LeBron James in Game 7 Saturday was not the LeBron James of Game 6. At least not for the first three quarters. In fact, at the half his performance pretty pedestrian — he and Brandon Bass had matching point totals.
But with the game tight in the fourth quarter, LeBron put his head down, barreled to the hole, led Miami on an 18-4 run and that was enough to give them a 101-88 win, which sends them on to the NBA finals for the second consecutive year.
If Miami plays half a game like that against Oklahoma City they will get blown out of the water. But that’s the problem for tomorrow. Today, the Heat get to celebrate a win.
What Miami did in the fourth quarter was what they needed to do all series against Boston — play good defense and have their stars attack. In the first half Boston’s offense was clicking as they shot 53 percent and built a seven-point lead at the half. It felt like it should have been more. Miami never pulled away and the first 14 minutes of the second half were a see-saw affair.
But in the fourth quarter Boston scored just 15 points on 39 percent shooting. There were moments Rajon Rondo — 22 points, 14 assists — carried the offense but in the fourth he went dry. Boston could not score and at the other end they struggled to slow Miami’s attack.
In the fourth quarter LeBron (31 points) and Dwyane Wade (23) were able to get in the lane, but for the first time this series Chris Bosh was on the floor to make Kevin Garnett and the Celtics defenders pay for their rotations. He hit two three pointers and had 8 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Any defense, even one as good as Boston’s breaks down when you can drive into the paint on it.
Which was an odd way for what might be the last game of the Big Three era in Boston to end. This was one of the best defensive teams of a generation, it was also one of the most selfless, throwback teams we had seen in a long time. They were good for basketball and the NBA.
But it was not enough. Miami’s talent and spurts of execution were enough.
Houston Rockets G Patrick Beverley is known around the NBA for being a dogged defender. His skill set was on full display on Friday night, where Beverley shut down Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Russell Westbrook on a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds.
It all started early in the matchup, when Beverley — notorious for getting under the skin of both Westbrook and other NBA opponents — flopped with some serious gusto just 36 seconds into the first quarter.
The game continued like this, but the real highlight of Beverley’s defensive night was stopping Westbrook — who dropped his 7th straight triple-double — on an isolation play with six seconds left in the fourth quarter.
With the ball on the left garden spot, Westbrook gave a couple of dribble hesitation moves to Beverley, then tried to rise up for the go-ahead bucket.
Beverley was right up on him, and forced an airball from Westbrook:
The Rockets guard was so happy about the stop and the eventual win that he celebrated a little too enthusiastically with Houston coach Mike D’Antoni.
Going for a chest bump, Beverley wound up blasting through his own coach:
Toronto Raptors stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are becoming one of the best duos in the NBA, on and off the court. They joked around in the locker room after their win over the Boston Celtics on Friday night, 101-94, but the comedy started before the two even left the floor.
In a postgame interview with CSNNE DeRozan was asked what the message was at halftime from coach Dewane Casey.
DeRozan — with Lowry looking devious in the background of the shot — was gracious.
“Just get [Lowry] the ball,” DeRozan smiled.
Pleased with the result, Lowry responded with a “That’s a good message right there!” before running off to the locker room.
The interview continued to be interrupted, with Raptors big man Jared Sullinger giving the camera a drive by “DeMar for President!”
New England Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount even showed up to show DeRozan some love.
The Golden State Warriors are so talented, perhaps the officials are predisposed to blowing whistles in their favor. At least, that’s the only explanation you could give to a Utah Jazz fan after seeing what happened between Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Utah’s Joe Johnson on Thursday night.
As Durant came off a curl on the far side of the court, he used a screen set by Curry on Johnson.
With the ball in his hands, Durant rose to fire but found himself locked in arms with another player. Durant’s shot attempt helplessly bounced away as he shot, and officials whistled Johnson on the play.
Of course, a closer look reveals that the player Durant’s arms were tangled up with was … Curry.
Yes, Curry had arm locked what he thought was Johnson on the screen but was instead his teammate and MVP candidate.
It didn’t matter, as referees awarded Durant the free throws, of which he only made 1 of 2.
Perhaps that’s some solace?
Golden State beat Utah, 106-99.
New York Knicks C Joakim Noah has an awkward jumper and free throw technique, there’s no denying that. His two-handed, horizontal approach to shooting a basketball is ripe for criticism.
DeMarcus Cousins thinks so, at least.
During a game between the Sacramento Kings and the Knicks, Cousins decided to give Noah a little tongue-in-cheek trolling about his form.
Looks about right.