Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two

NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 2: LeBron hulks out inside and rips Thunder to shreds

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For years we’ve asked the question.

“LeBron James is so big and powerful. Why doesn’t he get inside more?”

In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, we found out what happens when he does. James scored 18 of his 32 points in the paint. He scored 20 points on field goal attempts. So on non-free-throws, James scored 18 of 20 in the paint in the Heat’s 100-96 win.

Here’s a look at his shot chart for the game, which shows just how aggressive he was in this game, when the team needed him most down 1-0. This game may honestly have been more impressive than his 45-point explosion vs. Boston. He attacked instead of relying on the jumper, he fought for his points instead of settling. That word is huge. When LeBron James doesn’t settle, he is impossible to defend.

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Yikes.

That’s the kind of LeBron James who can ruin a team’s night, and James did it in Game 2. James realized early on that the Thunder have no one who can contain him inside and he made it a point to drive and jump-stop, drive and jump-stop. He had the array going. Jump hooks, floaters, runners, dunks, and putbacks. It was a brutal array that left the Thunder stunned. The Heat outscored the Thunder 48-32 in points in the paint. James was a monter reason why.

Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant were gifted a jump-shooting James in Game 1, only to find in Game 2 a James engaged and raging in the paint. It was Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk. And when Serge Ibaka blocked James in the first quarter, James turned around and got two driving layups on him, one on a fly-by, another with a pump-fake, putting the brakes on and watching Ibaka Top Gun on by.

The Thunder were caught in a bad situation. Switch and put a big on him, he bursts past. Put a wing defender on him in isolation, and he muscles inside. But more than that is this. James isn’t settling anymore. He took one bad shot late going for the dagger. But when his team needed him to make plays, he put on his hard hat and went to the paint. This is bad for the Thunder, bad for the league, bad for anyone up against him.

You can survive James when he’s doing the all-around game. But a LeBron James motivated and engaged in creating shots close to the rim, with that kind of athletic set?

That’s the stuff of nightmares. And it’s the stuff of a tied series going back to Miami.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.

D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks during a news conference to discuss the controversy with teammate Nick Young before the start of the NBA game against the Miami Heat at Staples Center March 30, 2016, in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Did anyone ever fire up NBA 2K9 back in the day, decide to be the soon-to-be-champion Lakers, look at a roster with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom then say “I’m going to be Luke Walton”?

D'Angelo Russell says he did.

The Lakers young point guard has praised the new Laker coach at every turn — Russell and Byron Scott did not get along, the point guard is much happier now — and that includes talking about Walton’s playing days to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”

Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.

Jackson has a point.