Wizards

LeBron over 20 again, Heat beat Mavericks 110-95

201212202140780279114-p2.jpeg

LeBron over 20 again, Heat beat Mavericks 110-95

DALLAS (AP) This was too easy for LeBron James and the Miami Heat against a Dallas team already missing Dirk Nowitzki when it was plagued by more injuries.

There was no semblance of their two NBA Finals matchups against each other.

James scored 24 points with some early baskets on nifty passes from Dwyane Wade, and the Heat rolled to a 110-95 victory Thursday night, a game in which Miami led by 36 points before James and Wade sat out entire fourth quarter.

``I'm just playing within the game,'' said Wade, who had 19 points and six assists. ``My job is to do a little bit of everything right now.''

Including getting the ball to James, who has scored at least 20 points in all 23 games, the longest streak to start an NBA season since Karl Malone's 24 in a row opening the 1989-90 season.

``I'm just very comfortable and confident in my ability,'' James said. ``I put a lot of work into my game. It's always good when you put in the work and implement that into a game situation.''

Nowitzki, the Mavs' 11-time All-Star, hasn't played this season though he practiced for the first time this week since arthroscopic right knee surgery Oct. 19. Dallas is now without starting point guard Derek Fisher (right knee) and post players Elton Brand (right groin) and Brandan Wright (right ankle).

The Heat never trailed after James drove for a short floater 3 minutes into the game. They had their first double-digit lead, 22-11, when James made a 3-pointer with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first quarter.

``We don't want to give a team too much confidence at home. We understand this team was short-handed,'' Wade said. ``We wanted to come out here on the road and make a statement.''

Chris Bosh added 17 points as the Heat played only their second road game since Nov. 17. They return home to play Utah on Saturday before an NBA Finals rematch against Oklahoma City on Christmas Day.

Rookie Jae Crowder had 15 points to lead six Dallas players in double figures. Dahntay Jones and Bernard James had 12 points each.

LeBron James' first 3 came in between two impressive passes from Wade, who didn't yet have James or Dallas native Bosh as teammates when the Heat clinched their first NBA title in the same building in June 2006.

Dallas is much changed team since winning the 2011 NBA title over the Heat, in the star trio's first season together. Miami is now defending a championship this season.

``Much better team than we were. We know each other,'' James said. ``We can close our eyes and where we're going to be offensively and defensively.''

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle wholeheartedly agrees with that assessment, and is dealing with the opposite side of that since Nowitzki and Shawn Marion are the only current Dallas players who actually played in the NBA Finals only two seasons ago.

``They're so much better now since they've been together and there's a lot to be said about being together,'' Carlisle said. ``Right now one of our struggles, we have a group that hasn't been together too much. ... And it's been challenging.''

Bosh rebounded a missed 3-pointer by the Mavericks and got the ball to Wade, who had a perfect alley-oop pass to James, who caught the ball in midair near the rim and slammed it through with both hands.

After another missed 3 by Dallas later in the first quarter, Wade grabbed the rebound under the basket and then threw a football-like pass the length of the court to James. Even with Darren Collison and Vince Carter fronting him, James leaped and reached over to grab the ball, then finished with a layup to make it 27-13.

Dallas pulled to 36-33 after Dominique Jones had consecutive assists to rookies, a 3-pointer by Crowder and a reverse layup by Bernard James.

But Miami then responded with a 16-4 run.

Miami stretched the lead to 91-55, its largest of the season, when Shane Battier made a 3-pointer with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

Nowtizki practiced for the first time Wednesday, and had an individual workout Thursday. It's still unclear when he will make his season debut, but got a huge cheer when he was shown on the video screen during a timeout.

Collison, who lost the job as the starting point guard when the Mavericks signed Fisher on Nov. 29, was back in the starting lineup and had 11 points.

Fisher was hurt in the first quarter of a win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night. He will skip a two-game trip for games at Memphis on Friday night and San Antonio on Sunday. The team said there is no timetable for the 38-year-old Fisher's return and that he would be re-evaluated next week.

NOTES: Mavs guard O.J. Mayo made only three of 14 shots for eight points before facing his former team on Friday night in Memphis. ... The Heat's largest lead this season before Thursday night had been against Washington last week, when they led by 35 points in the fourth quarter. ... Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the freshman quarterback from Texas A&M, was sitting courtside early in the second half. He watched Philadelphia at Houston on Wednesday night. ... When play resumed after a timeout with about 7 minutes left, many fans were watching a fight in the stands instead of the game.

Quick Links

New Wizard Austin Rivers leaves practice, day-to-day with neck spasms while Dwight Howard sits out

rivers.png
USA Today

New Wizard Austin Rivers leaves practice, day-to-day with neck spasms while Dwight Howard sits out

New Wizard Austin Rivers left Tuesday's practice with neck spasms. He's listed as day-to-day, while Dwight Howard missed practice, but is said to be making progress with a back injury.

Rivers wasn't a part of the contact portion of practice, but it doesn't seem to be an issue that has the team worried. 

The Wizards acquired Rivers back on June 26, when the Wizards sent Marcin Gortat to the Clippers.

He's coming off a career-year in Los Angeles, averaging 15.1 points per game, 4.0 assists, and 1.2 steals. 

Howard signed with the Wizards back in July, after spending last season in Charlotte. 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS

Quick Links

As Bryce Harper prepares for possible final home game with Nats, take a moment to appreciate the journey to get here

usatsi_10962768.jpg
USA Today

As Bryce Harper prepares for possible final home game with Nats, take a moment to appreciate the journey to get here

As Bryce Harper plays out his final homestand of the 2018 season, and as everyone ponders the potential end of his career in Washington, one aspect of his journey to this point as a member of the Nationals stands out above all when considering what Harper and those who have watched him over the years have experienced.

Though all the hair flips, towering homers and viral quotes come to mind, Harper's tenure in D.C. may most be defined and appreciated by his faults.

That's not to harp on the negative when there have been so many positives. It's to take a moment to appreciate all the steps it took for Harper to reach this point as a player and as a man, and how those in Washington watched him day after day throughout that process.

See, if Harper does leave Washington and joins another team, maybe even a really good team, that club will receive a player who is just about a finished product. He has reached his prime and is fully-formed, having cut his teeth for seven MLB seasons. That franchise and those fans would see a completely different chapter in Harper's career and, arguably, only get to know him so well, no matter how long he plays for them.

That's because Washington Nationals fans have seen Harper grow up and learn many lessons the hard way, ever since he showed up to Nationals Park in 2010, flanked by Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras and was handed a No. 34 jersey by Ryan Zimmerman. Harper was just 17 and that day wore a black suit with a black shirt and a pink tie, the combination perhaps his first regrettable move as a pro.

With the Nats, Harper had to learn not to run into walls, to not play through certain injuries, to keep his cool with umpires. He learned through public admonishment to hit the cutoff man and to hustle to first base. He realized the power of his words and his responsibility as a face of baseball.

There were mistakes and Nats fans, for the most part, loved him for them. He was the chosen one, the guy who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 years old, the No. 1 pick and the second-coming of Mickey Mantle. But he is human with flaws like the rest of us and a lot of it didn't come easy to him like most expected.

The comparisons between Harper and Mike Trout, his closest superstar contemporary, often highlighted the perceived shortcomings in Harper's game and personality. Trout never creates controversy with his words, while Harper can with remarkable ease. Trout did not draw the ire of older players and baseball lifers like Harper did in his early days.

Right or wrong, and most of the time it was uncalled for, Harper was constantly derided by people around baseball in his first few MLB seasons. But Washington fans were always there to defend him, knowing that if you watched him every night then you too would know those small transgressions - if they can even be called transgressions - do not represent the player or the man Harper actually is.

Washington fans were the first in Major League Baseball to realize Harper had the character and humility to match his transcendent on-field talents. He loves the game of baseball and, almost all of the time, plays it as hard as anyone. Harper has been criticized for playing the game too hard about as often as he has for taking off plays.

Take a step back and Harper's tenure in Washington so far has been a clear success, even matched with the expectations bestowed upon him as a teenager. He has won the National League MVP award, won an all-time classic Home Run Derby, made six All-Star teams and the Nats have won four division titles. He has helped usher in a new generation of D.C. baseball fans. The only way to top all of that would be a deep playoff run or a championship, but no one should have expected one player to make that sort of difference, given the dynamics of baseball.

Harper isn't perfect, but he is a lot closer to it than he was when he first debuted with the Nationals in 2012. The process of him getting to this point, even if it does ultimately mark the end of his tenure, should be appreciated by Nationals fans and Harper himself. No matter how much money he makes and where he plays next season, that chapter of his career is over and Washington fans should feel grateful they were there for the entire ride.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS