NBA News & Notes: Heat remain red hot

March 10, 2017

In this week's NBA News & Notes, we take a look at the resurgent Miami Heat.  For this story and all the other latest NBA headlines, read below:

Heat still red hot

Miami has overcome an 11-30 start to move within a half-game of playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Heat is an NBA-best 20-4 since Jan. 17, a stretch in which coach Erik Spoelstra’s team leads the NBA in three-point field goal percentage (41.0) and is holding opponents to the fewest three-pointers made per game (7.5).

During its midseason turnaround, the Heat has defeated Cleveland and Houston twice each and Golden State once. The victories over the Cavaliers came in consecutive games this month, making Miami the first team to sweep the defending NBA champions in a back-to-back set since 2007.

More wins could be on the way too, as Miami plays six of its next seven games at home.

Talkin' Smack

Evan Fournier, Magic guard: “[Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki] was probably the first franchise player from Europe. He changed the game, man, for so many people. I think he opened a lot of doors for us. I mean, the guy’s a legend, period. He did so many things for European basketball.”

Marc J. Spears, The Undefeated: “Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford are NBA guards with undoubtedly intimidating handles. But when it comes to the best dribbler in the NBA, the name Kyrie Irving seems to come up the most.”

Jason Kidd, Bucks coach: “[Milwaukee rookie guard Malcolm Brogdon] is always under control. We saw that in Virginia. He competes on both sides of the ball. He’s not scared. As you get to know him, you understand his toughness. He’s a winner.”

John Wall, Wizards guard: “I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my career, but I just want to be great. I want to be remembered as one of the greats, not just, ‘Oh, he was a good basketball player, or a good point guard in this league.’ I want to be great. I know I want to win an NBA championship for the city of D.C., and I know I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. I’m nowhere near that, and I want to keep pushing until I get those.”

Golden State to battle Spurs in possible Western Conference Finals preview

In a matchup featuring the two teams with the NBA’s best records, Golden State will visit San Antonio on Saturday, March 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Golden State (52-12) enters Thursday’s action leading San Antonio (50-13) by 1½ games for first place in the Western Conference and the top overall record in the NBA. The Spurs have closed the gap thanks to nine straight victories, the league’s longest active winning streak. With Wednesday’s comeback victory over Sacramento, San Antonio extended its NBA record for consecutive 50-win seasons to 18.

This weekend’s primetime showdown marks the first meeting between the teams since opening night. In that game, Kawhi Leonard scored a then-career-high 35 points to lead San Antonio past Golden State 129-100 at Oracle Arena.

Since then, Leonard has piled up 22 more 30-point games to give him 23 for the season, which is tied for the sixth most in the NBA. He entered 2016-17 with four 30-point games in his first five seasons combined.

Leonard has helped the Spurs attain the NBA’s No. 5 ranking in offensive rating – a strong complement to their top-rated defense. The only other team to rank in the top five in both points scored and allowed per 100 possessions is Golden State, which leads the NBA in offensive rating and is second behind San Antonio in defensive rating.

The Warriors and Spurs will also clash for the third and final time this season on Wednesday, March 29 in San Antonio (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Unfortunately, two of the biggest names in the NBA will be absent, as the Warriors' Kevin Durant is out with a knee injury, and Leonard will be unavailable due to a concussion.  Leonard was hit in the head in last night’s Spurs-Thunder game.

The Numbers

Elfrid Payton, Magic: The 23-year-old guard has recorded triple-doubles in each of his last two games – the second time he has done that in his three NBA seasons. His five career triple-doubles are the most in Orlando history.

Dallas Mavericks: Dallas is 16-9 in its last 25 games to close within 1½ games of eighth place in the West. During this stretch, guard Seth Curry has started every game and averaged 16.8 points while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from three-point range.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves: The 21-year-old center has become the first player to post at least 20 points and 14 rebounds in seven consecutive games in one season since Charles Barkley in 1989-90.

LeBron James, Cavaliers: Since the start of February, James is shooting 55.2 percent (32-of-58) from three-point range in 13 games – the highest mark in the NBA during that span. James has raised his three-point field goal percentage to 39.8 for the season, the second-highest mark of his 14-year career.

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers: He has set a franchise record by making a three-pointer in 42 consecutive games, tied with Boston’s Isaiah Thomas for the longest streak in the NBA this season.

Splash Brothers: Golden State’s Klay Thompson hit two three-pointers in Wednesday’s loss to Boston, increasing his season total to 201. He joined teammate Stephen Curry (248) as the only players in NBA history with 200 three-pointers made in five straight seasons.

Khris Middleton, Bucks: Middleton, who returned a month ago from a hamstring injury, is averaging 19.0 points (on 58.6 percent shooting from the field), 5.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds in his last five games (4-1 record for Milwaukee).

C.J. Miles, Pacers: Miles is averaging 13.9 points and shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 47.2 percent from three-point range in seven games since the All-Star break.

Eric Gordon, Rockets: Gordon has made 182 of his 206 three-pointers as a reserve this season, breaking Mirza Teletovic’s single-season NBA record of 179 set in 2015-16.

D’Angelo Russell, Lakers: In six games since the All-Star break, Russell is averaging 20.8 points (on 46.3 percent shooting), 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals.

DeMarcus Cousins, Markieff Morris fined

New Orleans Pelicans forward/center DeMarcus Cousins has been fined $50,000 for directing inappropriate language towards fans on separate occasions, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incidents occurred during the Pelicans’ 105-97 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, March 5 at Staples Center and at the conclusion of the Pelicans’ 88-83 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday, March 6 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris also has been fined $25,000 for kicking Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee in the groin.

The incident, for which Morris was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected, occurred with 2:08 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ 123-113 win over the Nuggets on March 8 at Pepsi Center.

Jared Dudley, Brandon Jennings fined

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley has been fined $35,000 for escalating an altercation by confronting and making contact with Washington Wizards forward/center Jason Smith.  Wizards guard Brandon Jennings has been fined $35,000 for making menacing gestures on the playing court as part of the same incident.  The penalties were announced by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Dudley and Jennings were each assessed a Technical Foul and ejected, occurred with 10:45 remaining in the second quarter of the Suns' 131-127 loss to the Wizards on March 7 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

By Staff of and news services

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