When Dallas got hot, Heat made host of bad decisions

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Give Dallas credit — this is not their first massive comeback these playoffs. They are in the finals because they executed better at the end of games better than any team in the West. This is a veteran team that does not easily fluster and they started running a fantastic staggered screen for Jason Terry that the Heat could not stop. Dallas has shooters. Dallas has Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas earned this 95-93 Game 2 win with their 22-5 run to close the contest out.

But you don’t have a comeback like this without some help.

Miami helped choke this away down the stretch. As our own John Krolik noted, the Heat had spent a season trying to shake a perception of arrogance, of a team celebrating before they won anything. Then, fair or not, they got it back in six minutes.

What did the Heat do wrong down the stretch? A few things.

• Horrible shot selection. With their 15 point lead, Miami went into the NBA equivalent of the prevent defense — they started trying to milk the clock, so they started their offensive sets late in the shot clock. Well, “sets” is a bad description of it. It was more like run out some clock then let LeBron James or Dwyane Wade make a play in isolation. Chris Bosh took some long jumpers late.

Remember the 55-second, three-chance possession the Heat had starting with 1:37 left in the game? Miami was up two and if that becomes four they regain some control. But what happened? A LeBron contested three from the top of the key, a Heat offensive rebound followed by running the clock down and LeBron taking another contested three, followed by another offensive rebound, but eventually Udonis Haslem gets stripped. That typified what the Heat ran late.

We should note, to be fair, the Heat took a lot of bad shots in the first half and at the end of Game 1 — this is a team that when pressured falls back to isolation “hero-ball.” They just have guys who can get away with it more than they should, but it will kill them in this series if they keep it up.

• Bosh on Nowitzki for the final play. Even Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had some regrets about not going with Udonis Haslem after the game, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

“Yeah, that’s a tough one,” Spoelstra said. “I know UD probably is really wishing he had that opportunity to defend him. He had gotten a couple over the top, and the end of the game running it all the way down to the clock, could have gone with either guy. Both guys are good defenders.”

• Not fouling/double teaming Dirk Nowitzki on the final play. Miami had a foul to give (meaning they could foul Dirk before he shot and there would be no free throws, just Dallas ball out of bounds). They could have forced Dallas to run an out-of-bounds play with five or six seconds left, an easier play to defend because Dallas would have limited options in that time. But instead, Bosh did not foul, Nowitzki spun to the basket and Haslem never came over to help. Ballgame.

The other option — make someone other than Dallas’ best player beat you. Dallas had fantastic ball movement all night and had made the Heat pay for double teams with open shots. But still, you have to make someone other than one of the best scorers in the game beat you.

The Heat made mental mistake after mental mistake late. Like a team that had thought it had won and exhaled. And you can’t do that against Dallas.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.