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).

Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard is back, but Spurs have work to do fitting him in

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. We’re coming to you a little later in the morning in than usual due to the breaking news about the 2021 All-Star Game going to Indiana.

1) Kawhi Leonard is back with the Spurs, but loss to Mavericks shows they have work to do fitting him in. There were moments when Kawhi Leonard looked like his fearsome self Tuesday night: Tipping a rebound to himself then knocking down a midrange jumper off it, draining a pull-up three in transition, hitting some runners as he attacked off the pick-and-roll. Leonard was back, a bit rusty as one would expect, but had 13 points in 15 minutes against the Mavericks on Tuesday night.

That was the good news. Leonard also showed a lot of rust, as is too be expected, and he didn’t play after midway through the third quarter after he hit his minutes limit near 15.

There’s going to be an adjustment period on offense. Through the first 27 games of the season, everything flowed through LaMarcus Aldridge while he was out there. Gregg Popovich promised Aldridge over the summer they would use him more and in spots where he was more comfortable, but that was easier to do when he was their best player on the floor. Now Aldridge and Leonard — and the rest of the Spurs — have to figure out a new dance. That will take a little time.

The good news is the Spurs racked up so many wins to start the season, they have plenty of cushion to lose a few — like to a feisty Dallas team on Tuesday 95-89, in a game where the Spurs offense looked out of synch for long stretches — and be just fine. As always, Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are looking at the big picture.

2) Young Knicks, Lakers put on a show in Madison Square Garden. Knicks win in overtime. ESPN trained its cameras on the rising stars of the NBA Tuesday night — and those teams have been the most entertaining ones this season. We know that the Warriors and Cavaliers will be playing late into May (and probably June), but both are picking their spots right now.

The Lakers and Knicks are trying to figure it out and get better every night. There’s an energy around teams like those two (and Philadelphia, who we get to in our third thing) that we don’t see from the big guns right now. These teams are just fun to watch, and they put on a real show in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, a game that went to overtime before the Knicks pulled out the win. There was Kyle Kuzma‘s three to force OT, Lonzo Ball looking more and more comfortable ( 17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), Knicks rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina not looking like a newbie with 13 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds, and finally there was a whole lot of Kristaps Porzingis, who dropped 37 points and had five blocks on the night. The end of the game was just back-and-forth entertainment.

The Lakers aren’t making the playoffs, and the Knicks could but likely will not stick around long if and when they do, but during the regular season teams like these on the rise are the fun ones to watch.

3) Joel Embiid dropped 28 and 12 on the Timberwolves, but Game of Thrones theory is more interesting. I think Joel Embiid is right about Game of Thrones… oh, wait, we should probably talk about basketball first for a bit. Embiid is really good at that, too.

Embiid went head-to-head with Karl-Anthony Towns in a showdown of the best young bigs in the game Tuesday, and Embiid came out on top. Towns finished the night with 19 points (6-of-16 shooting) and 16 boards, but Embiid dropped 28 points (also on 16 shots) and had 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Plus, Embiid led his team to the win (with a little help from J.J. Redick‘s 25).

Now on to the important stuff. ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne — a big Game of Thrones fan herself — talked about the HBO cultural phenomenon with Embiid during a car ride interview she did with him.

“I’ve studied the whole show,” he says, and it’s clear to Embiid that Kit Harington’s character, Jon Snow, will not end up on the Iron Throne.

“That’s what everybody thinks is going to happen,” Embiid says. “But the whole show has been that you don’t know what’s going to happen. Jon Snow will not be the king.”

The show seems to be pointing toward some kind of Daenerys Targaryen/Jon Snow power sharing structure when it ends after next season, but Embiid is right in that what the show does is not reward the characters that the audience likes or thinks will do their jobs well. Just ask Ned Stark… well, you could ask him if his head were still attached. There are some serious twists still to come. Personally, I want to see Sansa Stark on the throne with Arya Stark next to her, but that’s not going to happen either. Which is the best part of the show.

Embiid is right — Game of Thrones trolls its fans. And Embiid knows trolling, so I trust he’s right on this.

Report: Indiana to host 2021 NBA All-Star Game

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You knew Indiana was serious about hosting the All-Star Game when it made Larry Bird cram his 6’9″ frame into an Indy Car — built for much smaller men — and drive five blocks down Fifth Avenue in New York to deliver the city’s application directly to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

It worked.

For the first time since 1985, the All-Star Game is headed to Indianapolis, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Adam Silver is in Indiana for a 4 p.m. (local time) press conference where this will be officially announced. It’s done.

Indianapolis can handle this, no problem, it got rave reviews (from media members I spoke to, at least) when hosting the Super Bowl and NCAA Final Four. It also brings the All-Star Game to the coolest NBA building, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

A number of other cities — Houston, Orlando, and San Francisco among them — had been in the running for the 2021 game.

The 2018 All-Star Game next February will be in Los Angeles. After that, it heads to Charlotte in 2019, then Chicago in 2020. It looks like the game will stay in the Midwest for the following year in 2021.

Kristaps Porzingis went off against Lakers: 37 points, 5 blocks (VIDEO)

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I’d say the Lakers didn’t have any answers for Kristaps Porzingis Tuesday night, but no team has an answer for Kristaps Porzingis when he is on.

And he was on vs. the Lakers: 37 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots. He also hit five triples (on just eight attempts). Check out the video above.

Despite all that it took overtime against an improving Lakers team to get the win for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers asked LaVar Ball to pull back on criticism of Luke Walton

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There’s so much transparent marketing happening with LaVar Ball that it’s often not worth the server space to type up what he says and post it. The father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is so breathlessly unexciting in his pitch for relevance in comparison to the actual happenings of the NBA, the irony of which is not unnoticed here.

Still, Mr. Ball has infrequently stepped out from his professional Uncle At a Barbeque cosplay to criticize the Lakers and coach Luke Walton. Mr. Ball has made it clear he thinks Lonzo should play more often, and in fourth quarters. That hasn’t been productive for either side, and it appears that the team has asked Mr. Ball to pull back on openly criticizing Walton.

According to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the team and Mr. Ball met to discuss their relationship in November.

Via ESPN:

The meeting, which took place within the past few weeks, was called by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.

LaVar Ball confirmed the meeting took place, telling ESPN, “It was the best thing, man. Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down. It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.

“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization. Because if everybody winning, we good.”

“I’m going to say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it,” Ball said. “And they said, ‘LaVar, come and talk to us first.’ So that’s fine too.

“But I am going to say, to plant a seed, ‘Let’s look for this now.’ They may not want to hear that, but it’s going to be successful if you listen to what I’m saying on that fact that I know what it takes for my son to run like this.”

Mr. Ball’s influence on his son is unique, but the team is far more than an avenue for Lonzo to play basketball. Indeed, Lonzo is not even one the best two or three players on the Lakers. The organization needs to function at a professional level and doesn’t need Mr. Ball to achieve that. Sidestepping any Whataboutism in the face of sketchy NBA decisionmaking — Phil Jackson, the Bulls front office, any Billy King trade, Isiah Thomas, etc. — it’s not immediately clear that Mr. Ball agrees.

It’s got to be a hassle for Walton to have to deal with this type of thing. The team started enforcing an existing rule a rule recently that stops members of the media from congregating in the same area where NBA friends and family are after a game, but it’s unlikely that will stop reporters from ambulance-chasing Ball any time soon.

Lonzo has remained in LA, which is exactly what Mr. Ball wanted when his son went to UCLA. The younger Ball has struggled a bit, but he’s part of an energetic young core that’s on the up in a tough conference. Lonzo is even leading the team in assists. But Mr. Ball persists in stepping where he’s unqualified, presumably as a means to continue his guerilla marketing campaign (or perhaps motivated by it). LaVar doesn’t realize his work is done — Lonzo is a Laker — and he should let 16 championship trophies in the No. 2 TV market in the country take it from here.

Instead, Mr. Ball produces the most boring and uninspiring stories week after week. This is the league where major free agents break their legs in the first five minutes of play with their new team, where MVPs sign with the best team of all-time after they’ve already won a championship, and where the best player of all-time gives you a crucial chasedown block in Game 7 of the Finals. Nothing Mr. Ball can do will ever be interesting in the grand scheme of the NBA.

Meanwhile, the Lakers and the New York Knicks actually played a pretty wild OT game on Tuesday. If only that were what we could all concentrate on.