Aggressive Heat defense, too much LeBron, Wade give Heat Game 7 win

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Miami simply has another gear no other team in the NBA can hit.

Like a top fuel dragster they cannot sustain it for long, but a couple times a series they can simply overwhelm you with their pressure, their athleticism, just take you out of your game and rhythm. They can just blow you out of the water for a quarter or a half, and teams just can’t recover.

That is what the Heat did in Game 7. After an ugly first quarter they outscored the Pacers 33-16 in the second quarter, the Heat’s pressure forcing a rash of Pacers’ turnovers, and the result was a 99-76 easy win for Miami.

The Miami Heat advance to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 1 is Thursday night in Miami.

Just a few numbers to give you an idea of how much the Heat dominated this game, particularly with their defense:

• Indiana turned the ball over on 23.1 percent of their possessions — one in 4.5 trips down the court. They had 21 total turnovers, 15 in the first half (they might have pulled away from the Heat early were it not for the turnovers).

• Roy Hibbert had 8 rebounds for Indiana, Dwyane Wade had 9.

• Wade had 6 offensive rebounds alone, the Pacers had 8.

• After having an offensive rating of 111.6 (points per 100 possessions) through 5 games of this series, they had 83.7 points per 100 in Game 7. Miami’s rating was 110.3 (which is close to their season average).

The defensive end is where the Heat’s energy and aggression really showed — they doubled in the post, they got hands in passing lanes, they crashed the boards and they took away any easy buckets for the Pacers. Then they converted the missed shots into transition points and turnovers. LeBron James guarded Paul George and put him in a straightjacket — 2-of-9 shooting for George. Miami got the pace they wanted, they forced the Pacers’ defense to cross-match and then the Heat exploited their advantages.

NBA Finals preview: Breaking down Spurs vs. Heat

“They taught us a lesson,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “They’ve been to the (Finals), they’ve won it all and they know how to ratchet up their defense to a level that just imposes their will on a basketball game.”

This was actually a close game through the first quarter, but with it a one-point game in the second quarter Frank Vogel say Roy Hibbert and Paul George at the same time, and the Heat went on an 11-2 run with those two sitting and once they got going it was over.

LeBron was LeBron — 32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists — but the key was he got help on offense. Dwyane Wade looked rejuvenated and had 21 points, he was attacking the paint and getting rebounds again. Ray Allen chipped in 10, including three three-pointers. Miami started knocking down outside shots on kick outs and when that happens they are impossible for even the best defense to stop.

This was a great season for the Pacers, and in the NBA players and teams need to learn how to win. These Heat had to lose in the Finals before they won. Heck, Michael Jordan had to learn hard lessons from the Pistons before he became an icon.

Heat rise to occasion in their biggest game of year

The Pacers got one of those lessons Monday night, and it’s not fun for them.

For the Heat, it’s just another step. They are going to need more out of Wade, they are going to need more out of Chris Bosh, they are going to need more defensive nights like this against a Spurs team that will not flinch under pressure.

But there still will be a game or two where the Heat can just overwhelm and impose their will. If you doubt that, ask the Pacers.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.