From Comcast SportsNetCHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- LeBron James grew up watching wrestling.So when Ric "The Nature Boy" Flair walked into the arena on Wednesday night, one of the NBA's best entertainers knew it was time to put on his own show.James did just that.The reigning MVP had 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists as the Heat handed the Charlotte Bobcats their 16th straight loss, 105-92 on Wednesday night.Dwyane Wade added 29 points and nine rebounds, and Mario Chalmers had 17 points as the Heat opened a four-game trip with a win."When I was a kid, I loved wrestling," James said. "He was one of the guys I loved, too. I think he's one of the creators of what we call swag these days with the Rolexes and the stretch limos and all the girls and all that stuff. He's one of the creators of swag."James showed some swag of his own early with four dunks in the first five minutes to get the Heat off to a quick start en route to their sixth straight win.Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game his team respected the Bobcats. However, Spoelstra hinted he was a little worried about the energy Miami expended in a win over Oklahoma city and whether they would be able to get up for the struggling Bobcats.Spoelstra talked to his players before the game, and his words seemed to work.Miami quickly opened a 9-0 lead behind a 3-pointer by Chalmers and three straight dunks -- two by James and another by Chris Bosh, who had 14 points. James was the catalyst in the first quarter with 11 points -- eight on fast-break dunks -- with four steals and four rebounds."I thought we came in with the right mindset and disposition," Spoelstra said. "We were a little more inconsistent in the second half, but we found a way. That Charlotte team continues to claw and scratch and plays hard regardless of the tough road they've had. They just keep on coming at you."It looked as though Miami was on its way to a blowout win. That wasn't the case.While the Heat never trailed and led by as many as 19, they couldn't deliver the knockout punch to the Bobcats, who were playing without starting center Byron Mullens, guard Ben Gordon, and forward Tyrus Thomas due to injuries.Down by 17 at halftime, the Bobcats whittled the lead down to 84-82 with 7:16 left when Gerald Henderson completed a three-point play.But James knocked down a 3-pointer, Wade hit jumpers from 17 and 19 feet, and Shane Battier added a 3-pointer from the right corner to complete an 11-3 run that pushed the lead to 10.Miami wasn't challenged again."That is what we're going to face on the road," Wade said. "The home team is not going to go away. We understand that. We have been through that over the last three years here so we're comfortable and confident in those situations. It's about making the right plays on both ends of the floor."James called it a bunker mentality."We understand that we haven't played great basketball on the road so far," James said. "But, we were able to take care of business tonight. For the most part over the last few weeks we've been playing some great basketball."Wade drew boos from the crowd after he delivered a knee to the groin of Ramon Sessions in the second half. But Sessions, who believed that Wade intentionally struck him, was actually called for a foul.Kemba Walker had 27 points, and Sessions added 19 points for the Bobcats (7-21), who haven't won since Nov. 24.Hakim Warrick, making his first start for the Bobcats in place of Mullens, had 18 points and nine rebounds. Sessions provided a big lift in a reserve role by hitting 7 of 12 shots, most coming off drives to the basket against an outmatched Mike Miller.Despite the loss, Walker said taking the defending champions to the wire was a needed boost of confidence for a young team like the Bobcats."I thought we played well in the second half," Walker said. "We really got after it and played hard and played up and down. We played like we did early in the season. If we keep that up, we'll be fine."NOTES:Heat guard Ray Allen missed the game because of a sore right shoulder. Allen was injured while setting a screen on Kendrick Perkins in the second half of Tuesday night's win over Oklahoma City. ... Charlotte's Gana Diop has four blocked shots in each of the last two games. He had one on James at the end of the first quarter.
FOXBORO – Griff Whalen was at the epicenter of one of the stupidest, funniest, most “did that just happen?!” plays in NFL history.
So indescribable it never even really earned a name, it was the fourth-down gadget play the Colts tried to run against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football in the first meeting between the teams after Indy ran to the principal’s office to start Deflategate.
Whalen was the center on that play (I tried to call it “Fourth-and-Wrong” but it didn’t take) and the millisecond between him snapping the ball and the three players processing that the ball had indeed been snapped is perhaps my favorite moment of the past several seasons.
Whalen is a Patriot now, brought in this week in the wake of Danny Amendola’s knee injury presumably to fill Amendola’s role as a punt returner and wideout. The Colts released him last January, the Dolphins picked him up and cut him at the end of training camp and the Chargers had him on their roster from mid-September until releasing him last month after eight games, two catches and 22 yards. He returned kickoffs for San Diego but no punts since 2015.
The primary area of need for the Patriots is on punt returns. Rookie Cyrus Jones’ transition to appearing comfortable remains glacially slow. It was Jones’ muff last week that brought on Amendola in relief. When Amendola hurt his ankle on a late-game return, the Patriots were forced to decide between Jones, wideout Julian Edelman (who doesn’t need extra work) and making a move.
Whalen is a move they made.
The slight and baby-faced Whalen indicated he had fielded some punts in practice, saying it went, “Fine.” Punt returns are something he’s done “since I was a kid.”
His first impression of the team was, "A lot of what I expected to see. A lot of detail. A lot of effort in practice. Good coaching all-around. I am excited to be here. I was excited to come into a good team that I’d gone against a few times. Hopefully come in and help out the team with whatever I can.”
I asked Whalen if he saw much of the commentary or creativity last year’s failed play spawned.
“I wasn’t paying too much attention,” he said. “When it’s during the season guys are pretty locked in on what they’re doing inside the building. But I heard more about it later on afterwards.”
Asked if he’d heard anything about the play since being here, Whalen replied, “I haven’t. Kinda was [expecting it].”
The Patriots will be hoping Whalen remains as productive for them on fourth down this year as he was in 2015.
BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season.
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup.
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup.
And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics.
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1).
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time.
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time.
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing.
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater.
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league.
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup.
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”