently diminished the significance of the ASG MVP crown to nothing. The award used to carry weight for a Hall of Fame ballot, but no mas.

The NBA’s All-Star product is so second-rate that no real basketball lover can watch it and ask for more. For reference, in 2003, the ASG generated 10.8 million viewers in the United States. In 2023, it accumulated 4.6 million observers. The NBA was lucky even that many tuned in.

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat defeated by the Celtics and possibly lose Josh Richardson and Terry Rozier for some time

The Celtics rolled into Kaseya Center and pulled away from the Heat after tensions flared on Super Bowl Sunday. And of course, the setting was filled with a Playoff atmosphere on prime time TV between two rivals who have faced off in three of the last four Eastern Conference Finals.

(Jimmy Butler didn’t play because of the leave of absence following the death of a family member.)

Kristaps Porziņģis exterminated the Heat’s switches and late contests, scoring 11 in the opening frame. Jayson Tatum and Derrick White got into the lane, scoring multiple times. And Jaylen Brown schooled Jaime Jaquez Jr, losing him with his dribble for a fadeaway, pump-faking him out of the picture for a triple, then logging a putback between two defenders.

For the Heat, Caleb Martin and Jaquez were the only working options. Tyler Herro and Terry Rozier were misfiring, connecting on just one of seven looks. And Bam Adebayo went stretches without demanding the ball.

Through 12 minutes, the Celtics led 26-22.

In the second quarter, Tatum sliced the Heat’s zone through the center for a layup, recorded two pull-up left-wing trifectas and made a jumper over Herro on the baseline. Jrue Holiday contributed two trays. And the rest of Gang Green recorded 45% of attempts.

The Heatles were rolling to start the interval, making three of four baskets, but Josh Richardson hurt his right shoulder trying to strip Tatum in transition. He was done for the day.

Then Martin failed three shots and Adebayo went cold, recording one of five buckets, but he made five freebies. Rozier countered the Celtics, eluding a mismatch (Al Horford) for a midrange shot, and successfully dribbling into the paint, plus scoring on four occasions.

At halftime, the Heat was behind 50-59 and tied on the glass at 25. The hosts also had 22 paint points, two on the break, eight via second chances and three after turnovers. Rozier had 11 points on five 12 attempts. Adebayo scored 11 on 33% of looks. And the rest of the club produced 11 of 31 buckets.

The Celtics recorded 24 in the square, none on the break, seven on extra tries and five after turnovers. Porziņģis dropped 16 points on six of nine makes with eight boards and three dimes. Brown had a dozen on half of his ventures. And Tatum added 14 to the scoring ledger on 60% shooting.

Tatum followed up, splashing two fadeaways, driving left past Martin from the top to the rim for a left-handed layup and bumping Rozier, hitting a floater on the baseline. Holiday swished three left-corner trays. And the rest of the Celtics recorded 43% of attempts.

Herro discharged 10 points -catching and firing on the left wing, pulling up for a head-of-the-key triple, finishing up close against drop coverage and beating Sam Hauser from the top to the cup for a layup. And Adebayo shot over the 2-3 zone in the middle and scored a putback.

Yet, seven minutes into the sequence, Rozier dusted Horford outside, busted into the paint, but was fouled by Tatum, the help defender, and came down awkwardly on his right leg. He was then helped to the locker room and didn’t return. The team’s X (formerly Twitter) account said it was his knee, but coach Erik Spoelstra said during a stoppage in play before the fourth that it was his ankle. The Heat has not cleared this up.

The Heat began the fourth quarter down 79-86. Four minutes in, Brown and Robinson got tangled up, battling for position. While Robinson’s arm was behind Brown, he was forcefully yanked forward. The reckless act for a simple foul could have popped Robinson’s shoulder out of place, ending his season like Kevin Love’s courtesy of Kelly Olynyk in 2015. Perhaps frontier justice would have been discharged if Udonis Haslem was still captain.

The refs checked it out, penalizing Brown with a flagrant one, but it should have got him tossed. Robinson was still upset and exchanged unpleasantries with Brown. From that moment forward, the intensity of the game increased 100 degrees.

Subsequently, Adebayo powered through the baseline for a layup and hit a nine-foot jump shot over Porziņģis. Herro drove left for a deuce, made a 3-pointer in front of Horford in drop coverage and another on the right wing, facing Brown.

But the Celtics got responses from Porziņģis, Tatum and Brown.

With a minute left and the Heat down two points, Haywood Highsmith missed a triple, and Martin foolishly fouled Porziņģis instantly, sending him to the charity line for a pair. Adebayo then missed the next shot at the nail, and the club was now 99% buried. With 15 seconds left and down six points, the Heat inbounded to Herro, and instead of popping a triple to keep the team on life support, went inside for a layup.

The Heat lost 106-110. It racked up 50 paint points, eight on the break, 23 via second chances and 15 after turnovers. Herro had 24 points, five rebounds and four assists. Adebayo logged 22 points with 13 rebounds. The bench had 26 points.

The Celtics had 38 paint points, zero on the break, 19 on extra tries and 10 after turnovers. Tatum had 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Porziņģis had 25 on the scoring ledger with nine boards. Brown registered 20 points and nine rebounds. And the bench produced 18 points.

At the postgame presser, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said it was great that his group got into a confrontation. “We don’t go looking for stuff. But you have to man up… I told our guys at halftime, ‘Expect it to be hard.’”

On the Heat side, coach Erik Spoelstra said Richardson and Terry will get MRIs on Monday.

In the locker room, when speaking about the altercation with Brown, Robinson said, “I thought it was a dirty play. That’s how people miss whole seasons.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Coban Porter, brother of Nuggets forward, changes plea to guilty in vehicular homicide and vehicular assault case

Coban Porter, brother of Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., has changed his not guilty plea to guilty to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault for the drunken accident that killed Katharina Rothman, a mother to a then four-year-old while working for Uber on Jan. 22, 2023. He also pleaded guilty to unlawfully operating a vehicle, injuring Rothman’s passenger, in the same crash.

The night of the accident, Porter was bailed out on a $2,000 surety bond paid for by his brother. Elected DA Beth McCann told reporters in a scrum in September that her office requested a $50,000 bond for Porter but was denied. Magistrate Michelle Kline made that decision, per court documents.

Porter, 22, was crying at the stand beside his attorney Harvey Steinberg. His significant other, mother and two friends did so in the back row, too.

Porter must report to the probation office by the end of Friday. Sentencing is scheduled with a pre-sentencing report for April 19 at 8:30 AM. He faces the possibility of up to eight years in prison, per the DA’s communications office.

Eight members of Rothman’s family and Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative Jocelyn Rhymer were in attendance for Porter’s plea change. MADD is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the strictest possible sentence.

Rothman’s grandmother, Mary, was one of the family members present. She wore a black shirt with Rothman’s face on it that said, “Rest in peace, my amazing granddaughter Katharina – May 1980 – Jan. 2023.”

When leaving the courthouse, Johnson said, “I’m really happy with the outcome. But it still doesn’t bring my daughter back.”

Johnson has thought about her daughter every day and said the first anniversary of the accident was difficult to endure.

Steinberg offered no comment when asked how satisfied he was for his client. Deputy DA Austin Leighty provided none as well.

On Sept. 1, the City of Denver’s transportation and services unveiled a street sign in Rothman’s honor. “Please drive safely – In memory of Katharina Rothman,” reads the sign attached to a light pole on South University Boulevard and Buchtel Street.

During Porter’s arraignment, Judge Erika Englert permitted Porter to reside out of state and agreed to remove the GPS tracking requirement despite the DA’s objections. Porter was ordered to take a daily breathalyzer test but was no longer forced to take random urine analysis tests, per court documents.

Englert also denied a request by 9News for expanded media coverage on Oct. 17 for the Oct. 19 court date.

Initially, on Oct. 19, Porter pleaded not guilty. At that time, he had already met twice privately with the Johnson/Rothman family, apologizing for the accident, according to Johnson.

Rothman’s son occasionally still asks where his mother is.

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat take care of Spurs in fourth quarter

The young and rebuilding Spurs hung around with the Heatles for three quarters but were overmatched in the last.

Early, Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo were the only positives of the offense. The former burned drop coverage and splashed two catch-and-shoot trays. The latter obliterated paint protections, shooting over the 7-foot-4 Victor Wembanyama twice, rim rolling, attacking in transition and hoisting at the nail facing Zach Collins. The rest of the team converted five of 13 baskets.

Defensively, man coverage and the 2-3 zone offered as much resistance as now-suspended commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla allegedly showed to bribes. The Spurs dissected the hosts off the dribble, with pick and pop and inside cuts, while providing almost nothing from long range, registering 13 of 23 baskets to start.

Next, the Heat started the second frame, making two buckets in seven minutes. But moves from Terry Rozier, Josh Richardson Adebayo and Herro saved the crew from total disaster on offense.

On the other side, Wembanyama scored thrice in transition but bailed out the Heat, misfiring twice on the baseline. Devin Vassell dusted Duncan Robinson and Richardson from the top to the defense’s heart for two baskets, plus canned a left baseline jumper, using a stagger screen to get open. The other Spurs made 30% of tries.

At halftime, the Heat led 53-51 but were behind on the glass by one. Additionally, the group had 26 paint points, none on the break, two via second chances and eight after turnovers. Herro had 12 points on five of eight looks. Adebayo also logged a dozen on 66.7% shooting.

The Spurs had 30 interior marks, five on the break, five from extra tries and three after turnovers. Wemby accumulated 12 points on five of nine attempts. And Vassell had 11 on the scoring ledger on 41.7% shooting.

In the third frame, Butler blundered four ventures, and Rozier couldn’t connect over Wembanyama or hit deep shots when the ball kicked out. But Adebayo and Herro took over. The big man rim rolled, dunked on the break, and drove through Julian Champagnie for a layup. And Herro, swished a jumper at the nail, discharged two extra triples and dribbled past Blake Wesley from the top to the cup for a layup.

For the Spurs, Wembanyama, who was making 30.1% of 3-point tries before the match, buried two more- one in Adebayo’s eye in the left corner and a pull-up in transition behind Tre Jones’ screen. Vassell supplied eight more points. And Jones tallied two layups, beating Rozier and Caleb Martin from the outside to the rim and produced a trifecta.

Subsequently, the Heat started the fourth quarter ahead 78-77, but Butler kickstarted the flurry to the finish line. The Spurs couldn’t stop him from piercing the paint and setting up his teammates six times. Two of Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s late scores were helped by Butler and his other four dimes went to Adebayo, Martin, Robinson and Rozier.

Defensively, the Spurs struggled against the zone and provided almost nothing from deep.

The Heat won 116-104. The fourth was the group’s top offensive interval of the evening, recording 12 of 19 attempts. Besides, it accounted for 50 paint points, 10 on the break, six from extra tries and 19 after turnovers for the night.

Herro led the team in points with 24 on 10 of 15 shots. Next was Adebayo with 20, making 71.4% of looks. And Butler had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The Spurs had 52 points in the square, 15 on the break, 14 via second chances and 13 after turnovers. Vassell and Jones each logged 19 points. And Wembanyama contributed 18 on his scoring ledger on 53.8% shooting and 13 rebounds.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra responded to a question about Adebayo and Herro’ connection saying, “You need firepower in this league to score against the best defenses. They’ve worked intentionally on building that collaboration between the two of them for the last two or three years. Now when they have to anchor some units, they know they have to lean on each other…”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: The Heat crushed the Magic

The visiting Magic got shut down, and vintage Jimmy Butler returned.

Early, the Heat’s defense swarmed the Magic in man coverage and the 2-3 zone, contesting on time and forcing the guests to seven of 20 baskets in the first quarter. Markelle Fultz and Paolo Banchero were the only mystical ones causing problems- the former splashed a corner triple and two transition layups; the latter dunked on the break and pivoted past Terry Rozier in the post for a two-handed jam.

On offense, the Heat were bothered by the Magic’s backline and committed five turnovers. But Caleb Martin hit a pair of jumpers, Bam Adebayo dunked twice, and Tyler Herro got inside the lane for two layups. Jimmy Butler recovered three boards and supplied three dimes- finding shooters in the open and half court plus passing to a cutting Jaime Jaquez Jr. for a baseline score.

The rest of the crew logged three of nine attempts, but the Heat led 26-19.

In the second quarter, the advantage bulged to 20 points through seven minutes as the Heatles registered nine of 13 baskets. Then, the group took its foot off the gas, allowing Wendell Carter Jr. and Banchero to shatter the zone with mid-range jumpers. On top of that, Banchero slammed a putback in between three defenders, Jalen Suggs buried a right corner triple and Jonathan Isaac added a tray.

Following the hot start to the second frame, the Heat made 33% of its tries. To boot, Adebayo got flagged for his third penalty with 97 seconds left in the period. After he sat, the Heat scored one point to close, and the backline was attacked twice as Fultz overpowered Rozier in the post for a bucket and Banchero got to the line, making both freebies.

At halftime, the Heat were up on the glass by three and on the scoreboard 56-19, permitting the Magic 55.6% of attempts to fall in the second after only 35% in the first. Additionally, the hosts had 30 paint points, 16 on the break, four via second chances and nine off turnovers. The scoring leader for the club was Rozier, with 11 points and four dimes.

The Magic tallied 24 in the box, eight in the open court, four from extra tries and 10 off turnovers. Banchero was its main option, producing 14 points on 55.6% shooting.

Next, the Heat dispensed 40 points in the third quarter, marking the seventh occasion of the season the club has notched at least as many for a sequence. Adebayo was in charge, logging a putback and four more close-range baskets. Martin made a top-of-the-key long-two-pointer, dunked on the break and shook Moritz Wagner on the baseline for a reverse layup. And the rest of the crew racked up half of its shots and six of eight free throws.

Defensively, the Heat lost track of Carter, allowing a pair of triples and two dunks. Banchero was another issue -hitting a pull-up triple on the break, spinning past Rozier for a jumper in the paint and returning to the line, contributing four freebies.

Despite weak inside and long-range protection in the third, the Heat started the fourth quarter ahead 96-75. The dull security continued for nearly five minutes as the Magic filed five consecutive baskets to cut the lead to 10 points.

Then Butler erupted, scoring three straight times. He canned a step-back corner triple, dropped another banger in transition, and drove into M. Wagner for a layup, catapulting the Heat back up by 18 points.

The team recorded its last six of nine baskets to end the game. Additionally, it allowed the Magic just 39.1% of its tries in the fourth quarter.

The Heat won 121-95 and collected four more rebounds than the Magic. It had 58 paint points, 27 on the break, 10 via second chances and 19 off turnovers. Butler was the high Heatle with 23 points on six of nine looks, plus eight rebounds and eight assists. Rozier was next on the scoring ledger with 18 points, and he had seven dimes and six boards.

The Magic had 44 interior points, 18 on the break, 11 from extra tries and 12 after turnovers. Banchero had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said, “That’s four games in a row now where we look a lot more consistently closer to our identity defensively.”

In the locker room, Butler was asked about his hot 3-point shooting and his goal of making half of his trays this season. He said, “I think everyone wants me to shoot more of them, honestly. I’m not going for that, though. I’m still going to run in there and hit people.”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Kawhi Leonard and James Harden set the Heat’s house on fire in the Clippers’ win

Prodigy Jaime Jaquez Jr. hit the rookie wall. The long-range attack faltered. And the Heat were carved up by Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, enduring the 12th home loss of the season.

Josh Richardson started in Tyler Herro’s place due to a migraine, and Duncan Robinson was absent in concussion protocol.

Harden intercepted Terry Rozier’s outlet, quickly passing it to Russell Westbrook for a fastbreak dunk and tallied another fast feed to Leonard for a deuce. Yet, the hosts’ defense was mainly sharp, starting in man coverage- Jimmy Butler tagging Leonard and Haywood Highsmith guarding Paul George, but the zone was featured, too. In the frame, the Heat curbed the Clippers to 34.8% shooting and 19 points.

On offense, Bam Adebayo crushed the Clippers’ backline for a putback and took two trips to the line, not missing. And Jimmy Butler pierced the center for a layup and swished a right-corner triple. The rest of the team converted five of 13 tries.

In the second quarter, George was hounded by Highsmith and ineffective shooting from deep against the zone. However, his teammates bailed him out, deciphering the scheme with ball movement, resulting in six of 13 trifectas.

For the Heat, Adebayo registered a pick-and-pop floater and overpowered Terance Mann in the post for a dunk. Butler and Caleb Martin each added five points, but the unit made only 22.2% of attempted 3-pointers.

At halftime, the match was tied at 43. The Heat had 18 paint points, three on the break, four via second chances and 13 after turnovers. Adebayo was in charge with 10 on the scoring ledger, eight rebounds and two dimes. Butler was next with nine points on four of seven tries.

The Clippers scored 16 in the box, four on the break, six on extra tries and 11 after turnovers. Leonard was the high Clipper, tallying 11 points and five rebounds. Norman Powell’s seven followed. And Harden added five points and five assists.

Butler played all of the third quarter but was shut down. Harden and Mann denied him in transition; Harden forced him into an unsuccessful fadeaway on the baseline; And Leonard, as the low man in the zone, rejected his layup when he got by Powell on the right side and contested cleanly, causing a miss when Butler got it back.

Richardson kept the ember lit, canning a long two-pointer on the right side over George, plus making an open left-corner triple and two layups over Leonard.

For the guests, Leonard scored a putback, dunked on the break, swished a triple after a blitz and cracked the zone from the right wing. Harden set up his teammates four more times, plus dropped five points. The other Clippers made four of 11 baskets in the period.

The Heat entered the fourth quarter down 67-69. Butler rested to start the interval, but the group scored 37.5% of its ventures without him. In that stretch, the Clippers kept drawing contact on drives and jump shots, earning the bonus with over eight minutes left. Even this: Harden was fouled on a made 3-pointer.

Butler checked in with over eight minutes left and scored once when the Heat still had time. His other two field goals and free throw came after the club was behind nine points and out of reach. The other Heatles were extinguished for success on nine of 24 attempts.

In crunch time, the Beard splashed consecutive trays, isolating Butler on the left wing and going one-on-one with Rozier on the right side, getting fouled on that one, too.

The Heat lost 95-103, was beat on the glass by three and made 41.8% of shots. Its worst quarter was the last, putting up a 130.8 Defensive Rating and allowing 18 of the Clippers’ 22 hoisted free throws to come then.

On top of that, the Heat had 50 paint points, 15 on the break, six from extra tries and 19 after turnovers. Butler had 21 on the scoring ledger on 42% shooting.

Adebayo contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds. And the bench was outscored 24-31.

The Clippers registered 44.2% of attempts, with 30 paint points, six in the open court, eight on additional opportunities and 13 after turnovers.

Leonard had 25 points with 11 rebounds. Harden supplied 21 points, 11 dimes and eight boards.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said, “The game really turned in the fourth quarter when we started fouling… We were just never able to really claw back into it. At that point, once we got down 10 [points], we would have needed to knock down some threes, get some relief baskets from there, but we weren’t able to do that. That was pretty much the story in the fourth [quarter].”

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Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Heat’s defense tightens up in second half for win on the road against the Wizards

Merlin’s powers couldn’t save the Wizards from getting neutered by the Heat’s 2-3 zone in the second half after success against it in the first. Yet, in quarter two, the visitors were thrown in a double-digit ditch, but Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo severed the hosts’ defenses, combining for 11 baskets on 15 tries while most of the group struggled.

In the first frame, Washington’s Corey Kispert auditioned to get rescued, splashing three triples. Additionally, the rest of the Wizards logged half of its attempts, including four in the restricted area and scored 13 points off five Heat turnovers.

Despite the visitors registering 16.7% of 3-point attempts, Butler thrivingly targeted the rim four times, scoring 10 of the club’s 31 points. Kevin Love nailed a pick-and-pop jumper on the left wing and threw his weight around in the paint, taking multiple trips to the line for three freebies. And Adebayo had two consecutive alley-oop dunks, running PNR with Tyler Herro and Terry Rozier. (Consecutive lobs to #13 haven’t been seen since ‘Nam.)

But the Heat went down 11 points nearly four minutes into the second quarter after giving up a second-chance triple to Delon Wright. In response, Butler recorded a putback, made four freebies and splashed a late triple. Herro connected on two trays. And Adebayo scored six more points as the group closed the half on a 22-14 run.

At halftime, the Heat was down 56-59 but ahead on the glass by 11. Furthermore, the squad had 32 paint points, seven on the break, 12 via additional tries and four after turnovers. Butler was the high Heatle, scoring 19 on six of seven shots.

The Wizards had 20 points in the square, three in the open court, three from extra opportunities and 13 after turnovers. Kispert was the scoring leader with 15, making five of nine trifectas.

Defensively, the Heat’s zone shut down the Wizards, permitting 29% of ventures to fall for 15 points.

On the attack, Rozier made five free throws and set up Highsmith in the dunker spot for a deuce, passed to Love for a transition layup and distributed to Jaime Jaquez Jr. cutting through the middle for a soft finish. Butler gashed the baseline for a bucket and buried three more charity shots. And Love prosperously got inside twice and swished a right-wing tray.

The Heat entered the fourth quarter ahead by 13 points. After four minutes and change, it went up its largest advantage of the evening, 16, but the Wizards gave one last push, making eight of its last 17 shots.

The Heat watched its cushioning evaporate as Herro, Rozier, and Josh Richardson failed to tally any 3-pointers in eight attempts. On top of that, Butler was uninvolved after checking in.

With under a minute left, Jordan Poole’s pull-up 3-pointer at the top of the key cut the Heat’s lead to five points. He got to the charity stripe once more after drawing contact against Rozier on the break, followed by one of two makes.

Rozier was then fouled twice on purpose, closing for the squad with four points.

The Heat won 110-102 and outrebounded the Wizards by 16. It also scored 58 in the box, with 13 on the break, 19 from second chances and 14 after turnovers. Butler had 24 on the scoring ledger on seven of 10 looks, plus nine rebounds and three dimes. Adebayo dropped 20 points and 14 rebounds.

The Wizards had 48 paint points, eight on the break, seven from extra attempts and 19 after turnovers. Kispert tallied 26, making 55.6% of shots.

At the postgame presser, coach Erik Spoelstra said the group was able to show more of its identity and that the third quarter was its best stretch. (Heat’s Defensive Rating in the frame was 57.7.)

On the topic of Rozier getting to the line, Spoelstra said, “[Rozier] has an ability to play on the ball, off the ball, to get to the basket…you could see the possibilities with [Rozier]. He’s a guy that to a fault, wants to fit in, wants to complement. Once he gets comfortable, these are the shots he’s made a name for over his career, in particular, the last two or three years.”

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Hurricanes Redemption

An Elite Eight in 2022.

A Final Four in 2023.

Things had never been better for the University of Miami Men’s Basketball Program.

Expectations come and go, but with an upward trend, the 2024 Canes were all set to be the best team in school history.

Disaster Months in the Making

This team is currently a shell of the team that I encountered at the ACC Basketball Tip-Off in Charlotte in October.

Gone is the swagger and confidence of a program that knew this year would be the year they finish the job. In its place is uncertainty, hesitation. 

Even before the Canes’ first misstep this season (a blowout National TV loss to Kentucky), there were signs that this team was very much a work in progress. It was about the time that the Canes fell behind by 12 to FIU in the 2nd half of a November home game that we all realized something was amiss in Coral Gables. The Canes rallied to win that game by 6, but it was merely a portend of things to come.

A fully healthy Hurricanes team was played off the court by Kentucky and Colorado.

And then the injury bug hit…first Nijel Pack, then Wooga Poplar, then Norchad Omier, and now Matthew Cleveland. The Canes are a veritable MASH unit.

With that context fully acknowledged, the extent to which everything has gone sideways is still staggering.

  • Louisville is 1-9 in conference. That 1 win was against Miami.
  • They managed to lose to FSU at home, again.
  • Matthew Cleveland’s buzzer beater rimmed out against Wake Forest, turning a win into a loss.
  • Syracuse hit a buzzer beater against the Canes, turning an OT opportunity into a loss.
  • Recently, against NC State, the Canes lost by 6 in a game they probably win if they simply make layups.

With 5 conference losses, the Canes have already matched last year’s total. At 7 losses, they’ve already eclipsed last year’s loss total for the regular season.

What started out as a dream season has turned into a nightmare. The 2024 Canes will be condemned to the dustbin of history, only mentioned as a cautionary tale. of hype with no substance. Too short, too shallow on the bench, not enough to compete.

One Shot

But here’s the thing…you don’t have a funeral while the patient is still alive. There are still games to play, wins to gather.

It’s time for the 2024 Canes to show what they’re made of.

They won’t get sympathy from anyone. No one cares about their injuries, and certainly no one cares that they are undersized.

No help is coming. Constantin Popa is not coming in to play center. The Canes have whoever they have, and whoever is healthy needs to go out there and get the job done.

And that’s the salient point. The Canes don’t need Constantin Popa. The best center in school history is the current starter, Norchad Omier. They don’t even need Tim James (well, they could use Tim James. Everyone could always use Tim James). 

This is still the same team that the ACC Media (not Miami homers) picked to finish 2nd in the conference. The potential is there.

  • 10 games for the Canes to show who they are.
  • 10 games to play Miami Basketball.
  • 10 games to erase the pain.
  • 10 games to ante up and kick in. 

Jon Rothstein quips that the Canes have “more guards than Shawshank” in reference to the movie Shawshank Redemption. Well, it’s time for the “Redemption” part. That movie surely wouldn’t be as popular if Andy Dufresne instead of being the man who “crawled through a river of $#*% and came out clean on the other side” was the man who “crawled through a river of $#*% and got stuck in the pipe.”

The only thing better than the schadenfreude of high expectations and low results is the redemption of those downtrodden, ruled out, left for dead, rising one last time to heroically vanquish the opponent.

There are 10 opponents left to vanquish. There are blank pages at the end of the 2024 Canes’ book. They have the pen in hand, and they can still write a hell of an ending.

The Canes just have to believe what they know to be true: that they are one of the best teams in the country, that while imperfect individually, together, they are the better of most. 

If you believed in November, there’s no point in letting go of the rope now. The season can still be the one that was hoped for, the one of dreams.

There is still magic in the Magic City. The Canes have everything they need, the right players, the right people. And if they put it all together, a Category 5 Hurricane can still blow through the ACC and into the NCAA Tournament. 

The Canes have crawled through a river of $#*% and its time to come out clean on the other side.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a show host and writer for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers Miami Hurricanes Basketball for @buckets_canes part of the @5ReasonsCanes Network. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

Mateo’s Hoop Diary: Jimmy Butler and Co. snap the Heat out of funk, setting franchise assist record

To start, the offense was jammed worse than traffic during rush hour on the Don Shula Expressway. But the defense made it just as ugly for the visitors, aside from Keegan Murray and Kevin Huerter, with on-time contests in man coverage and the 2-3 zone.

It took nearly seven minutes of action for the Heat’s offense to settle itself. Jimmy Butler cut back door for a lob assisted by Kevin Love’s pass at the top of the key + Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s back screen on Harrison Barnes. To end the quarter, the Heat converted its next four of seven shots to take a 28-22 advantage.

Then Josh Richardson blasted the Kings with a handed-off triple by Adebayo at the top, two left-wing trays, a left-handed layup in transition and a floater in the lane to start the next frame. Additionally, Adebayo contributed four of six baskets, thrashing the paint in transition and the half-court. Two possessions later, Caleb Martin carved the baseline for a reverse layup, giving the Heat an 18-point lead, its largest of the night.

But the separation on the scoreboard was short-lived.

Defensively, the club lost track of Murray behind the arc when he cut on the baseline and the instance he ran past miniature Terry Rozzier on a transition lob similar to a wideout elevating over a cornerback for a touchdown. Domantas Sabonis broke interior protections, pouring eight points into the paint. And the Kings went on a 24-10 run to close the quarter.

At halftime, the Heat was up 59-54 and ahead by four on the glass, with 26 points in the paint, nine on the break, two via second chances and five after turnovers. Richardson was the scoring leader with 16 on 66% shooting, followed by Butler’s 11 on four of six attempts.

The Kings had 30 points in the square, plus 14 in the open court, six from second opportunities and four after turnovers. Murray had 21, making 73% of looks, and Huerter dropped 11 on five of seven tries.

Next, the Heat had one of its top halves of the season moving the ball, recording 19 assists on its last 21 baskets.

In the third quarter, Rozier got the ball to Butler for an inside drive when his dribble picked up an extra defender, plus had four more dimes. Herro tallied a lob to Adebayo after the handoff up top, resulting in a two-handed dunk, and two feeds to Butler in the right corner and baseline for points. Adebayo set up Herro for a nine-foot floater with a handoff and found him at the top of the key for a trifecta when Murray overreacted at the nail.

Conversely, the Heat conceded four of 10 3-pointers. Adebayo ignored Sabonis.  Rozier and Martin incautiously left their man. And De’Aaron Fox splashed a pull-up 27-footer. The defense prevented any shots at the rim but gave up six out of 11 attempts in the paint non-restricted area, which is 10.1% better than the league average for the Kings.

In the fourth, the Heat cranked up its defensive RPMs close to what it was in the first quarter. Doubling after the catch, flying around in the 2-3 zone, baiting into tough shots and a chase-down block by Richardson on Huerter overwhelmed the Kings. Initially, JRich’s denial was called a goaltend, but after quickly seeing the review on the monitor above, coach Erik Spoelstra boldly demanded a challenge. The Heat allowed its guests to register 35% of its baskets in the sequence.

On offense, Butler prosperously shot over Barnes from mid-range on the left side, dunked in transition and made four freebies. Richardson connected on two triples and got past Huerter for a layup. And Adebayo thwacked the rim on a lob from Herro and buried a jumper at the nail over Sabonis.

The Heat snapped its seven-game losing streak, 115-106, with a franchise record of 40 assists. On the side, it had 50 paint points, 15 on the break, seven from second tries and 12 after turnovers. Butler had 31 on the scorecard on 71% shooting with seven rebounds and six assists. Adebayo supplied 16 points, 11 rebounds and four dimes.

The Kings racked up 54 interior points, 22 on the break, 17 on extra attempts and six after turnovers. Murray finished with 33 points on 12 of 18 ventures. Sabonis had a triple-double- 19 points, 17 rebounds and 13 helpings.

Herro handled the on-court interview. He said that after Tuesday’s “intense” film session, the players had to counter. “[We had to] give more effort on both ends. I thought we responded well to the meeting yesterday, and we came out with a W.”

At the postgame presser, Spoelstra was relieved that the longest losing stretch in his career is over. He said, “For one day, it feels great, and I’m okay with everybody having a little bit of an exhale, and then we’ll get on that plane and get ready to start this process again when we get to [Washington] D.C..”

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How do the Miami Heat fix this? No easy answers

There is no denying it, the Heat has been atrocious recently. They are on a seven game-losing streak and have fallen into the play-in positions in the standings. The Heat cannot afford to be a play-in team again. Changes need to be made for them to become relevant in the Eastern Conference again.

The question is what are those changes? Let’s talk about that. 


Lineup change?

The Easiest change the Heat can make is a lineup change, and we all know which one would be best. Starting Duncan Robinson for Tyler Herro makes sense in many areas. The change would have nothing to do with who is a better player and it would not be an indictment against Herro. The basis of the change would be simple, Robinson is a better fit for the starting lineup. The Heat have been terrible to start games, especially on the offensive end. There has been no flow, and everything looks forced. They are trying to make something work that has proven it cannot consistently produce results. Adding Robinson to the starting lineup fixes multiple issues. First, the offense looks fluid whenever he is on the court. There is more off-ball movement, and the ball is shared more. The defense does not have the luxury of standing still and it opens up opportunities for quality shots. Robinson also has great chemistry with others in the starting lineup and can play off of them to generate easy looks. As for Herro, he would go back to a role that he excelled at early in his career. With the second unit, he would be able to play the style he prefers and handle the ball more often. There also would not be as much pressure for him to fit in with the other stars. It opens up the freedom in his game and his creativity, without taking away from what the other stars do best. I genuinely think Herro can be a super sub and dominate with the second unit. It would be odd to have your third-best player come off the bench, but hey it worked in the past. I mean he won 6th Man of the Year; he knows how to come off the bench. 


Another filler trade?

The Miami Heat made a trade and received Terry Rozier. I believe this helps several of their problems and we will see this pay off once Rozier plays a couple more games with the team. The Heat still have issues though and could look to make another move. The most logical guy to be included would be Caleb Martin, mostly due to his contract situation and the arrival of Jaime Jaquez Jr. His contract size is decent, and he is set to become a free agent, he has a player option for next year but will certainly decline it. The Heat might not be able to afford him in the offseason and could lose him for nothing. Martin is a talented player that teams could use to be a spark plug on their team. There would be plenty of suitors for him, whether that be contenders or lottery teams looking to flip him for a 1st round pick. The Heat could use his contract as the basis to look for upgrades in weaker aspects of the team. The Heat desperately need more size and trading Martin could bring that in. He could also get you a backup PG to sure up an area that has been lacking all year. There would be many avenues the Heat could go with this. The next few games will be massive. If the Heat continue to slide then a trade almost certainly has to be made, and it would almost certainly include Martin. If you are someone who enjoys using trade machines, I would start looking for PGs or PFs around the NBA who are close to Martin’s contract. 


Time to blow it up?

Now here is the hard conversation, is it time to blow it up? No, I am not talking about trading Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo, which is something that should never happen, (I am looking at you, Ethan.) The way most teams improve is by moving their third best player for a better player or better fit. So that brings us to the trade machine king himself, Tyler Herro. I want to make it clear; I like Herro and do not want him gone. With that said though, if the Heat want to win a championship a trade might need to be made and Herro would be the guy that makes the most sense. Some of the reasons were mentioned earlier, but he also would be able to get you a very good player in return. No matter how many times people tell you that Herro does not have worth that is simply not true. He is an excellent young player who has shown he can be a 20-point scorer, numerous teams could use his services. The biggest issue with trading Herro is if there is anyone available that is worth giving up Herro. It is not worth it to trade him for mediocre players or even good players. If you trade Herro, you need to get back an equal or greater player in return. I am skeptical the Heat would be able to find a trade before the deadline, but if they flame out in the playoffs then all bets are off. 


Jimmy Buckets, our only hope?

The Heat desperately need a superhero to save them if no lineup or personal changes are going to be made. Thankfully, we have one on the squad. During his time in Miami, Jimmy Butler has been known to be one of the best playoff performers in the NBA. He has consistently had all-time performances and has put the team behind his back when they have needed him the most. This year it seems like Butler will need to channel his best earlier and help this team claw out of the play-in seeds. Unfortunately, the Heat have not received the same Butler this year that they have had in the past. He is not as active on the court and looks disengaged too many times. Even his post-game answers have been different recently. He looks frustrated and tired. I have to question if missing out on Dame and Jrue is weighing on him. The good news for Heat fans is that Jimmy Butler had his most “Jimmy Buckets” game of the season, in the Heat’s last game against the Knicks. Though the 4th quarter did not go well (at all), this was the first game that Butler asserted his will in a way we are used to seeing. He attacked mismatches and took them to the post. He was engaged on defense and playing with heart again. He led the big comeback in the 3rd quarter and was doing everything for Miami. Though like I said this did not lead to a win this time, Jimmy Butler needs to do more of that. He needs to be selfish; he needs to demand the ball and look to score. The takeaway from every game should be that Butler was the best player on the court. If the Heat want to make a deep run in the playoffs without making any changes, it falls all on a familiar face in Jimmy Buckets. 



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