Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Two

PBT Live Blog: Heat overwhelm Pacers 99-76, advance to NBA finals

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END OF GAME: Miami wins 99-76, they advance to take on the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Game 1 Thursday night in Miami.

Indiana had a fantastic season, they are a young and growing team that will learn a lot from this. Paul George and Roy Hibbert had coming out parties on the national stage. Hopefully people will realize how good this team is now.

For Miami it is on to the next step and a different but equally big test to repeat as champs. Their aggressive style will get a real test from the veterans and great ball movement of the Spurs.

Fourth quarter, 2:17: Flo Rida’s manager also was ejected by the refs for talking. Seriously. He was courtside and got tossed for chirping at the refs. Classic

Fourth quarter, 2:17: Jeff Pendergraph and Norris Cole have both been ejected after a little altercation. Pendergraph set a moving screen, Cole ran into him but nothing out of the ordinary, but then Pendergraph just shoved Cole. Both were tossed but all Cole really did was make a stance like he wanted to fight but didn’t do anything. Maybe he said something.

Fourth quarter, 2:35: The question we are asking, “Can the Spurs really match the Pacers blueprint?” Which was a variation of the Bulls blueprint.

Fourth quarter, 5:01: Dwyane Wade comes out to a standing O also. 92-68 Heat.

Fourth quarter, 5:01: LeBron comes out to a standing ovation.

Fourth quarter, 5:30: LeBron has scored or assisted on 14 of the Heat’s last 19 points. He is not taking his foot off the gas. 

Fourth quarter, 5:43: Norris Cole hits a three off a LeBron kickout. Miami 6-14 from deep. When LeBron gets help….

Fourth quarter, 7:43: Paul George fouled out. The guy had a monster season (won Most Improved Player) and then for five of the first six games this series he played Lebron James as well as can be expected. He gave them a chance. This guy is growing into an elite player before our eyes and it is fun to watch.

Fourth quarter, 10:52: Heat 79-61. At this point it’s just a march to the end. We can start talking about the amazing ugly hat Justin Bieber had on (1984 Nets looking thing that said Heat).

Fourth quarter, 10:52: Gerald Green is in the game for the Pacers. Not quite the white flag, but close to it.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Free throws Heat 23-of-24, Pacers 11-of-17. That is not the refs, that is one team being more aggressive going to the rim. Aggressors get the calls in the NBA.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: LeBron drives with two seconds left, draws foul number five on Paul George and hits his free throws. Pacers end quarter 0-9 shooting. It’s 76-55 Miami at the break.

Third quarter, 1:48: I’d said on NBC Radio today I thought this could be a Heat blowout (but that if it was close the Pacers pull those out). They were at home, with the best player, and an ability to find another gear. The Pacers are a young, learning team that will come back better next year. 72-53 still.

Third quarter, 2:09: Offensive foul on Roy Hibbert, his fifth, and he sits. He essentially pinned Haslem down with his arm. Miami comes down and attacks the paint, Wade bucket makes it 72-53 Miami.

Third quarter, 3:10: Steve Kerr makes a good point — like you say about why playoff hockey is different than regular season, the Heat couldn’t play with this kind of energy for 82 games. But when they turn up the defensive intensity like this they are very hard to beat and they can do it for a game or three.

Third quarter, 4:09: Problem for Pacers is they are a grinding team, not a team built to run off a quick 12 points and jump back in a game like this. They need to start their run soon.

Third quarter, 4:47: Dwyane Wade has 5 offensive boards, the entire Pacers team 3. That’s not good for Indy.

Third quarter, 4:47: Another aggressive Miami backcourt trap forced George Hill to call a timeout. 66-49 Miami, they are just running away with it.

Third quarter, 5:34: Apparently David Beckham and Justin Bieber can afford courtside seats for this game.

Third quarter, 6:04: Miami defense still looks sharp and active. 61-49 Heat.

Third quarter, 7:50: Chris Bosh with 8 rebounds, Roy Hibbert 5. And Bosh just blocked a West shot.

Third quarter, 8:21: High screen and roll, both defenders go with roll man Udonis Haslem and leaves LeBron James open for three. Not a sound defensive strategy. 59-45 Miami.

Third quarter, 10:40: Pacers look more settled to start second half. Question is can they get enough stops — and stop turning the ball over — to get back in it… and as I type that they turn it over. 56-44 Miami.

HALFTIME: Scoring leaders at the half: Miami has LeBron James at 18, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen with 10 each; Indiana has more balance with David West at 10, Lance Stephenson at 8 and Roy Hibbert just 4. Pacers shooting 43.3 percent, Heat just 40 percent. Pacers with 15 turnovers, two offensive rebounds. Miami with 5 turnovers, 9 offensive boards.

HALFTIME: Coming into this series the question was “can the Pacers score enough on Miami to stay in games?” For five of the first six games, they blew that theory out of the water — offensive rebounds and free throws helped fuel a much better than expected offense. They got the ball inside and worked inside out. In Game 7 Miami got back to being aggressive, they doubled the post (Hibbert and West) and the Pacers offense has come apart.

HALFTIME: Miami wins the second quarter 33-16 and leads 52-37. Pacers shot 43.3 percent and had 15 turnovers. Bad, bad combination, but credit a very aggressive Heat defense for some of that.

Second quarter, 1:12: Hibbert picks up his third foul and goes to the bench. Miami much more aggressive going at him this game.

Second quarter, 1:27: Pacers with 2 offensive rebounds on 15 missed shots, 13.3 percent. When they have won this series they have been close to 40 percent and gotten a lot of easy putback dunks.

Second quarter, 2:56: Ray Allen hits another three, he starts 3-3 from beyond the arc. That’s huge for the Heat. He hits another and you can count on a shot of his mom in the crowd (they always do that, and she will have on some serious bling).

Second quarter, 3:31: David West with an And-1 bucket and when the Pacers starters get back on the court they play better — the starting five has been good, it’s the bench that hurts them. 44-34 Heat, with LeBron going to the line.

Second quarter, 4:11: Note to Paul George, you may want to stick with LeBron James when he cuts to the run. Just an idea. 41-32 Heat.

Second quarter, 5:15: Heat on 11-2 run with Hibbert and George on the bench. Coincidence? I think not.

Second quarter, 5:53: Chris Bosh three point shot makes it 39-29 Miami. Heat are doing it with aggressive defense and the Pacers look tight now.

Second quarter, 7:05: It’s now 13 turnovers for Pacers, for those of you scoring at home.

Second quarter, 8:22: Ray Allen 3, missed airball by Indy, then a LeBron alley-oop. Crowd into it now. 33-27 Heat. Hibbert and George on the bench for Indy.

Second quarter, 10:07: Now up to 11 Pacers turnovers. Problem is that has created cross-match problems that the Heat are able to exploit at the other end. Pacers are shooting 50 percent… when they hold on to the ball.

Second quarter, 10:07: Ray Allen hits three, next trip down Mike Miller does. That is huge, when the Heat can space the floor they are impossible to defend. 28-25 Heat.

Second quarter, 12:00: Heat leading points in the paint 12-6. Pacers 3-6 from three to balance that out.

Second quarter, 12:00: Chris Andersen missed a tip in at the end of the first quarter. Birdman’s streak of made shots ends at 18. And there was much weeping.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: 21-19 Indiana. Miami is shooting just 28.6 percent but they have taken 13 more shots than the Pacers due to 9 Indy turnovers and some offensive rebounds.

First quarter, 0:24: Another turnover, 9 now. Heat are shooting terribly but in it thanks to turnovers.

First quarter, 1:00: Standing ovation for Chris Andersen from the crowd.

First quarter, 1:00: The Heat aggressive defense and the careless Pacers lead to turnovers and Heat buckets. Eight first quarter Indy turnovers, 20-19 Indy.

First quarter, 2:22: Chris Bosh started 1-6 shooting. Pacers up 19-15.

First quarter, 3:43: All season long the Heat overwhelmed teams with their athleticism on traps and cutting off passing and driving lanes. They struggled to do that to the Pacers all series, but doing it tonight. LeBron on Paul George.

First quarter, 4:16: LeBron James putback dunk puts Heat up 15-14. Miami being aggressive on the glass, which is key. Indy must win the game in the paint to win the game. Also, stop the turnovers.

First quarter, 5:21: 14-11 Indiana. Heat doubling the post hard and force a Hibbert turnover. That is 4 early turnovers for Pacers.

First quarter, 6:55: LeBron draws foul on Roy Hibbert when he attacks. Heat need more of that.

First quarter, 7:07: Heat open shooting 3-11, Pacers go on 7-0 run to take 12-6 lead. Usually at the start of games sevens guys are tight, Miami is for sure. Pacers get their buckets closer to the basket, impacts them less.

First quarter, 8:00: Wade and Bosh miss their first two but each hit their second shot. Hill three a good sign for Pacers. Heat had pulled back on pick and roll coverage last two games, being aggressive tonight.

First quarter, 8:30 left: Sorry folks, after some technical issues we are going to the live blog format. Join in the comments. We are live from Casa de Kurt tonight in the LBC (watching on TV like you).

Video Breakdown: How Kyle Lowry dismantles NBA defenses from 3-point range

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Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry is arguably the team’s best player thanks in large part to his increase in 3-point shooting ability this season. He’s just above 43 percent from deep this year, much better than his career average of 36 percent. Lowry has increased his 3-point percentage six points over last season, and he’s a big part of why the Raptors are so good on offense, and why they’re a contender in the Eastern Conference.

So how does he do it?

Watch the full video breakdown on Lowry’s 3-point shooting above, or read the text version of the article below.

Early Offense

I looked at a lot of tape of Lowry over the last 3 years and he hasn’t changed much on his shot mechanics. There’s no big change in his sweep or sway toward the basket when he shoots, and he still brings the ball up from his left side.

Part of his leap is be how quickly he’s getting his shots off and how many of his early offense field goal attempts come in the form of 3-pointers.

Lowry has bumped up how many 3-pointers he’s taken in the early offense, recorded here as between 24 and 15 seconds on the shot clock. Year-over-year he’s taken nearly eight percent more of his field goals as three pointers in this range.

This takes form on the court in a couple of ways, both in transition on the fast break and on quick 1 or 2 dribble pull ups off the pick-and-roll.

Transition

With the ball in secondary transition here, Lowry gets a quick screen from DeMarre Carroll to open him up for a 3-point bucket against the Hornets. And that’s still with 18 seconds left on the shot clock!

Pull-up and off-the-bounce jumpers

The other way Lowry scores quickly is off the dribble, with quick pick and rolls. Toronto is great at screen assists — picks leading to an immediate field goal — and have three players in the Top 50 and two in the Top 10 in setting them.

Here, the Celtics defender cuts off Lowry’s attack to the middle of the floor. The screener sets up to Lowry’s right, but then quickly flips it to his left. One dribble, and it’s an easy 3-pointer.

Here against Portland, the Raptors run a two screen setup with one wing and one post. The Blazers make the switch and try to blitz Lowry, but he stays resilient and sinks the bucket with what little space they allow him anyway.

Working with DeMar DeRozan

The other thing that’s been talked about a lot is the gravity of DeMar DeRozan, who himself is having a career year for the Raptors. While Lowry is making a ton of unassisted 3-pointers this year, the Raptors point guard does benefit from DeMar.

Part of that is how good they are in transition together.

Here you can see DeMar bringing the ball up the court with Lowry in front of him. He sets the screen, then fades to the arc. Three Utah Jazz are trying to stop DeRozan, and Lowry is left all alone.

When he’s not the primary ball handler on the break, Lowry will immediately get out to the wing. DeRozan has a way of finding him to get up quick Js.

Of course, in good old set plays the Raptors see this gravity effect as well.

Here Toronto is running another double screen with a guard and a post, but Lowry is one of the screeners. At this point, all three Heat players are guarding against DeRozan’s midrange jumper, leaving just enough daylight for Lowry.

Toronto is also third in the NBA in “hockey” or secondary assists, which means two or more passes leading to a made field goal.

On this baseline out of bounds play, again it’s DeRozan’s gravity that frees up Lowry. As the ball is inbounded, DeRozan sucks three warriors defenders with him, including Lowry’s. Meanwhile, Kyle is running down the baseline to get a bucket off a pass on the opposite side of the floor. All the raps have to do is rotate the ball.

So that’s a little bit on why Kyle Lowry has been so good. It’s been about shot selection, decisiveness, and some practice in addition to the effectiveness of his teammates.

It’s official: Steve Kerr will coach West in All-Star Game

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 16:  Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors stands on the side of the court during their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at ORACLE Arena on January 16, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Steve Kerr likes a good meal, and while he might like some time off more he can at least find good food in New Orleans.

Kerr will be heading there mid-February to coach the West in the All-Star Game (Feb. 19 on TNT). That because official Monday night when the Rockets lost — the Warriors will have the best record in the West of Feb. 5 (the cutoff date). Kerr coached the All-Star Game two years ago, but not last season because of an NBA rule saying the same coach can’t do it in consecutive years (it fell to Gregg Popovich).

This is the same Steve Kerr that over the weekend called the way the players’ treated their All-Star votes was a “mockery.” He was right. Enough players took it seriously that the final selections were very good (the players had Russell Westbrook and James Harden ahead of Stephen Curry, for example), but players cast votes for 283 different players. To be All-Star starters. The 10 best players in the game. There were a lot of joke votes in there, such as the ones for Ben Simmons (who has yet to step on a court this season). There was a vote for Mo Williams. You get the idea.

Kerr likely will be matching wits — if you can call rolling the ball out there for the All-Star game that — with Dwane Casey of the Raptors. Tyronn Lue of the Cavaliers coached last year, so he gets a weekend off. Toronto is currently second in the East and have been there most of the season, although Boston is just 1.5 games back and Atlanta 2.5 back. It’s possible by Super Bowl Sunday that order changes and another coach gets to go have gumbo in New Orleans.

After another loss, LeBron James reiterates call to bring in more roster help

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James pauses during overtime in the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Cleveland. The Spurs won 118-115. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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Monday morning at shootaround in New Orleans, LeBron James played down the Cavaliers having lost four-of-six talking about the “process” and the “marathon” NBA season. He was keeping his eyes on the big picture, where the Cavaliers remain clear and away the team to beat in the East.

A few hours later his Cavaliers lost to the Pelicans. Without Anthony Davis. And the Cavs game up 124 points in the process.

After that, LeBron was once again saying the Cavaliers need some roster help. Via Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.

“We’re not better than last year, from a personnel standpoint … we’re a top-heavy team,” James said, adding a few minutes later, “I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization. I just hope we not satisfied. How hard it was to do that s—. I just hope we’re not satisfied….

“I don’t got no time to waste,” he said. “I’ll be 33 in the winter and I ain’t got time to waste. That’s what I’m talking about. … When I feel like physically and mentally, me personally, can’t compete for a championship no more or I feel like I can’t do it, then I won’t have this problem. But until that happens, and it don’t seem like no time soon…”

LeBron has been clear before he wants the team to add a playmaking backup point guard, where right now Kay Felder and DeAndre Liggins are being asked to play (which is why Kyrie Irving played 42 minutes against the Pelicans). Remember the Cavaliers decided not to pay Matthew Dellavedova last summer because Mo Williams was going to be their more affordable veteran reserve, then the day before training camp started Williams decided to retire (although the Cavaliers kept him on the roster and his salary has become quite the pawn).

It’s easy for LeBron to say “get another playmaker,” it’s another thing entirely for GM David Griffin to do it. The Cavaliers already have the highest payroll in the NBA and Dan Gilbert’s check with taxes this season will be north of $130 million.

The bigger issue is Cleveland has nothing of value to trade. After the Kyle Korver deal, Cleveland doesn’t have a first-round pick to move until 2021. The roster is also barren of guys the Cavaliers can move who will net anything of value — for example, Felder and  Liggins aren’t going to get a playmaker. The Cavs could offer up Iman Shumpert, but he’s starting right now (until J.R. Smith‘s return) and playing fairly well. And Shumpert may not be enough.

More likely, I expect the Cavaliers are hoping to find someone on the waiver wire after the trade deadline (or maybe before) that can help them. But help them how much remains to be seen.

LeBron may not like it, but he probably is going to have to make due with the guys he’s got in the locker room now. The Korver trade was probably the Cavs one big play.

Three things we learned Monday: Can Warriors, Cavaliers, Rockets all lose on one night? Yes.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in New Orleans. The Pelicans won 124-122.(AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
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Monday morning, a new edition of the PBT NBA Power Rankings come out. Monday night, four of the top five teams in the rankings lose. So, we’re feeling very smart. The only exception was the Spurs, who won despite Kawhi Leonard sitting out with a sore hand. Here’s what happened with the other upsets on a strange Monday in the NBA.

1) Anthony Davis sits, Pelicans still beat slumping Cavaliers, and LeBron James is ticked.
At shootaround on Monday, LeBron James said he wasn’t too concerned about the Cavaliers having lost four-of-six because he was about the process and his team improving over the course of the marathon season. He thought they were on the right track overall.

A few hours later his Cavaliers lost to the Pelicans. Without Anthony Davis. And after the game, LeBron was back to calling for some roster help. Via Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal.

“We’re not better than last year, from a personnel standpoint … we’re a top-heavy team,” James said, adding a few minutes later, “I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization. I just hope we not satisfied. How hard it was to do that s—. I just hope we’re not satisfied….

“I don’t got no time to waste,” he said. “I’ll be 33 in the winter and I ain’t got time to waste. That’s what I’m talking about. … When I feel like physically and mentally, me personally, can’t compete for a championship no more or I feel like I can’t do it, then I won’t have this problem. But until that happens, and it don’t seem like no time soon…”

The issue with the Cavaliers Monday was defense — New Orleans hung 124 on them, shot 41 percent from three, Terrence Jones had 36 points on 18 shots, Jrue Holiday finished with 33 points and 10 assists. Jones was getting it done on both ends.

The Cavaliers may need another playmaker thinking ahead to the playoffs and Finals, but Monday night they just needed to defend better, and they let a New Orleans team without its best player get too many shots at the rim. As for that playmaker, it’s not going to be that easy to get one — Cleveland’s trade cupboard is bare. After landing Kyle Korver, the Cavs don’t have a first-round pick to move until 2021, and most of the players they have they would willingly trade — Kay Felder or DeAndre Liggins, for example — aren’t going to get Cleveland a playmaker. The Cavs could dangle Iman Shumpert, but he’s starting right now (until J.R. Smith‘s return) and playing fairly well. And Shumpert may not be enough. I expect the Cavaliers are hoping to find someone on the waiver wire after the trade deadline (or maybe before) that can help them.

LeBron may not like it, but he may need to make it work with the guys in the locker room now.

2) Warriors take a vacation, end up on Waiters Island and pay the price in loss to Heat. The Warriors had won seven in a row — beating Cleveland, OKC, and Houston along the way — and they came into Miami looking for a little relaxation, some good Cuban food, and an easy win. Golden State took Miami (winners of three in a row themselves) a little lightly, let the Heat hang around and then…

Dion Waiters happened.

If you haven’t been watching a lot of Miami this year, Dion Waiters is still the guy you remember — he can put up points, but don’t expect him to do it efficiently. Especially if he has to create his own shot. Waiters is shooting 40.3 percent for the season with a 47.8 true shooting percentage (the league average is around 52).

But there are a couple of games a year when his poor choice midrange jumpers fall, and Monday night was one. Waiters shot 13-of-20 overall, many on difficult shots, which included 4-of-6 from the midrange and 6-of-8 from three. He finished with 33 points, but it was the pull-up three with the game on the line that was the big one and the game winner.

This was a night the Warriors just could not get the three ball to fall, shooting 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from deep. Combine that with a suddenly confident Heat team playing better and you get a Warriors loss.

3) Rockets defense has no answers for Giannis Antetokounmpo, so Bucks get win. Houston’s defense has been decent this season — they are ranked 15th in the NBA overall, and in the month of December it was sixth best in the league (when the Rockets went 15-2). Yes, Mike D’Antoni’s team is playing some defense.

Except not Monday night. The Bucks shot 58.8 percent as a team, and 11-of-23 from beyond the arc, dropping 127 on the Rockets and getting the win. Antetokounmpo had 31 points on 18 shots (nine of his points came in the final five minutes), while Jabari Parker added 24 points.

Turnovers also were an issue for the Rockets, with one-in-five trips down the court ending in one — including some bad live-ball turnovers that helped the Bucks at key points in the game.

Houston is not 3-5 in its last eight. Fortunately for them the Clippers are banged up and stumbling worse, so the Rockets will likely be able to hold on to the three seed. Just don’t dream of catching the Spurs (now three games up on Houston), especially if the Rockets don’t get this slump turned around soon.

• Bonus thing that made us laugh: Joakim Noah with worst free throw you may ever see. The best part of this video is how he knows it’s bad the second it leaves his hand.