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).

Report: Mavericks have “Animal House” predatory work environment; team investigating

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The overdue wave of pushback against sexual harassment and predatory practices against women in the workplace, and the #metoo movement, which has toppled many powerful men, has come crashing down on the Dallas Mavericks.

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim and Jessica Luther have released a lengthy expose looking at the business and game operations side of the Dallas Mavericks organization, and the picture of a Mad Man-esque old boys club is damning. While some of the detailed instances date back seven years, part of the point of the article is that the culture continues.

“It was a real life Animal House,” says one former organization employee who left recently after spending roughly five years with the Mavs. “And I only say ‘was’ because I’m not there anymore. I’m sure it’s still going on.”

(Former team president and CEO, Terdema) Ussery, who left the Mavericks in 2015, was hardly alone. Interviews with more than a dozen former and current Mavericks employees in different departments, conducted during a months-long SPORTS ILLUSTRATED investigation, paint a picture of a corporate culture rife with misogyny and predatory sexual behavior: alleged public fondling by the team president; outright domestic assault by a high-profile member of the Mavs.com staff; unsupportive or even intimidating responses from superiors who heard complaints of inappropriate behavior from their employees; even an employee who openly watched pornography at his desk. Most sources did not want their names used for a variety of reasons including fear of retaliation and ostracization and limits imposed by agreements they signed with the team.

While sources referred to the Mavericks office as a “locker room culture,” the team’s actual locker room was a refuge. Says one female former senior staffer: “I dealt with players all the time. I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people. Then I’d go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete shitshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”

The Mavericks hired an independent investigator to look into the issues, both specific allegations in the story — such as domestic abuse by former Mavs.com writerEarl K. Sneed which was allegedly ignored (he has been fired in the wake of these revelations) — and the business-side culture. The Mavericks also released a statement that said in part:

The Mavericks organization takes these allegations extremely seriously. Yesterday we notified the league office and immediately hired outside counsel to conduct a thorough and independent investigation. The investigation will focus on the specific allegations related to this former employee, and will look more broadly at our company’s workplace practices and policies. In addition, an employee whose job was to receive and investigate such complaints and report them accurately and fully, has been suspended pending the conclusion of our investigation.

In a separate matter, we have also learned that an employee misled the organization about a prior domestic violence incident. This employee was not candid about the situation and has been terminated….

We are committed — to our employees, our team and our fans — to meet the goals of dignity, security and fairness that define the Dallas Mavericks.

Mark Cuban, the very prominent Mavericks owner, told SI he knew nothing of this. He said while very hands-on and active on the basketball side of the operation, he let his CEO and other executives run the business side. The report said that the head of Human Resources was very aware of the problem but did nothing about it (he has just recently been fired over all of this). Cuban told SI he had no idea.

“…this is brand new to me. Brand new, relative to when you started looking into it. Brand new to somebody’s assertions and questions you’ve asked. Brand new to me. It’s wrong. It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone. I mean, I literally, I can’t tell you how many times particularly since all [#metoo] stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director ‘Do we have a problem? Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?’ And the answer was no. I asked him again today. Have we done exit interviews like you refer to? Has anybody said anything? Are there any indications that maybe there was something out there and we didn’t pay enough attention to it? No, no, no, no, no, every time.”

“I want to deal with this issue,” Cuban told SI. “I mean, this is, obviously there’s a problem in the Mavericks organization and we’ve got to fix it. That’s it. And we’re going to take every step. It’s not something we tolerate. I don’t want it. It’s not something that’s acceptable. I’m embarrassed, to be honest with you, that it happened under my ownership, and it needs to be fixed. Period. End of story.”

Did Cuban not know? He always portrayed himself as very involved, as a guy who was on top of the little things in the organization, but he missed this? Did he not want to know and looked the other way because the revenue numbers were good from the business side?

The NBA released this statement:

“The Dallas Mavericks have informed us of the allegations involving former team president Terdema Ussery and Mavs.com writer Earl Sneed. This alleged conduct runs counter to the steadfast commitment of the NBA and its teams to foster safe, respectful and welcoming workplaces for all employees. Such behavior is completely unacceptable and we will closely monitor the independent investigation into this matter.”

Ussery denied the allegations, saying there were no charges were filed against him.

This is a massive black eye for the league — the NBA has cultivated an image as the most progressive and inclusive of the professional sports leagues in America. This blows it up. Dallas is also not the only team rumored to be facing potential serious sexual harassment issues on the business side.

Expect Adam Silver to come down hard on the Mavericks as an example — he has to both send a message to other teams and to the world that this is not okay. What he might do really depends on what the future investigation finds, but this isn’t going to be some little tampering slap on the wrist fine. This is about the image for the league and Silver fiercely protects that.

Watch all the best dunks from the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend

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Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell edged out Larry Nance Jr. in the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk competition, but the back-and-forth between the two young players was not the only source of thunderous jams over the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend.

There was of course renewed interest in the All-Star Game itself as it was more competitive than it had been in years past. Was this because of the new roster format, or simply because players wanted to get some extra coin in their pocket? In either case, the game still gave us a few dunks to add to the highlight reel.

And of course, who could forget about Mitchell’s off-the-backboard dunk in the Rising Stars Challenge?

While many of us look to the All-Star break to be a bit of a respite in the middle of the season, this year’s festivities game us quite a bit to talk about and that’s outside of who got snubbed from each roster. Yes, this All-Star season gave us a grip of dunks to pore over, and added some needed levity mid-February.

You can watch the full video released by the NBA of the best slam dunks from the entire weekend above.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says doctors told him his knee needs more rest

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is the franchise cornerstone for the Milwaukee Bucks, but even as the Greek Freak has continued to grow his game on an NBA floor, that doesn’t mean he’s been immune to the injury bug.

Antetokounmpo has dealt with a few small knee issues in recent memory, causing him to miss EuroBasket in 2017. He’s also sat a few games this season to rest his knee.

It now appears that Antetokounmpo has a simple reason for his knee ailments: too much basketball.

Speaking to a reporter with Eurohoops TV, Antetokounmpo said that doctors told him he needed to rest his knee a little bit more and play less basketball. That includes not practicing so much in the offseason and taking a load off when he can during the season to get his rest and recuperation in.

Via YouTube, starting at the 1:30 mark in the video above:

Eurohoops TV: What do the doctors say?

Antetokounmpo: The problem is that I play too much.

Eurohoops TV: It’s not another issue, right?

Antetokounmpo: No, it’s just that I have to rest more. This summer I had no time to rest. After the playoffs I went straight to the gym. I went to see Kostas and practiced for about a week and a half with him. I didn’t have any rest, and that’s how, um … the situation deteriorated. After this season I will have time to rest.

Antetokounmpo is playing a career-high 37 minutes per game for the Bucks this season. Even with the benefit of youth and offseason PRP injections, guys like Antetokounmpo do need to be careful they don’t overuse joints which can never fully be prepaired to their previous state.

Good to hear he’s planning on getting some rest this offseason. What with the 2017-18 NBA season having been blasted by injuries, many of us just want to see the stars healthy.

Bucking trend, NBA television ratings up both nationally, locally

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Traditional television ratings are down across the board — in sports, but also in dramas and comedies and just about every other category across the board. More and more people are cutting the cord, and even for people who still pay for cable/satellite, there are countless more options and streaming choices like Netflix that divide the marketplace. That’s why the people trying to pin the NFL’s rating declines on political issues miss the point — America’s most powerful sports league is not immune to market trends.

The NBA, however, is bucking the trend.

From The Business Sports Journal.

Nationally, NBA games on ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT are showing double-digit viewership increases. The combined 15 percent jump puts the league’s TV viewership at its best mark heading into All-Star weekend since the 2012-13 season.

Locally, regional sports networks are seeing a 7 percent increase in ratings so far this season. SportsBusiness Journal analyzed ratings data for 27 U.S.-based teams across the NBA. Seventeen RSNs showed increases; 10 posted decreases. Information for Memphis, Utah and Toronto was not available…

Overall, local NBA games on NBC Sports’ RSNs have seen a 16 percent jump this season. NBA games on Fox’s RSNs are up 5 percent.

The NBC regional sports networks are seeing a massive boost in part because of Boston, which has seen an 82 percent jump in ratings this season.

This is good news for the NBA, which recently signed a massive new television deal with its primary partners, ESPN/ABC and Turner Broadcasting.

Why the increase? Likely a number of factors. One, the NBA has a strong crop of young stars — and those stars are engaging fans on social media. The NBA also embraced technology and other media in a way other sports did not — you can see any NBA highlight you want on YouTube, try that with the NFL. The NBA was more willing to change with the times, but that still doesn’t fully explain why a sport with a younger demographic — more cord cutters — is seeing its ratings rise.