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.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.

Did Russell Westbrook really block a teammates shot to get ball back during Game 5?

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Well, this video plays right into the hands of the anti-Westbrook crowd.

The knock on Russell Westbrook‘s season-long triple double and MVP candidacy is that he is chasing stats, padding his numbers at the expense of efficiency and making the Thunder a better team. Basically, he’s looking out for himself and to heck with his teammates.

Which leads to this fourth-quarter video from Game 5.

It sure looks like Westbrook blocks Jerami Grant‘s shot to get the rebound (we only have the one camera angle here).

I would argue that this was just Westbrook being uber aggressive — the only way he ever plays — and he was going hard for the rebound and not noticing it was his teammate about to get the ball. Westbrook just wants the ball and gets it. But he also wants to win and would not have taken the ball out of Grant’s hands had he seen who it was in time to react.

Game 5 — where the Rockets eliminated the Thunder — was a microcosm of the Westbrook debate. Westbrook finished with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but was -18 in the 6:07 he sat. You can read whatever you want into those numbers.

Much like the video above.

Former Pacers’ star Danny Granger on Paul George: “you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana”

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There was a time when Paul George was an up-and-coming but raw young player on an Indiana team led by Danny Granger. It was when Granger went down injured that George was thrust into a larger role, where he thrived in the trial by fire.

Granger knows what it’s like to be the star player of the Pacers, and he knows George, so on Bill Reiter asked Granger his thoughts during an episode of CBS’ “Reiter Than You” and Granger’s answer was not what Pacers fans wanted to hear.

“You look at him in that press conference (after losing to Cleveland) and his face and the dejection on it – the guy wants to win. Money don’t make everybody happy, but winning and success and your craft, that does fill a void that a lot of these players have. So you can’t fault him if he leaves Indiana, I’ll tell you that.”

Oh, Pacers fans will fault him. Even if he’s traded.

Pacers’ decision maker Larry Bird isn’t going to do anything until he sees if George makes an All-NBA Team, because if he does Indiana can offer him the new “designated player” contract this summer worth around $80 million more guaranteed than any other team can offer. George will not walk away from that.

However, if, as expected, George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Bird is going to have to revisit the idea of trading George, who can be a free agent in 2018 — and the sense around the league is he will walk away at that point if the Pacers are not contenders. (There are a lot of Lakers’ rumors there, but whether George would leave a team where he is dragging lesser players to a low playoff seed and a first-round exit in Indiana for the same situation in his old hometown is up for debate.)

Bird isn’t going to deal George for pennies on the dollar at this point — think the Kings’ trading DeMarcus Cousins — but if some team comes through with a legitimate quality offer of young players that can help jump start the rebuild in Indiana, he may have to jump at it.

Either way, Granger is right that you can’t blame George for wanting to move on, but plenty of fans will anyway.

Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley keep trading insults in postgame press conferences

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Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley were having their war of words during Tuesday night’s close-out game that ended the Thunder season, and they both picked up technical fouls for it.

The two continued that postgame speaking to the media.

Westbrook was up first, and he was asked what happened between him and Beverley (see the video above).

“He was talking about he was first team all-defense, but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about because I had 42 at the time, I don’t know, maybe he was dreaming or some s—.”

You know the media was going to ask Beverley about that.

“He said no can guard me I’ve got 40 points, I’m like, that’s nice but you took 34 shots to get it.”

So, no Christmas card exchange for those two.

For the record, Westbrook finished the game with 47 points on 15-of-34 shooting, but he was 2-of-11 in the fourth quarter as he started to wear down. The Thunder were +12 in the 41:52 that Westbrook played, but were -18 in the 6:07 he sat to get rest. The game was almost a Rorschach test for what you think of Westbrook on the season — he wasn’t terribly efficient, but he carried OKC as far as he could, that just wasn’t as far as James Harden could take a superior Rockets’ team. If you were in the Harden (or Kawhi Leonard) for MVP camp, you can point to the inefficiency and the end result. If you’re team Westbrook you can point to the raw numbers and what happened in the limited time he sat.

Also, Beverley is going to make an NBA All-Defensive team. If he doesn’t make the first team, that’s more about the time he missed due to injury (and a good field of guards who can defend) than his play.

Beverley has the advantage now of being able to turn his attention to how to defend Tony Parker (or maybe Mike Conley), as the Rockets are advancing to the next round.