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

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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.

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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?

Kevin Durant admits after decision to leave OKC he felt “f—— up”

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Anyone who has made a major, life-changing decision has been there — you make the call, take the steps, commit yourself to the new plan, and then start to wonder “what did I just do?”

Hopefully, usually, the decision works out. It did for Kevin Durant when he chose to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State. However, not only did he have the normal doubts the rest of us had, he had a nation on basketball Twitter ridiculously slamming him for “taking the easy way” to a title.

Durant talked about it in a feature in San Francisco Magazine, along with his agent Rich Kleiman (a story mostly dedicated to KD’s tech investments, which in and of itself is interesting).

(Durant) and Kleiman were in China for a weeklong tour of the country sponsored by Nike Basketball, and the flak he was taking from people in Oklahoma City who had once professed deep affection for him was overwhelming. “To have so many people just say, ‘F— you,’ that really does it to you,” Durant tells me, still clearly anguished. “Because I truly had invested everything I had into the people I played for…. And for those people that I know and love and trust to turn their back on me after I was fully invested in them, it was just…more than I could take. I was upset….

“That was before I met anybody from the Warriors and dove into the culture. I was basically on my own,” Durant says. “It was like you were in between two teams.”….

“We were all messed up on jet lag,” Kleiman says, turning to me, “and I was up at 6 a.m. and he calls me and says, ‘Yo, are you up?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And he’s like [yelling], ‘Why the f— did you let me do this to my life?’ And I’m like, ‘Ohh s—, I’m coming over to your room.’”

“That hotel was rock bottom,” says Durant.

Durant’s haters will read into this whatever they want, and the world should look at them and shrug (unfortunately, Durant does not).

I’m impressed that he opened up about this. To me, this makes him more human and relatable because we’ve all had doubts after making a life-changing decision. You know LeBron James has, but he’s not going to let that show. Durant allowed himself to be vulnerable, to show this was not an easy decision for him. It was emotional.

Granted, it’s easier to do that when in a few weeks Durant will put on a championship ring. His decision worked out. Still, good on him for talking about it.

Tyronn Lue says Cavs will stick with LeBron, Love, Tristan Thompson as starters

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With the acquisition of Jae Crowder, a theory started to pop up among Cavaliers observers: Could they go small?

The idea is to start Kevin Love at center, LeBron James at the four, and Crowder at the three — that’s a mobile front line with a couple good defenders and the ability to switch a lot. It provides more options on offense and spaces the floor. Then the Cavs could bring Tristan Thompson off the bench.

That’s not going to happen, at least to start the season, according to Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, speaking to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Right now we’re just trying to get all of our pieces together and right now Tristan’s our starter,” Lue told cleveland.com. “I’m just thinking we’re going to run a lot more stuff through Kevin, more at the elbows, like we’ve done the last year and a half. Just trying to figure out with our new pieces and our new players and just see what works best for us.”

Thompson brings value and defense to the starting lineup, Cleveland needs that.

I could see a lineup of Isaiah Thomas (once healthy), J.R. Smith or Kyle Korver at the two, Crowder, LeBron, and Love working in sort of the way Steve Kerr uses his “death lineup” — just put it on the court for 10-15 minutes a night as a change of pace teams can’t adapt to. Use it in key moments to pull away, and in crunch time as needed. Golden State starts Zaza Pachulia, and Thompson is certainly the better of those bigs.

Lue has a lot of rotation decisions to make this season, both before Thomas gets back on the court and after. How to work the trio of Jeff Green, Crowder, and Kover off the bench is just one of them. With Irving gone a lot of options become available, and that should mean a lot of experimentation the first part of the season. Lue is and should be willing to sacrifice some wins now to see what works down the line, because for the Cavaliers the season doesn’t really start until mid-April.

Kevin Durant on Twitter fiasco: “That was just me being a total (expletive) idiot”

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A couple of days ago, Kevin Durant got into it with a fan on Twitter but used a third-person voice that made it look like he was on another, separate account where his identity was protected. He didn’t hold back going at one of the many fans who have come at him saying he took an easy path. It was a poor choice by Durant.

Tuesday at a Tech Crunch event, he owned up to it, saying what he did was “childish.. idiotic.”

KD went further speaking to Sam Amick of the USA Today after the event.

“I played a little too much, and that (expletive) really hurt me,” Durant… told USA TODAY Sports afterward. “To know that I affected Billy Donovan and the Thunder – like I love those people and I don’t never (want to hurt them).

“That was just me being a total (expletive) idiot. I own up to it. I want to move on from it. It probably hit me probably harder than what everybody (thought). Everybody else was telling me to relax, to snap out of it, but I was really, really upset with myself more than anything. It’s not the fact that people were talking about me, because I deserve that, but I’m just more upset with myself that I let myself go that far, you know what I was saying? It was a joke to me at first. I was doing it all summer, and it went too deep. I went too hard… I haven’t slept in two days, two nights. I haven’t ate. It’s crazy, because I feel so (expletive) pissed at myself and I’m mad that I brought someone into it.”

Durant went on to say he tries to treat the NBA like a playground game, so he can still feel the joy of the sport. Interacting with fans online is just another form of trash talk, he said, then added he let it go too far and said things he regrets.

Durant heard a lot of trash talk coming his way after he left Oklahoma City. Not quite LeBron James leaving Cleveland levels, but plenty. The mature thing to do might be to let this go, because he’s got a ring now. Maybe post a picture of him with the Larry O’Brien trophy and say “for the haters:” and leave it at that. In an NBA world where championships impact legacy (too much, I would argue) he has one now. He will get more in the next few years. He won. So don’t sweat the small stuff.

But that’s not what Durant did. Now he’s going to hear about it for a long time. No matter how much he apologizes, says how bad he feels, and explains himself.

Goran Dragic retiring from Slovenia team after Eurobasket win

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — NBA guard Goran Dragic has confirmed he is retiring from the Slovenia team that won the European basketball championship.

Dragic says on Tuesday, “I achieved what I wanted, the gold medal, and this is the right time to bid farewell.”

The 31-year-old Dragic led Slovenia with 35 points to beat Serbia 93-85 in the final on Sunday in Istanbul, earning the MVP award.

He says Slovenia’s qualifying campaign for the 2019 world championship will start in November, and it would be impossible for him to play due to his professional duties with the Miami Heat in the NBA.

Tens of thousands of jubilant Slovenes greeted the new European champions on Monday in the capital of Ljubljana.