Pacers get the win over Heat to force a Game 7

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In a series that’s been as close and competitive throughout as possible, and where neither team has been able to beat the other twice in a row, it’s fitting that it’ll be decided by a Game 7.

The Pacers dominated defensively and dominated inside, and held off a late rally by the Heat to earn the 91-77 victory that evened the series at three games apiece.

The problems for the Heat in Game 6 were very similar to the ones they faced in Game 5 — Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh continued to be massively ineffective, and LeBron James (along with some random role players) struggled to keep Miami close without the contributions they’ve been accustomed to receiving from the Heat’s core players.

Wade and Bosh combined for just 15 points, on 4-of-19 shooting.

Credit the Pacers defense for some of that, especially where Bosh is concerned. Indiana’s size has been giving him fits all series long, and this one was no different. With Wade, it’s another story. He’s giving the Heat all he has physically, but it’s nowhere near the level he’s capable of when fully healthy. Add in the fact that Miami doesn’t have anywhere else to turn in terms of its bench unit for consistent point production, and you get this 77-point result.

Miami actually held a one-point lead at the half, thanks in part to 14 points from James. But more important was the three-point shooting that kept the Heat close — the team was 7-of-9 from three-point distance in the first half, but just 9-of-34 inside the arc. That’s how crushing Indiana’s defense was inside.

The third quarter played out as the opposite of the one we saw in Miami in Game 5. While LeBron took that one over by coming out and scoring 16 points in the period to win the game essentially all by himself, the Pacers used a stifling team defensive attack to ignite their offense in Game 6, and built a lead of as many as 17 points.

The Heat would not go quietly, however, and went on a huge run to get as close as four with 5:53 remaining before the Pacers stabilized. Miami attacked the basket on seemingly every possession during that stretch, helped by a big effort from the seldom-used Mike Miller off the bench. Miller hit consecutive three-pointers, and came up with some key rebounds and a steal while the Heat were attempting their furious comeback.

But it all fell apart for Miami on the next few possessions. A missed defensive rotation resulted in Paul George getting a look at a wide open three from the top of the arc that he calmly drained, and then David West got an offensive rebound and a dunk to quickly push the lead back to nine.

Then, for the first time all series long, LeBron drove the ball hard to the basket while Roy Hibbert was waiting for him at the rim inside. James went up and challenged Hibbert, and the two collided in the air chest to chest. But LeBron was whistled for the offensive foul, either because he led with his knee in a way similar to what Shane Battier had done against Hibbert earlier in the series (though not nearly as egregiously), or because he led with an elbow or forearm that the officials thought to be too much.

Either way, the ensuing reaction from James was to sprint the length of the floor in disbelief, which received a technical foul from the officials. A Heat assistant coach picked one up as well, and after all was said and done, the Pacers lead was back to 13 and the game was essentially finished.

James finished with 29 points on 21 shots, and the only other Heat players in double figures were Wade and Mario Chalmers with 10 apiece. Hibbert and George were the scoring leaders for the Pacers with 24 and 28 points respectively, but the team advantages in points in the paint (44-22) and rebounding (53-33) were really what pushed Indiana into the win column in this one.

Game 7 is set for Monday night in Miami, and after watching these teams battle so hard for six straight games, we shouldn’t have expected anything less.

Reports: Lakers, Pacers both confident in tampering case

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The Lakers reportedly expect to be cleared of the tampering allegations brought by the Pacers over Paul George.

As for the Pacers?

Bob Kravitz of WTHR on The Rich Eisen Show

They feel very strongly that there were correspondences between Lakers executives and Paul George’s representative. They had heard those rumors for quite some time. They think there’s some there there.

Wishful thinking by both sides? It sure looks like it.

The Lakers probably tampered, because everybody tampers. But teams are rarely punished for it, so they can also believe they did nothing egregious enough to become an exception.

A paper trail between the Lakers – Magic Johnson or any other executive – and George’s camp would go far. But even that must be more specific. George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Lakers forward Julius Randle and former Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell. So, he’d have good reason to communicate with the organization.

I don’t know what the NBA will do here. Tampering rules are rarely and arbitrarily enforced. That gives each team plenty of room to believe it’s right.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?