LeBron’s triple-double, game-winner in overtime lead Heat to Game 1 win over Pacers

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The Pacers gave the Heat all they wanted in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but in the end, the game’s best player — along with some questionable coaching strategy down the stretch — was too much for Indiana to overcome.

LeBron James finished with a triple-double line of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, and hit the game-winning layup as time expired in overtime to give the Heat the 103-102 victory.

For most of the game, the Pacers dictated the tempo, and were able to impose their will defensively. It was a physical contest that was defended well by both teams throughout, and the referees called it tight. There were a combined 25 first half turnovers, with only four total fast break points over the first two periods.

David West carried the load offensively for Indiana in the first half with 18 points, and Hibbert was strong inside with 11. Paul George had only two points at the half, but emerged for a superstar-level performance the rest of the way, finishing the game with 27 points.

Miami began to find its offense a bit in the second half, but could never gain much separation. The Heat’s biggest lead was just five, and the Pacers seemed to be able to answer each time Miami made its push.

In a game that was largely a back-and-forth affair throughout, it was perhaps fitting that the teams traded shots at the buzzer to end the fourth quarter and the overtime session.

At the end of regulation, with the Pacers down three with possession and the seconds ticking away, George first passed up a decent look at a three, before getting the ball back from West and rising up to bury the shot from more than 30 feet out to tie the game and send it to the extra frame.

Once we got to overtime, that’s where some questionable rotation decisions from Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel came into play, and had many second-guessing his choices afterward.

In a decision to matchup with the Heat’s small lineup where they were playing Chris Bosh at the five, Vogel removed rim protector Roy Hibbert with a little more than 10 seconds remaining. James seized the opportunity, and once he got the switch and had George Hill defending, he took off toward the rim past Hill for the layup which was far too easy given the time remaining and the game situation.

With the Heat leading by two, George was fouled on a three-point attempt by Dwyane Wade with 2.2 seconds remaining. There was certainly contact, but it was an iffy call at best that the referees usually let slide. George sank all three free throws, putting his team up one.

On the game’s final possession, Vogel once again took Hibbert out of the lineup. The ball was inbounded to James, and George was out of position defensively, so James drove left right by him and to the rim for the uncontested layup as time expired.

Tough one for the Pacers to lose like that, considering how well they played throughout. They won’t be satisfied with any type of moral victory, obviously, but they can at least be assured that they seem to have plenty of favorable matchups in this series that should allow them to compete closely with Miami as they did in Game 1 — a game that undoubtedly, the Pacers feel like they could have won.

Dwyane Wade yanks Justin Anderson to ground, Anderson responds with blow to Wade’s back while falling (video)

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There should be no place in the game for potentially injury-causing moves like Dwyane Wade yanking Justin Anderson‘s arm and pulling him to the floor. That’s not an appropriate response to Anderson’s (perhaps overly) physical defense.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson – who delivered a blow to Wade’s back while falling – received additional punishment beyond the double technical fouls issued during the 76ers’ Game 3 win over the Heat last night.

Hassan Whiteside frustrated he’s a non-factor for Heat again

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MIAMI (AP) — Hassan Whiteside‘s numbers are down. He’s trying not to be the same way.

Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series was difficult on many levels for Miami’s center. He was in foul trouble throughout, finished with only five points and was largely a nonfactor in his team’s 128-108 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night.

Whiteside has a total of 11 points in three playoff games this season, after averaging 14 points in the regular season.

“It’s just different, man. I feel like our offense is a lot different,” Whiteside said. “I’m not involved in as many dribble-handoffs as I was and post-ups as I was during the regular season. That’s what Coach wants. Coach wants me to just be in a corner and set picks. I mean, that’s what he wants so I’ve just got to trust it.”

For his part, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s trying to find ways to get Whiteside involved.

“That’s part of my job, is to figure it out,” Spoelstra said.

The Heat trail the series 2-1, with Game 4 on Saturday afternoon. Whiteside finished with only one field-goal attempt in Game 3, an alley-oop lob from Dwyane Wade that got turned into a dunk in the fourth quarter, seconds before Whiteside was taken out of the game for good. He had a bad turnover shortly before the dunk, and Spoelstra sent Kelly Olynyk to the scorer’s table almost immediately after that miscue.

“I want to get more minutes out there,” Whiteside said. “I’m going to keep trusting Coach’s decision-making. Even with the fouls I still could have been out there. I wouldn’t have fouled out.”

Whiteside played only 13 minutes – five minutes in the first quarter that ended with his second foul, 2 1/2 minutes in second that ended with foul No. 3, 3 1/2 minutes in the third that led to foul No. 4, then two minutes in the fourth where he had two turnovers.

Meanwhile, 76ers center Joel Embiid scored 23 points in his return after a 10-game absence to recover from surgery to repair a broken left orbital bone.

“They run enough plays for him that he’s going to get his numbers,” Whiteside said. “I don’t really get caught up in that. He lives a big-man’s dream. He gets the ball, he gets the post-ups, he posts up every other play and they pretty much run a lot of stuff through him and Ben Simmons.”

Whiteside’s inference was clear: He’d love to get that many touches.

He was asked how he can contribute in this series, and paused before answering.

“I’m trying to figure that out right now,” Whiteside said. “I’m trying to figure it out. I guess I’ve got to crash, try to score off offensive rebounds maybe, keep running the floor and try to get alley-oops. But other than that, it’s a lot different than the regular season. It’s a lot different.”

Report: Stan Van Gundy to meet with Pistons’ owner next week

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After a disappointing 39-43 season that has the Pistons sitting at home watching the playoffs — even after trading for Blake Griffin mid-season, — the sense around the league is that coach and GM Stan Van Gundy is going to lose one if not both of those titles. He’s expected to no longer be the team’s president of basketball operations, whether he stays on to coach the team is another question.

The meeting where Van Gundy’s fate is decided will come next week, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN.

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy have set a meeting for next week to discuss Van Gundy’s future with the franchise, league sources told ESPN.

The two had initially planned to sit down late this week, but the meeting was pushed back, leaving the Pistons organization to await word on how, if at all, the franchise’s structure could be altered.

Feuling the speculation on Van Gundy’s status is the fact that former super agent Arn Tellem works for the Pistons on the business side. He was brought in to help transition the franchise to the new building where it plays in downtown Detroit, but with that done the sense is Gores will give him a different job, running the basketball side.

If he loses his GM title, would Van Gundy stay on as coach?

Whoever sigs in the big chair has his work cut out for him. With that Griffin trade, the Pistons are basically capped out. Making changes to the current roster will not be easy.

Report: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.