Paul George and Roy Hibbert score Pacers’ first 29 points in loss to Heat

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Chris Andersen’s shoulder/stare down/shove of Tyler Hansbrough early in the second quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals distracted from another interesting development that followed. Once the dust settled, Hansbrough made one of two free throws granted due to Andersen’s flagrant 1.

Those were the Pacers’ first points scored by someone other than Paul George or Roy Hibbert.

George and Hibbert scored Indiana’s first 29 points in its 90-79 loss to Miami, and though they slowed as the game progressed, both turned in overall impressive performances that will unfortunately be forgotten in the wake of LeBron James’ dominance. George finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, and Hibbert had 22 points and six rebounds.

George and Hibbert have now scored scored at least 22 points three times each against the Heat in the playoffs. That gives them more postseason 22-point games again Miami’s typically sterling defense than everyone else combined (Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson and David West each have one.)

And Indiana doesn’t seem shy about continuing to feed its only All-Stars in the last four years.

They share the ball well, but in an effort to paint them as a foil to the superstar-driven Heat, the Pacers have been inappropriately hailed as a beacon of offensive balance. George and Hibbert accounted for 49 of the Pacers’ 79 points in Game 3 – 62 percent – a share of total points Miami’s top scorers haven’t hit since LeBron James scored 39 and Wade scored 27 of the Heat’s 99 points during a January win over the Lakers.

While Indiana was building a 29-25 lead on points from only George and Hibbert, George shot 6-for-8 and Hibbert shot 6-for-9. George Hill assisted three baskets, and George assisted another, but for a team that assisted 58 percent of its field goals during the regular season, four assists on 12 makes isn’t many. George and Hibbert were really creating a lot of their offense on their own.

Of course, some of it was fluky. George made 3-of-4 3-pointers in that span, and Hibbert made jumpers from 16, 10 and 12 feet. Indiana can’t count on that in the long run.

But Miami hasn’t shown sustained success in guarding either. Udonis Haslem got his chance on Hibbert, and he didn’t fare any better than Chris Bosh and Andersen before him. Nobody has shown the devotion to expending the energy necessary to defend George for long stretches.

Still, the Heat started double-teaming Hibbert and then double-teaming him effectively. They also made George put the ball on the floor more, and that can make him turnover prone.

The Pacers should feed George and Hibbert gain in Game 6 and make the Heat prove they can defend them. Miami showed glimpses of defending those two better, but George and Hibbert are still capable of producing at levels no other Heat opponent has shown this postseason.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter: ‘I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship’

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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When Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter jumped fully on board the pro-Russell Westbrook, anti-Durant bandwagon.

That ride doesn’t stop with his former teammate facing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

Kanter, via Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t like Golden State, so I want Cleveland to win the championship.

Kanter never misses an opportunity to take a shot at the Warriors – except when Zaza Pachulia laid out Westbrook and stood over him.

Dwane Casey: Masai Ujiri assured me I’ll return as Raptors coach

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Galit Rodan
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Raptors president Masai Ujiri didn’t mince words at his season-ending press conference: Toronto’s playing style had become unacceptable.

It sounded as if he might have been planting the seed for firing Dwane Casey.

But the coach says Ujiri assured him he’d return next season.

Casey on TSN (hat tip: Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic):

I think people mistook Masai’s comments for that. We had a good meeting before that meeting, and we’ve had meeting since then – with all the coaches – as far as plans for next year and the culture reset, which I think every corporation and every team should do periodically to get the culture back in focus and that type of thing. It’s not like we’re in total chaos or anything like that. It’s just good to have roles defined, things we can do better in each of our roles.

We’re doing some good things and some things we can do much better with. And that’s what we’ll plan on doing this summer and also this fall, when we go to training camp.

The Raptors’ offensive rating has dropped from regular season to the playoffs by 8.5, 7.2 and 11.7 the last three years. Their isolation-heavy style is just easier to stop when defenses see it in consecutive games.

The big question: What does Toronto do about that?

It’d be difficult to move on from the two players most responsible for the style, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. DeRozan is signed long-term, and if the Raptors don’t re-sign Lowry, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, they won’t have the cap space to land a comparable replacement.

The best bet is probably changing schemes from the bench and hoping the players can adjust – and maybe Casey can handle that responsibility. Hiring a new coach obviously would been the clearest path to a shake up, but maybe Casey can evolve. I’d want to see a plan from him before committing to keeping him, but maybe Ujiri got that.

Casey has played a key role in Toronto’s improvement, it’s nice to give him an opportunity to coach differently before hiring a different coach.

Kevin Durant: Don’t blame me for Nets, Magic and other teams stinking

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For the first time in NBA history, the NBA Finals will feature the same matchup for three straight years.

Among those responsible: Kevin Durant, who sunk the title-contending Thunder and gave the Warriors an even stronger grip on the Western Conference.

But don’t blame him for a lack of parity league-wide.

Durant, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“Like I’m the reason why (expletive) Orlando couldn’t make the playoffs for five, six years in a row?” he said. “Am I the reason that Brooklyn gave all their picks to Boston? Like, am I the reason that they’re not that good (laughs). I can’t play for every team, so the truth of the matter is I left one team. It’s one more team that you probably would’ve thought would’ve been a contender. One more team. I couldn’t have made the (entire) East better. I couldn’t have made everybody (else) in the West better.”

Some teams will always be better than others. The Magic, Nets and more were mis-managed before Durant left Oklahoma City.

But I’m not even sure this is the right debate.

Does the NBA even have a parity problem to blame on Durant?

Cleveland and Golden State aren’t traditional powers. Before 2015, the Warriors hadn’t won a title since 1975 and the Cavaliers had never won one. Their ascension is proof of parity – that sound management and a little luck can lift teams from the basement.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.