LeBron’s Game 7 history shows he needs help for Heat to advance

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Monday night is just number four. For some reason it feels like LeBron James has been in more Game 7s in his career, but there have been just three. Two came with the Cavaliers, one with the Heat last season.

And if you are going to draw one conclusion from those three games and extrapolate it ahead to Monday night’s Game 7 between the Heat and Pacers it is this:

LeBron needs help if the Heat are going to win.

In Miami’s three wins against the Pacers they have averaged about 21 assists, in the three losses it is 13. There are two parts to an assist — making the pass and the guy who gets the pass knocking down the shot. In Miami’s wins LeBron dishes, the ball moves and guys like Udonis Haslem hit shots. But in the losses the shots don’t fall from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so LeBron takes on more himself and the Heat become easier to defend.

That was the case in LeBron’s other three Game 7s.

May 21, 2006: Pistons 79, Cavaliers 61: LeBron had 27 points on 24 shots against a good Pistons’ defense, but the rest of the Cavaliers combined to shoot 22 percent for the game (9-for-41). That was a Cavaliers team that had LeBron and then Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas as the next two scorers, it really was the LeBron show. Those Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals where they fell to the eventual champions Dwyane Wade and the Miami Het.

May 18, 2008: Celtics 97, Cavaliers 91: Again LeBron had a monster game — 45 points on 29 shots. Again only one other Cavaliers player was in double-digits, Delonte West with 15. The other Cavaliers shot 42 percent overall. The Celtics had balance — Paul Pierce traded shots with LeBron and had 41 points, but big men Kevin Garnett (13) and P.J. Brown (10 off the bench) were the difference.

June 9, 2012: Heat 101, Celtics 88: This win last year completed the Heat’s comeback from 0-2 down in the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron got help in this one — he had 31 points on 21 shots, but Wade had 23 and Shane Battier 12, and Chris Bosh chipped in 19 off the bench. The ball moved and they won — the good Celtics defense couldn’t stop the Heat offense that day.

June 3, 2013: Heat vs. Pacers: LeBron is going to need help. Look for him to try and get teammates involved early, but if things are not going right LeBron will take on more and more of the offensive scoring load. And when that happens the Pacers will be better able to defend Miami, and the spiral will continue.

But if other guys — especially Bosh, knocking down shots that force David West and Roy Hibbert out of the paint to contest his shot — get going, Miami will win. As a team.

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.

LeBron James on Lance Stephenson-drawn technical foul: ‘I gave him a little nudge, and he falls to half court. Come on’

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LeBron James and Lance Stephenson have met in 23 playoff games.

Stephenson has tried to agitate LeBron throughout all of them.

From the choke sign back when Stephenson was still a benchwarmer to the infamous ear blow to the tapping of LeBron’s face the next game, Stephenson has been relentless. And LeBron has mostly kept his cool.

But not last night.

Midway through the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers’ Game 4 win over the Pacers, Stephenson stuck close to LeBron as LeBron went to the Cleveland bench. LeBron pushed Stephenson away and received a technical foul.

LeBron:

I mean, I should never have gotten a tech in the first place. There’s a timeout called, and this guy’s following me to my bench. I gave him a little nudge, and he falls to half court. Come on. But I should know better. I should know better. I’ve been dealing with this since elementary. It’s like I tell you a joke – I tell you a joke and then you laugh, and you get caught. That’s what happened. Lance told me a joke. I laughed. Teacher caught me. Now, I’ve got to go see the principal. That’s what happened.

Stephenson earned that technical foul. He did just enough to bait LeBron, but too much where Stephenson would get a tech. Then, Stephenson exaggerated the contract.

LeBron got got, and he knows it.

He’s also probably savvy enough to remain on greater alert to Stephenson’s antics the rest of the series and avoid responding again.