Pacers' West, Stephenson and George react near the end of Game 3 of their NBA Eastern Conference final basketball playoff series against the Heat in Indianapolis

Heat send a message with blowout Game 3 win over Pacers

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The Heat didn’t only reclaim home court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals with a lopsided 114-96 victory in Indiana on Sunday — they sent a message. Miami rolled from the very start, and in doing so reminded us of just how dominant this team was all season long.

In the first two games of the series in Miami, the Pacers seemed to be an excellent matchup for the Heat, and were able to use their size and team defense to keep each of those contests within reach until the final few possessions.

It’s clear the Heat didn’t take too kindly to facing the prospect of falling behind in the series, and Miami flipped a switch that few teams are capable of in lighting up the Pacers for a Game 3 destruction.

Miami put a ridiculous 70 points on the scoreboard by halftime, and shot almost 63 percent from the field in the process. LeBron James took to the low post to score seemingly at will over Paul George, and even did so with the left hand on more than one possession. The Pacers as a team did fine offensively, but were missing in action on the defensive end all night long. They allowed Udonis Haslem to have the breakout game of the night for the Heat, and the veteran big man finished with 17 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes of action.

Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were solid as usual for the Heat, and Mario Chalmers was big in the third quarter when Indiana made a brief surge in an attempt to close the halftime deficit.

Miami shot 54.5 percent from the field for the game, and turned the ball over just five times. Most teams will end up winning by putting up those kinds of numbers, but if the Heat are allowed to roam that freely offensively, the result will be disastrous.

The Heat would like to remind you that that they haven’t lost consecutive games since early January, and haven’t lost on the road since March 27. To think they’d drop their second straight in the playoffs to this Pacers team was apparently laughable, given the way Miami imposed its will from the very start.

After the Pacers established a mountain of momentum in the first two games of the series, Miami erased it all with 48 minutes of unstoppable and brilliant basketball. The Heat’s performance was so dominant that it’s worth wondering whether the Pacers will win another game to slow Miami’s inevitable march to the Finals.

Indiana will do its best, of course, to throw this one out as being just another game. But the doubt that Miami planted firmly in the heads of the Pacers players with its crushing Game 3 performance should be substantial enough that if the Heat play anywhere close to the level they proved capable of on Sunday, this series will be over in five.

Philadelphia 76ers fans are celebrating wins by raising pet cats above their head

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Nothing is crazy in the world of sports, especially not traditions where you literally raise your pet cat above your head every time the Philadelphia 76ers win a basketball game. Nope. Not crazy. It’s simply part of #RaiseTheCat, a social media trend that has taken over Sixers Twitter.

Yup. Seriously.

It all started when 76ers rookie Ben Simmons shared pictures of his two Savannah cats on Instagram. They are gorgeous, expensive hybrid animals, and you know the Internet loves them a good ol’ cat.

🐯for those asking they are F2 Savannahs

A photo posted by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

Philadelphia has gone 8-2 over their last 10 games, and one Sixers fan decided to start a social media wave of his own after each W way back near the start of the season.

With the Sixers winning more games, there’s been more photos of cats to go around.

The trend has finally caught on, with other Sixers fans using the hashtag to proclaim their jubilee after the team wins.

And of course, Simmons himself had to finally join in:

I love Basketball Twitter.

(h/t SB Nation)

LeBron James considering return to US Olympic team under Gregg Popovich

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  LeBron James #6 of the United States celebrates after the Men's Basketball gold medal game between the United States and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) LeBron James says Gregg Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. Olympic team will be a factor in whether he plays in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

James has won two Olympic gold medals, but he skipped last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games to get rest after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship. On Saturday, James said Popovich “factors a lot” in his plans going forward with the U.S. team.

James was asked about Popovich, San Antonio’s longtime coach, before the Cavs hosted the Spurs.

James considers “Pop” the greatest coach in NBA history and called him a “great mastermind of the game of basketball.”

Popovich is replacing Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals.

Stan Van Gundy to Reggie Jackson: “We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio”

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It was rumored this week that the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves were mulling a trade that would send Ricky Rubio to Michigan and Reggie Jackson to Minnesota. Now, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy says that isn’t happening.

Nor was it a real offer that was even on the table.

In a video posted to the Detroit Free Press, Van Gundy went off on one of his classic fireside chats — the kind that involves profanity — on how he sees the NBA as it works.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

While the whole thing is worth watching for the Van Gundyness of it all, here’s the meat you’re looking for:

All these rumors and stuff look I mean know it’s fun for everybody and you’ve got some source somewhere and it’s also all bullshit. Im not denying that discussion — they take place all the time – -that’s a lot different than considerations. Somebody says ‘Hey would you consider Ricky Rubio for Reggie Jackson that discussion might have taken pace. And clearly we didn’t make that move. We wanted to see if they’d go [Michael] Gbinije for LeBron.

Van Gundy said he didn’t know if the specific Jackson-for-Rubio discussion even happened, saying that Pistons president Jeff Bower only brings him trades they are actively considering.

Meanwhile, Van Gundy confirmed that he did text Jackson after his agent made contact with Bower.

“This is the crazy season. We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio,” said Van Gundy about his text to Jackson.

Report: After fining Wizards, league issues memo warning teams on bench etiquette

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Courtney Lee #5 of the New York Knicks takes a three point shot in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The NBA league office fined Washington Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe $5,000 — and the team an additional $15,000 — for his role in distracting a New York Knicks shooter during a game this last week.

Now, the league has issued a warning to teams: make sure you’re practicing good bench etiquette, or we’re coming for your wallets.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams on Saturday reminding them to remain on their own bench in accordance with league rules. Obviously that means no stepping onto active basketball courts:

So what are coaches needing to confine themselves to?

Official NBA rules state simply:

The coach’s position may be on or off the bench from the substitution box line (closest to the coach’s bench) to the baseline. A coach is not permitted to cross the midcourt line and violators will be assessed an unsportsmanlike technical foul immediately. All assistants and trainers must remain on the bench. Coaches and trainers are not permitted to go to the scorer’s table, for any reason, except during a dead ball.

Like we see with preseason points of emphasis, it’s possible we see additional fines in the weeks to come. Several coaches enjoy toeing the line (literally) to see what they can get away with and how far out on the court they can stand. Tom Thibodeau immediately springs to mind.

Or, it could go the other direction. Perhaps we see more coaches sitting back, respecting their distance?

Hopefully we just don’t see any more of them trying to close out on opposing shooters.