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Heat may need to keep Victor Oladipo caffeinated with jolt required vs. Celtics in East finals

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Ravens kicker Justin Tucker’s record-breaking kick honored as NFL’s Best Moment of the Year

Considering Jimmy Butler is a walking coffee shop, one would not think the Miami Heat would have an issue getting caffeinated.

But a bench set on domination in the Eastern Conference finals has come up short, making the strained left groin that took Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro out of Monday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics all the more significant.

With all eyes on the Heat injury report, it has become apparent that depth might be the only answer for the Heat to regain control of the best-of-seven series that is tied 2-2 going into Wednesday’s 8:30 p.m. Game 5 at FTX Arena.

Hope was added in Game 4, with Victor Oladipo closing with 23 points.

“Just being aggressive,” Oladipo said.

At 11.8 points per game in this series, Oladipo is not far behind Herro’s 12.3. The difference is Oladipo also is 6 of 15 on 3-pointers, compared to Herro’s 1 of 14, as well as 17 of 23 from the line, as opposed to Herro’s 4 of 4.

So an aggressive Oladipo plus a revived Herro could be worth more than any double shot being served up by Butler’s Big Face Coffee grinders, with the Heat’s starting forward with his own series concerns.

“He’s just being successful in his role,” Heat center Bam Adebayo said of Oladipo. “He’s been doing that night in, night out. We can’t take anything from him. He’s definitely a spark that was keeping us in the game.”

Oladipo’s effort in Game 4, in fact, was so unique that, according to ESPN, he became the first reserve to outscore his team’s starting lineup in a playoff game since starters first were tracked by the NBA in 1970-71.

“Just got to continue to keep improving, continue to keep playing hard and figure out ways to win,” said Oladipo, as he continues to work back from May 2021 quadriceps surgery. “It’s a seven-game series, so on to the next one. Got to get ready for Game 5.”

Better looks

Among the Heat’s priorities is creating a better shot menu than Game 4, when they had only three shots at the rim in Monday night’s first half.

“I think that’s on us,” Butler said. “We settled for too many mid-range jump shots, myself included. A lot of shots behind the three that weren’t even good ones, at that.

“Ain’t nothing more than that. We need to move the ball around, get it to the open guy and let that guy make the play and live with what we get out of it. I think we’ve just got to be better.”

It starts, Butler said, with better ball movement.

“Move the ball, get it from one side to the other, keep the game extremely simple,” he said. Whenever we tend to do that, we tend to play well. When anybody tries to hit a home run and do it by themselves, we kind of get in trouble. Ball sticks. We turn the ball over. We take a bad shot.

“We just need to do everything together like we’ve been doing all year long. It will be on myself, on Kyle [Lowry], on Bam to make sure that we make that happen.”

Higher calling

Having missed the Celtics’ Game 2 victory at FTX Arena for the birth of his son, Celtics guard Derrick White said he felt twice blessed after playing a major role in Monday night’s victory, closing with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists while playing in the injury absence of Marcus Smart.

But, he said, it mostly was about the after party, getting back to see his son.

“He’s been a super blessing to myself and my family,” White said. “I can’t wait to go home and see him and just hold him. It’s cool just to watch him. I’m excited to see how he grows.”

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

Tainted & Sainted

Tainted: June 3, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. at Johnson Parkway and Sixth Street. The male driver in a black pickup didn’t yield to me and crossed into the bike path where I fell under the bike to avoid hitting your truck. All you did was sit in the truck and say you’re sorry. You left as soon as I got off the street. Half of my summer is gone because of this.

Tainted: Whoever designed this bike path. Hardly anyone stops at the stop sign. Just stop at the corner. Many close calls to me and I’ve told all to stop. Maybe put a yield sign or stop signs on the west side of Johnson. They don’t know how to yield.

Sainted: To the one driver who asked if I was OK. Much appreciated. Felt fine at the time but did break my elbow.

Barb Anderson, St. Paul

 

Tainted

I think It would be desirable if those responsible for the St. Paul skyway system could maintain uniform hours for the operation of the system.

They have posted operating hours indicating a close of 11 p.m., but this is contradicted by one posting indicating a 12 p.m. closing. The reality is that neither apply as I discovered this past Saturday when returning to my apartment from a downtown restaurant.

The location in the general vicinity (east) of the Subway operation was closed at 10 p.m. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect uniform operating hours to be observed.

Roger A. Godin, St. Paul

 

Sainted

An incredible Sainted to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. I had surgery this past Tuesday and had never been there before. The care I received was phenomenal. The staff was incredible and compassionate.

I was on the first floor and it was like a party when they came in for vitals, etc. Kelly always referred me to as The Boss. Thank you for such kindness and for helping me through such a painful surgery. And an even bigger shout out to my personal paramedics Shawna S. and Mary F.  Thank you both so much for everything. I’d be lost without you.

Laura McGinn, St. Paul

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

Q: Ira, we’ve been burned by Kevin Durant before. We can’t be fooled into fool’s gold again. – Ian.

A: Look, this whole Brooklyn Nets-will-implode storyline is so bizarre, so speculative, so seemingly preposterous that perspective needs to be toned down all around on the possibilities of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant departing. But to your question, this also is an opportunity to address the notion of the Heat being “burned” when coming up short in free agency, including when Pat Riley and Micky Arison traveled to the Hamptons in an attempt to woo Kevin Durant during 2016 free agency. It was the same narrative when the Heat “came up short” with Gordon Hayward (and even to a degree the supposed previous “failure” to nab Kyrie). Being mentioned in such speculation means your franchise has earned the respect of players and agents. That is a good thing. The Heat get into the room (unless it’s LeBron’s Las Vegas suite). And if Kevin Durant does attempt to work his way elsewhere, they likely will be back in the room.

Q: Nikola Jovic seems a bit slow footed when I watch his clips. I’d like to see him get serious playing time in Sioux Falls, so he can adjust to the NBA speed. – James.

A: But I’m not sure the G League game, which can be helter skelter at times, is the preferred tempo, either. This could be more along the lines of Omer Yurtseven’s rookie season with the Heat, where it will be mostly developmental, with some as-needed time as warranted/merited. Remember, Nikola Jovic will become the youngest Heat player ever to appear in a game in the franchise’s 35 seasons. That has to be about patience, for more than just foot speed.

Q: Ira, you listed players the Heat passed on to get Nikola Jovic. Who would you have preferred? – Anthony.

A: So basically you’re asking me to trump my preference in the moment at the 2020 draft for Desmond Bane? I’m not sure there is anyone in that category this year. But of those selected after Nikola Jovic (who I think can turn into an inspired choice), I do believe that Patrick Baldwin’s skillset could still yield something special and was curious about E.J. Liddell as a Heat fit. But I don’t believe there is a reason for second guessing when you’re talking about No. 27.

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‘Everything’s gonna get caught’: Orioles outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins share favorite parts of each other’s defense

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‘Everything’s gonna get caught’: Orioles outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins share favorite parts of each other’s defense

Presented the choice between the two highlight defensive plays he made Thursday night — a fourth-inning throw to the plate to prevent a run and his rally-killing diving catch across the right field line in the eighth — Orioles right fielder Austin Hays made his decision based on sound logic.

“I’d probably say the throw because the dive hurt a lot worse,” Hays said with a smile. “It was totally worth it because I caught it. But I’d like to not have to dive on the warning track ever again.”

But speaking as an observer, center fielder Cedric Mullins went the other way.

“The throw, for him, was pretty easy,” Mullins said. “That [dive] definitely crushed some spirits out there.”

The difference of opinion is perhaps one of the few ways Hays and Mullins aren’t in sync when it comes to outfield defense. Having played together since 2017 as minor leaguers, the pair has developed an innate ability to communicate with each other before and during plays.

Thursday, along with Hays’ highlights, Mullins ranged into right-center field for a handful of impressive catches, with Hays also finishing in the vicinity. Add in a well-tracked catch in left from Anthony Santander, and the result is what manager Brandon Hyde said “might have been the best defensive game from an outfield group that I’ve seen in the big leagues.”

“It’s two Gold Glovers,” Hyde said. “You see them doing a lot of nonverbal [communication] while they’re running to the ball. They know each other so well now. When you play next to a guy, you know their mannerisms, you know what balls they can get to and what they can’t, where they’re playing, so there’s some comfort.”

Mullins said with a wave of his hand, he can let Hays know what areas he has covered based on positioning. Both noted that if a ball is hit between them and one can catch it with a dive, it usually means the other can get to it standing up. That cue helps them avoid collisions, with one moving up to make the catch while the other veers deeper into the outfield as backup.

“It’s a really big peace of mind for an outfielder to know that the other guy is always going to be there,” Hays said. “I think we’ve built a lot of trust with one another.”

Hays said that trust is a byproduct of years of games alongside each other, with those instincts becoming second nature “once those plays happen over and over and over and over again.”

That aggregate time together means they have both seen the other blossom into standout defenders in their own way. Hays praised Mullins’ jumps, routes and speed. Mullins is in the 72nd percentile in the majors in outfield jump, 84th percentile in sprint speed, and 91st percentile in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant.

“He’s as good as they come for center fielders,” Hays said.

His favorite play by Mullins happened last year, when the All-Star slid on the warning track in right-center field at Camden Yards to rob Nelson Cruz of extra bases. With experience playing center field in Baltimore, Hays knows the challenge of that play.

“That’s one of the most difficult plays for a center fielder, when you’re running wide open,” he said. “That gap gets small right there before it jets out to where it’s 373 [feet]. I think that’s probably the most impressive one I’ve seen him make. He robbed Gary [Sánchez of a home run] last year, but I still think that the one where he slid on the track up against the wall, that’s just such a difficult play.”

Mullins said picking one of Hays’ best plays is a tough task because “the list keeps piling up.” He settled on the highlight that impressed him most recently: After Mullins lunged at a ball as it caromed off the new left field wall at Camden Yards, Hays chased it down and threw out Jesse Winker at third base as the Seattle Mariners outfielder tried to stretch the hit into a triple.

It’s one of Hays’ six outfield assists, which entered Friday as the second most in the American League and highlighted the arm that most impresses Mullins about Hays’ defensive acumen. Since 2016, Hays is responsible for the Orioles’ five hardest-thrown outfield assists, with the top three coming this year.

“He came behind me, picked it up, threw him out at third while I was just kind of my knees watching because at that point, I’m like, ‘It’s all you, man,’” Mullins said.

Hays’ favorite among Mullins’ plays came June 1, 2021. Mullins’ preference among Hays’ highlights was June 2, 2022. It’s just another example of them in lockstep, working in tandem to secure outs for the Orioles’ pitching staff.

“We just have a lot of faith knowing that everything’s gonna get caught,” Hays said. “If there’s something I feel like is out of reach for me, he’s gonna catch it.”

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