Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Four

Wild game ends with too much Hibbert for Heat to stop, series tied 2-2


This was a wild ride.

From a fast 11-0 start by a Pacers team playing with desperation, to LeBron James having another monster game including an insane block of George Hill at the rim. From Lance Stephenson providing an offensive spark and hitting ridiculous threes, to some ridiculous calls from the referees.

But with the game tied 89-89 and 3:28 left, the Pacers relied on the one thing Miami has not been able to consistently stop — Roy Hibbert. First he had a putback of a Paul George miss. Next possession Hibbert missed a righty hook over Chris Bosh but grabbed his own offensive board, went back up and drew the and-1 foul. Next Pacers possession Stephenson missed but Hibbert was there for another tip in. Seven straight Pacers points by the 7’2” big man that has towered over the Pacers wins.

Indiana won 99-92, tying the series up at 2-2. This is now a best of three where each team has won on the other’s home court. Game 5 is Thursday night back in Miami.

Indiana did a much better job on LeBron James in this game, throwing a number of different looks at him and not letting him easily establish himself on the low block (where he hurt them so much in Game 3). LeBron could never get comfortable and shot just 8-of-18, with a game-high 24 points.

But when the defense focuses on him other Heat players need to step up, and on Tuesday night that was spotty. Dwyane Wade had 16 point on 15 shots and looked grounded by his knee. Chris Bosh was 1-of-6. Ray Allen was 4-of-13. The only guy who really stepped up at all was Mario Chalmers who had 20 points on 14 shots.

Miami shot 39 percent for the game. That is not going to get it done.

Especially since they can’t seem to stop the Pacers’ offense, which is really the story of this series.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Indiana was the 19th best offense in the NBA averaging just 101.6 points per 100 possessions this season, but Tuesday night they had an offensive rating of 120. For the series now they are up to 111.3 points per 100 possessions. That would have been the best in the league during the regular season (besting the Heat’s 110.3). Indiana has stepped up their offense, found ways to score on the Heat, and that is by far the biggest surprise of this series.

While Indiana raced out to that early 11-0 lead the Heat had come back and taken a small lead by the middle of the quarter. For the rest of the game things were pretty close, although it often felt like the Pacers were playing better and just couldn’t pull away. It was a one-point game at halftime, 49-48, despite the fact the Pacers shot 50 percent to Heat’s 39.5 percent. Miami was hanging around but not knocking down the shots they needed (they were 1-14 in first half from midrange).

Indiana also withstood the Heat charges. Miami went on a 9-0 run early in the third quarter, hitting 5-of-7 shots to open the third. But Indiana answered back with 10-0 run of their own with Paul George dishing and David West knocking down midrange shots.

Hibbert finished with 23 points and 12 boards but he got the kind of help from his teammates LeBron did not — 20 from Stephenson, 19 from George Hill and a solid 14 from David West.

The crucial question for Game 5 will be one we didn’t expect to ask — can the Heat stop the Pacers?

Andre Iguodala’s flopping game is in midseason form (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

The Golden State Warriors “superteam” is clearly still a work in progress, it’s going to take them some time this season to iron out the kinks. Most of which were on the defensive side of the ball.

But Andre Iguodala‘s flopping game is in mid-season form.

Kawhi Leonard came off a screen and reaching out his hand grazed the… um, midsection of Iguodala. There was light contact. But it’s the delayed reaction sending him into the first row that could earn Iguodala an Oscar.

If the league deems that a flop, Andre Iguodala will get a warning from the league. If he gets a second one over the course of the season, that will cost him $5,000. Iguodala is making $11.1 million this season.

It’s time: Russell Westbrook looks to fill void after Durant’s exit

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4), head coach Billy Donovan, guard Russell Westbrook (0) and center Steven Adams pose for a photo during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Getty Images
1 Comment

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — There were few indications before August that Russell Westbrook would be so willing to be the hero downtrodden Thunder fans needed.

For years, the sometimes combustible Westbrook toiled in Kevin Durant‘s shadow. He often was viewed as the talented, selfish player who was as likely to get in Durant’s way as he was to make a winning play. His flashy style seemed at odds with small-market Oklahoma City so when Durant, who seemingly was a better fit in OKC, left for rival Golden State, fear that Westbrook would bolt for a larger market increased.

He didn’t. He chose to re-sign with the Thunder and now that he has answered the call, it’s time to deliver.

“We know a few things about Russell at this point,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. “He’s going to bring his lunch pail every day. He’s going to compete. He’s going to inspire. He’s going to show great conviction and courage to his teammates, to the city, to the organization. And from there, we have to figure out how that comes together.”

That trek begins Wednesday in Philadelphia when Oklahoma City officially tips off the post-Durant era in its season opener against the 76ers.

Westbrook is now the unquestioned leader of the Thunder and player folks behind the scenes knew – the thoughtful, humble, giving man – has more readily come to the surface. He has gone to great lengths to connect with Thunder fans in recent months.

Among other things, he unveiled his new line of True Religion clothing near downtown Oklahoma City and he attended an Oklahoma home football game against Louisiana-Monroe wearing a custom-made Sooners jersey. When he was introduced to the crowd before the Thunder’s preseason home opener, he got the kinds of cheers normally reserved for a return from injury.

Westbrook seems more at ease on the court, too. His preseason play seemed more effortless than electric, with an occasional flourish.

“I want the team to play how they want to play,” Westbrook said. “I mean, it’s not totally up to me how we play. You have to adjust to the team you have and adjust on a night-in, night-out basis on how you want to play. You want to play fast some nights and you want to play slow. I think it depends on the game, on the situation, who is on the floor.”

He is poised to put up astronomical numbers this season as he tries to keep the Thunder among the NBA elite.

Last season Westbrook averaged 23.5 points and career highs of 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds. He posted 18 triple-doubles, the most for a player since Magic Johnson had 18 during the 1981-82 season. The two-time All-Star MVP and former scoring champion could do more damage without Durant, but the Thunder don’t want too much pressure on him.

“I think we have to be able to play in a way that’s not just relying on him to do everything and create every single shot, whether it’s him making the shot or making the play for another guy,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said.

Westbrook already has left an impression on his new backcourt mate Victor Oladipo, who was acquired in the trade that sent defensive enforcer Serge Ibaka to Orlando.

“After working with Russ, I can see the intensity in how serious he was about his craft,” Oladipo said. “But one thing that I realized that after guarding him for three years – I can see why he’s so effective at what he does. I definitely stole that from him, and I’m going to take it and run as fast as I can with it.”

How Oladipo and the rest of the Thunder do in keeping up with Russell will determine how much success the team will have. Oklahoma City is no longer considered the team to beat in championship conversations, and that’s fine with Westbrook. He said the team embraces the underdog role.

“I love it,” he said. “I love it, man. I think it’s a great challenge, not just for myself, but for our whole team. I think just from talking to the guys throughout the summer, they understand that. They want to win. They want to get better.”

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP .

Memphis’ Chandler Parsons says he’s playing 5-on-5, hopes to be on court soon

Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons poses for a picture on NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. Parsons signed with the Grizzlies in July. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Leave a comment

When the Memphis Grizzlies get their full starting five on the court, that lineup is going to be a handful.

But the Grizzlies enter their opener Wednesday night likely without Tony Allen and certainly without Chandler Parsons.

Parsons is being brought along slowly following his latest knee surgery, but in an update on the team’s Twitter account notes he is now playing 5-on-5 and hopes to be on the court “soon.”

Parsons also says he hasn’t lost a step. We may need to see that before we fully buy in.

Memphis needs him — and Allen — on the court as soon as possible. While their starting five can be a force, there is not a lot of depth on the Grizzlies’ roster. Plus Parsons provides the floor-spacing shooting and second shot creator the Grizzlies desperately need.

Charles Barkley: Klay Thompson is a better player than Kevin Durant


You know the NBA season is back when Charles Barkley is just talking out his… er, saying ridiculous things.

On Inside the NBA before the tip off of San Antonio thrashing Golden State, Barkley said then tried to defend the idea that Klay Thompson is a better all-around player than Kevin Durant. It was vintage Barkley — and it’s what makes the barbershop feel of Inside the NBA must-watch television every week.

The flaw in Barkley’s argument is that he tries to use the “two-way player” argument to try and balance out Durant’s and Thompson’s offensive contributions. Is Thompson a better defender than Durant? Yes. Even though people underestimate Durant’s defense a little, I will stipulate Thompson is a better defender. But does that defense make up for how much more offensive versatility and shot creation Durant brings to the table compared to Thompson? No. Again, Thompson is an excellent offensive player and probably the second best shooter in the game, but he does not create shots or force a defense to adjust the way Durant does. KD’s amazing offense tips the scales more than Thompson’s defense. KD is the better overall player.

And The Jet is way too quick to dismiss Kawhi Leonard as maybe the second best player in the league. But Leonard made his case just after these comments.