1. Lewis Healthy, Plays Some Old-School Jams
MIAMI -- Rashard Lewis endured the jokes during his 13-point, two-dunk performance Wednesday night.
He even had to stand and listen after the game, when his locker room neighbor Chris Bosh continued the onslaught.
"I haven't seen him dunk twice since high school," Bosh said, making sure Lewis heard the jab. "So, good night."
To Lewis, though, the dunks -- one coming off a pump fake and drive and the second off a steal and breakaway -- weren't strictly joke material.
Not when he could do nothing of the sort during his time in Washington. Not after undergoing OssaTron treatment in the offseason to address his quadriceps tendinitis and needing two months to recover.
So Lewis actually dedicated his dunks to a particular group of Heat employees: the training staff.
"He told us the dunks were for us," Heat head athletic trainer Jay Sabol said.
When Lewis signed with the Heat last July, the idea was he would fit in perfectly with a team that leans on LeBron James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade inside. That would, ideally, leave Lewis to knock down open threes.
The problem was, there was no certainty Lewis would recover from the quad tendinitis that temporarily crippled his career. Lewis says he never really worked out his legs as much as he did his upper body. He wanted "that beach body," he joked after the Heat beat Brooklyn 103-73, so his lower body became something of an afterthought.
That's why the tendinitis cropped up after more than a decade in the league. And despite several opinions from doctors in different cities, and fighting off the idea of surgery (there was no structural damage, so he didn't want to go under the knife), Lewis just couldn't resolve the issue.
So a few days after signing with Miami, Lewis underwent the OssaTron treatment, which sends powerful sound waves into the tissue and breaks up inflammation, generating new tissue growth. Wade underwent the same treatment late in the 2007-08 season.
That required 30 days of no activity, and at least another month of rehabilitation.
Lewis wasn't able to return to on-court work until a few days before Heat training camp. That first pickup game on the Heat practice court was hardly encouraging.
"I was tired as hell," Lewis said. "Couldn't make a shot, couldn't get my legs under me. It was frustrating."
It was obvious that Lewis, trying to revive his career as a member of the defending champions, was putting immense pressure on himself.
"I saw it on his face," Wade said. "And coming to a new place, too, you want to show that you're worthy of being here. But he stayed with it.
"It's not easy to come in here and figure out your role. He's figured it out quicker than we expected. We know he can knock down big shots. He's done it his whole career. To see that happening this early, it makes us real excited about it."
Lewis considers himself ahead of schedule, in large part because of the persistence of the Heat training staff.
Lewis wasn't the most flexible of players, but the Heat staff stressed the importance of it -- Ray Allen recently joked he hasn't stretched this much in his entire career -- and it has helped.
To be dunking the ball twice in a November game, while worthy of a joke or two, is no laughing matter for Lewis.
"Playing in Washington, it was tough for me to even get any lift on my jump shot," he said. "That just lets you know how good I'm feeling."
That said, don't expect a lot of thunder from Lewis in the near future.
"I told them that's it for the month," he joked.
Spoelstra wouldn't mind that, actually.
Patience has worked well so far for Lewis, and the Heat coach doesn't want his key reserve getting ahead of himself now that it's obvious he can fit in well with this group.
"We really thought big picture with Rashard," Spoelstra said. "I'm not putting a lot of pressure on it.
"Really, it's two or three months down the line before we'll really see him in the type of rhythm like he was when he was playing very well in Orlando."
Until then, this version of Lewis is helping the Heat just fine.
Though he had some trouble staying in front of a few Knicks players during the Heat's lone loss of the season, Lewis hasn't been a defensive liability.
It helps that this defensive system is quite similar to the one Stan Van Gundy taught in Orlando.
Offensively, he's shooting 54.5 percent from the floor, including a 47 percent clip from three-point range.
If Lewis doesn't dunk again this season, the Heat will still take that kind of offensive efficiency.
"I don't know why people sag off him, but he's open every time, and he's gonna shoot it," Bosh said. "Plain and simple."
2. Around The Association
Recap | Box score
MVP: DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan has very quietly added a little refinement to his game. A little right-handed baby hook may seem like a baby step, but when Jordan scores early, he's almost always more productive elsewhere.
That was ... Spurs regular-season basketball!:
It's not that the Spurs don't care about the regular season. Well yeah, actually, it is. As soon as the Spurs got down big, they packed it in and lived to fight another day. Enjoyable? No. Smart? Yes.
X factor: Lobs, lobs and more lobs. When the Clippers' defense can force turnovers and get out in transition, there isn't a big man tandem on the planet beating Blake Griffin and Jordan in a foot race -- especially not Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw.
Recap | Box score
MVP: This game produced a lot of gaudy stat lines, none gaudier than David Lee's: 22 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three steals. He poured in points from all over the floor, too: jumpers, put-backs, and even a balletic alley-oop late in the game.
X factor: Harrison Barnes' impressive fourth quarter made a big difference for the Warriors. He took the ball into the post against smaller defenders, and nailed a 3-pointer with 2:33 to go that ensured a Golden State victory.
That was ... offensive: Neither of these teams are known for their defense. If the offenses hadn't been so sloppy (each team had 16 turnovers), we could have seen an even more ridiculous score. Eleven players finished with double-digit point totals.
Recap | Box score
Greg Monroe (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) had the Pistons' first triple-double since Chauncey Billups in 2004. Detroit finally ran its offense through Monroe, and the results were encouraging.
Least Valuable Player: Kings rookie Thomas Robinson showed impressive athleticism by grabbing seven rebounds in 12 minutes, but he was ejected in the fourth quarter for blasting Jonas Jerebko with an elbow to the head.
That was ... pivotal: No, this game doesn't matter that much. I'm talking about the centers (puns!). Monroe and DeMarcus Cousins (21 points and 11 rebounds) have been in quiet competition since they were drafted three picks apart in 2010, and as they blossom, their personal rivalry is getting very fun.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Mo Williams. Although the Jazz didn't win the game behind a torrent of offensive brilliance, none of the Jazz defenders had such an overwhelming game that they felt indispensable. On the other hand, the Utah offense moved about 10 times better with Williams on the court, whether his assist totals demonstrated it or not. A solid line of 16-2-7 on just 13 shots for everyone's favorite John Legend look-alike.
X factor: Randy Foye -- breaking what felt like a 20-year cold stretch for Utah -- drained three straight 3-point baskets in the middle of the fourth quarter. It wasn't exactly crunch time, but the 3s galvanized the Utah D and brought a sleepy team back to life. It proved the difference in a grind-it-out affair whose final score understates the glacial pace and cringe-worthy offense at its lowest moments.
That was ... gross: Speaking of the slow moments, the third quarter was virtually unwatchable. Sloppy execution on both sides, little offensive cohesion, and poor shots dominated the proceedings. Missed chippies, blown sets, everything. The Lakers and Jazz went on independent 3:53 and 4:30 runs of scoreless futility. The defense was solid, but not THAT solid.
Recap | Box score
MVP: O.J. Mayo continued his hot start to the season, repeatedly slashing through the Raptor defense and finishing with 22 points, six assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers on the night.
LVP: Landry Fields is known for his strong perimeter defense, but was torched by Mayo tonight. He also continued his anemic offensive performance to start the season with 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting.
That was ... embarrassing: Even while missing Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Elton Brand, the Mavericks still outrebounded the Raptors 31-13 in the first half. That massive edge on the boards was the key to Dallas' early lead.
Recap | Box score
Rajon Rondo was surgical as usual with 14 assists to go with his 18 points. He probably drew the ire of Doc Rivers when he broke the play and missed a 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer. But in OT, Rondo dropped three dimes and added a bucket to seal the win. He also introduced his long arms to Bradley Beal by blocking the rookie's jumper from behind late in the extra period.
X factor: Isn't Kevin Garnett always the X factor? He barks at air. He says one particular curse 79 times per 36 minutes, on average. He sets illegal screens (got called for three). He eats nails. He drops 20 points and 13 rebounds in 35 minutes. He goes home and kisses his daughter good night.
That was ... a slug 'em out fest: The young Wizards hung tough with the Celts thanks to Kevin Seraphin and Chris Singleton (12 fourth-quarter points), but Boston's experience and pressure defense, led by KG, determined the outcome. Seraphin had 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists, but also turned the ball over six times, and three of them came with less than 70 seconds in regulation. Young fella doesn't do double teams so well.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Kenneth Faried was everywhere, putting his breathtaking athleticism on display for the Toyota Center crowd. He finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds in his 34 minutes of play.
Defining moment: With 45 seconds left, Faried blocked a driving layup attempt by James Harden that would have cut the lead down to two. A few plays earlier, Andre Iguodala had snuffed out a Harden 3 attempt.
That was ... amazing: With just 3:20 left, and the Nuggets' lead down to five, Ty Lawson missed two freebies. Faried came flying in for the tip-in. One play later, he raced downcourt for the alley-oop jam.
Recap | Box score
MVP: Jeff Teague. He finished with 15-6-6 and three steals in 32 minutes. He wasn't really successful early in the game, but he stayed aggressive, and his back-to-back buckets in the final minute were the daggers for the Hawks.
X factor: Zaza Pachulia started for the Hawks, which gave Atlanta a decisive size advantage with Josh Smith and Al Horford at the 3 and 4 positions, respectively. Pachulia had a game-high 14 boards (six offensive), and the Pacers, who are leading the league in rebounding, lost the battle of the boards 51-41.
Defining moment: Indiana had a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter when Hawks coach Larry Drew decided to switch to a zone on defense. It proved effective, as the then-hot-shooting Pacers were limited to only nine points in the final period. Lance Stephenson's 3-pointer with 21 seconds left was the Pacers' only bucket in the final six minutes of the game.
3. Wednesday's Best
Kenneth Faried, Nuggets: Fear the beard? Try dread the dreds. Denver's force of nature dropped in 16 points and pulled in 16 boards (nine offensive), lifting the Nuggets to a 93-87 road win over James Harden and the Rockets.
4. Wednesday's Worst
New Orleans Hornets: Muggsy Bogues would not be proud. The Hornets scored the fewest points in team history in a 77-62 loss to the Sixers. Hornets rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers were out with injuries. Hornets guard Roger Mason Jr. set the tone with his name, missing both shots.
5. NBA Video Channel
6. Tweet Of The Night
7. Quote Of The Night
"I'm undersized every night, but I like to think I'm quicker in the mind. If we're playing 'Jeopardy,' I like my chances against any power forward in the league. Print that."
-- Heat forward Shane Battier, who will be facing the likes of Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph in Miami's small-ball lineup.
8. Salt Talks
9. Stat Check
10. Dunk Of The Night
Young Powers Philly
MVP: Thad Young muscled his way to 12 points on economical 6-of-8 shooting and paced the Sixers with 10 rebounds, but Philly's balance was the real difference-maker. In a low-scoring affair, the visitors put five in double figures.
X factor: Turnovers. After consecutive seasons as the least turnover-happy squad in the Association, the Sixers haven't protected the rock quite as vigilantly so far in '12-13. But while they lost the basketball 14 times in Wednesday's first half, they tightened up from there, committing just one after the break against NOH's 14. A more custodial Philly won the second half 41-25.
That was ... why sports medicine is a lucrative business: Anthony Davis versus Andrew Bynum. Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers versus Jason Richardson and the Sixers' young guards. ESPN's national audience was treated to exactly zero of these intriguing matchups because all the headliners were out with various bumps and bruises.
MVP: Greg Stiemsma. For a guy known as a primarily defensive player, he was an offensive force, putting up 12 points on 6-7 shooting off the bench. And he was everywhere: plugging the paint, hassling shooters, even taking spot-up jumpers.
Defining moment: With 2:01 left in the third, J.J. Redick nailed a three that drew the Magic within five, but the Timberwolves turned it on and closed out the quarter on a 10-2 run that effectively put Orlando in the rearview mirror.
That was ... abstract: Right now, the Orlando Magic appear to be an experiment in chaos theory or deconstructivism on a positively Jurassic Park-ian scale. Without Jameer Nelson or Al Harrington, there's no offensive identity. They may start Jacques Derrida, Benoit Mandelbrot and a velociraptor for their next game.
MVP: LeBron James. Other than a few first-half moments, it was a low-key performance. Then you look up at the box score and see 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Does anyone do low-key and dominant better than LeBron?
X factor: The Heat swarmed and switched cutting off everything the Nets tried to run. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson found themselves boxed into isolations, forcing both shots and passes. Johnson finished 4-of-14 from the field, while Williams had seven turnovers.
That was ... jarring: Watching the Nets shoot 3-of-21 on 3-pointers. There were some open looks to be had but nothing stayed down. Special recognition goes to Mirza Teletovic, who finished 1-of-7.
Polish Hammer Time
MVP: Marcin Gortat. The Suns' big man dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. He posted season highs in points (23) and blocks (7) while grabbing 10 boards for his fourth double-double of the season.
Defining moment: After the Bobcats tied the game at 85 with 11 minutes to play, Shannon Brown hit six 3-pointers in eight minutes to help the Suns pull away and slam the door on Charlotte's comeback hopes.
X factor: Byron Mullens. Charlotte slashed the Suns' 16-point lead to just four in the third quarter with the help of Mullens' outside shooting. He buried four treys in the third quarter and made 6-of-10 for the game (24 points).
Marc Gasol Show
MVP: Marc Gasol ran the show on offense and defense both. He dished out five assists to go with 14 points and nine rebounds and barked positioning orders to his teammates defensively all night.
LVP: Can Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis share this one? The Bucks guards combined to shoot 11-of-38 from the field en route to just 34 points.
X factor: The Grizzlies were too strong and too physical for Milwaukee. A 46-38 points-in-the-paint and 49-41 rebounding advantage hardly tells the story of how Memphis' size and strength dominated this one.
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