NBA finals Game 2: Miami holds off… or holds on to beat Thunder

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You knew it was coming.

For the first three quarters the Miami Heat played the game they needed to play to get a win in this series — LeBron James was driving the lane, Dwyane Wade looked like his old aggressive self, Chris Bosh was providing the size inside they need, the Heat defense (particularly transition defense) was much better and Shane Battier was knocking down shots. The Heat led by as many as 17 and by double digits almost the entire first 36 minutes.

But you knew a Thunder run at home was coming.

And they got close in the final six minutes, very close. After a clever steal by Derek Fisher that led to a transition Kevin Durant three, the Thunder had cut the lead to two with 37 seconds remaining. After a terrible possession that ended with a missed LeBron James three, the Thunder had a chance to tie.

That’s when it happened. OKC got the ball to Durant, who spun baseline on James and James hooked him under the arm. It was a foul, Durant shot and missed but there was no call. Miami got the rebound, LeBron was fouled, hit his free throws and that did it.

Miami won 100-96 to even the series at 1-1.

This was a wildly entertaining ending, the second fun game in a row in what is shaping up to be an even and classic series.

The focus in Game 2 will be on the last play and the no call, but every time something like this comes up, I go back to an old coach of mine. We were complaining about a lost game on a bad call and he said (I’ll paraphrase with language I can use on a family-friendly blog): “If you guys hadn’t sucked in the second quarter the referee wouldn’t have been in position to decide it.”

Miami won this game or the Thunder lost this game — depending on your perspective — in the first half. The last play did not decide it. Miami only won one quarter in this game, the first — every other quarter was tied or won by the Thunder. But you can lose a game in the first just as easily as at the end.

Miami raced out to an 18-2 lead from the opening tip. On one end the Thunder shot 5-for-20 to start the game as the Heat put on better defensive pressure, particularly LeBron on Durant. On the other end Wade was driving Miami — after looking slowed and hobbled in Game 1 he looked like his 2006 self again. Well, maybe with a few less crashes to the ground. He was attacking the lane from the start, getting his own shot and setting up Battier for a corner three. Meanwhile Chris Bosh was working off the weak side more.

Wade finished with 24 points, Bosh had 16 points and 15 boards, LeBron had 32 points on 22 shots, Battier had 17 points and was 5-of-7 from three. Their offense clicked because they ran sets — the pick-and-roll was going on one side but Bosh or someone else was moving off weak side action to get free also. The Heat moved the ball.

Then they got back on defense. Up until midway through the third the Thunder had no fast break points. Those easy buckets are what get the Thunder going and the Heat stopped them for a long stretch.

For three quarters, it would feel like the Thunder were about to make a big run but the Heat shut it down quickly and held the lead. Kevin Durant battled foul trouble and was more passive than normal, while Kendrick Perkins was bad. (Why he played so much instead of Serge Ibaka is confusing.)

Until the fourth quarter

Harden had kept the Thunder in it but in the fourth it was Durant and Westbrook. Durant finished with 32, Westbrook 27.

It was a fantastic, exciting comeback. But it took so much energy to come so far back, they couldn’t finish it off.

The Thunder can’t just come from behind every game and win this series. They were 1-1 doing that at home, it will be harder to come back on the road. They need to find a faster start.

For Miami, this was the kind of game they needed to play to win, but do you really have any confidence they can keep doing it consistently? They haven’t yet in the playoffs.

It’s a best of five now and what we’ve got is one exciting NBA finals. That’s all we can really ask for, because we can’t and shouldn’t expect the officials to be perfect.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 4 (photo)

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 4 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson:

Isaiah Thomas’ sons giggle about Fred Hoiberg’s carrying complaint (video)

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Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg diverted attention to Isaiah Thomascarrying – perhaps the lamest attempt ever of a coach angling for calls through the media, made worse by it following one of the best of all time.

Thomas’ sons saw how silly it was, laughing as the Celtics guard responded.

“It’s not that funny,” Thomas said, sparking even more laughter.

Patrick Beverley: ‘If the NBA won’t protect the players… I have to protect myself’

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The NBA fined Patrick Beverley $25,000 for confronting a fan after the Rockets’ Game 3 loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday.

But he’s not going down quietly.

Beverley on the run-ins, which began when he fell into the crowd in the second quarter after being fouled, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“I’m OK with the hazing,” Beverley said. “I’m OK with the boos. I’m OK with other fans rooting for their team. But I’m not OK with the blatant disrespect while I’m lying on the ground and a fan yelling out to me, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley, ‘F you Patrick Beverley,’ waving a clapper in my face. I’m not comfortable with that.

“If the NBA won’t protect the players, I feel as a man, as a grown man who has children, who has morals, to stand up for the right thing. I have to protect myself.”

“When I mean protect myself, I don’t mean go out there and start a fight with a person. I walked up to the guy, ‘At the end of the day brother, this is a game.’ No curse words. No pointing fingers. No this. No that. I just let him know that just don’t do nothing like that.”

“To put this in all perspective, this isn’t the first incident I had with OKC,” Beverley said. “I had a ballboy tell me he was going to kill me. What type of league, what is this? I had to have a police officer out in front of my house, I can’t be on the same floor as my teammates. My first year in NBA basketball I have a person saying on Twitter he was going to kill me. So, what to do?”

Beverley said by addressing the situation on Friday as he did he felt he brought more attention to it, increasing security awareness.

The ball-boy incident occurred in 2013, when Beverley injured Russell Westbrook‘s knee while going for a steal as Westbrook called timeout. Westbrook missed the rest of the playoffs, and Thunder fans have resented Beverley since.

It’s not the most pleasant aspect of sports, but I don’t have a huge problem with fans in their seats heckling players on the court. But there should be a different standard when a player falls into the crowd. A fan yelling and clapping in Beverley’s face while he’s on the ground is not OK.

Of course, this is only Beverley’s side of the story. The fan – Stuart Scaramucci, son of Thunder minority owner Jay Scaramucci – gave his account of the postgame encounter to Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

“[Beverley] goes around the refs, around the dancers and walks right up and gets right in my face and starts putting his hand right in my sternum and saying, ‘Don’t you ever do it again. Don’t ever [expletive] do that. You can’t do that to me. I’m a player. You can’t do that. You can’t do that,’” Scaramucci told the Transcript late Friday night. “…My wife [Megan], at that point in time, was standing there with [a noisemaker the Thunder hand out to fans]. She holds it out, and she says, ‘You can’t be here. You need to be in the back.’

“Patrick turns to her and he just throws his hand up and brings it down. I’m not sure if he’s trying to slap the [noisemaker] or whatnot, but he slaps her right on her arm, and at that point, I flip and start screaming, ‘Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife. Patrick slapped my wife.’”

Again, this is only one side of the story. Beverley might tell a different one, but at least he’s getting his wish. We’re paying more attention to fan behavior and security.

Report: Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo staying in NBA draft

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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When De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk declared for the NBA draft, they jumped in with both feet, hiring agents.

A third Kentucky freshman, Bam Adebayo, took a more cautious approach – until now.

Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports:

Adebayo is a borderline first-round pick.

He’s a ferocious dunker. All his best skills – motor, explosiveness, physicality – come together to produce slams.

But Adebayo is an underwhelming shot-blocker and rebounder, and those same tools should translate. That speaks’ to his focus.

He has a center’s game. But at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1.5 wingspan, does he have a center’s size? Adebayo can’t step away from the basket or handle the ball, so if he can’t bang with NBA centers, he’s in trouble.