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.

LeBron James, making career-low 67%, pledges to shoot at least 80% on free throws in playoffs

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LeBron James is making a career-low 67% of his free throws this season.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“Yeah it’s killing me, it’s killing me,” James said

But I’ll be fine for the playoffs. For the rest of the regular season I’m going to end up shooting in the 60s, which is a career-low for me, but the postseason I’ll be up there in the 80s.

LeBron has never shot better than 78% in any regular season. He has only once eclipsed 78% in a postseason, shooting 81% in 2014.

If he could simply decide to shoot better from the line, why hasn’t he done it already?

That said, the Cavaliers look like they’re just biding their time until the playoffs. Their focus should increase, and LeBron’s free-throw percentage should rise with it.

But to 80%? Though I’ve learned never to count out LeBron, I’m skeptical.

Dwight Howard ate equivalent of 24 candy bars daily for about a decade

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Dwight Howard‘s love for candy is infamous, though in recent years he has talked more about healthy habits.

Just how much candy did he consume at his peak?

Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

By February’s All-Star break, it was time for a full-blown intervention, and Dr. Cate Shanahan, the Lakers’ nutritionist, led the charge, speaking to Howard by phone from her office in Napa, California. Howard’s legs tingled, he complained, but she noticed he was having trouble catching passes too, as if his hands were wrapped in oven mitts. Well, he quietly admitted, his fingers also tingled. Shanahan, with two decades of experience in the field, knew Howard possessed a legendary sweet tooth, and she suspected his consumption of sugar was causing a nerve dysfunction called dysesthesia, which she’d seen in patients with prediabetes. She urged him to cut back on sugar for two weeks. If that didn’t help, she said, she vowed to resign.

To alter Howard’s diet, though, Shanahan first had to understand it. After calls with his bodyguard, chef and a personal assistant, she uncovered a startling fact: Howard had been scarfing down about two dozen chocolate bars’ worth of sugar every single day for years, possibly as long as a decade. “You name it, he ate it,” she says. Skittles, Starbursts, Rolos, Snickers, Mars bars, Twizzlers, Almond Joys, Kit Kats and oh, how he loved Reese’s Pieces. He’d eat them before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner, and like any junkie, he had stashes all over — in his kitchen, his bedroom, his car, a fix always within reach. She told his assistants to empty his house, and they hauled out his monstrous candy stash in boxes — yes, boxes, plural.

Howard is 6-foot-11 and muscular, and he does strenuous workouts daily. He can handle far more food than the average person.

Still, dear lord, that’s a lot of candy.

This anecdote was part of Holmes’ fantastic story on peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches’ place in the NBA. I suggest reading it in full.

Report: Paul George wants to play with Gordon Hayward

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Paul George called this “one of the most frustrating seasons I’ve been a part of.” He bemoaned the Pacers’ place as “the little brother of the league.” He pushed back against Indiana fans booing their own team. He expressed frustration about being kept in the dark on trade discussions before the deadline. Just last week, he told Zach Lowe of ESPN the Pacers lack an identity.

This all ought to strike fear into the Pacers, with George headed toward free agency in 2018 and Lakers rumors swirling.

How does Indiana convince George to stay?

One possibility: Signing Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, who has a player option after this season.

Lowe:

George would love to play with hometown boy Gordon Hayward, according to sources

My best guess: George doesn’t have a particular affinity for Hayward, but just wants a better supporting cast, and Hayward – who was born and grew up in Indiana and played at Butler – appears more attainable than other stars.

But the Jazz are better than the Pacers and can offer more money. If he makes an All-NBA team, Hayward might not hit the market at all. If he does become a free agent, the Celtics – with former Butler coach Brad Stevens – loom as a bigger threat to poach the forward.

This is an extreme longshot and only raises more questions about what the Pacers can actually do to keep their superstar.

LaVar Ball rebuffs LeBron James’ warning: ‘They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing’

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LaVar Ball, father of highly touted UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, continued his media tour by discussing the difficulties LeBron James‘ sons will face due to the high expectations implicit with their dad.

LeBron didn’t like that one bit, saying: “Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth.”

LaVar Ball on Fox Sports Radio:

I don’t have a problem with LeBron.

It’s just how people, they asked me a question about, do I think superstar players’ kids are good? And just my opinion that I’ve never seen one that was really good. LeBron is going to make his kids probably one of the best players ever, according to him. Now, there’s going to be some outside opinions. I’ve just never seen superstars that have kids, because they have to live up to that – they don’t have to live up to it – but I’ve never seen none really live up to what their dad has done.

So, he could be the first or not or the last. So, like I said, it’s not about me having his kids’ mouth. I’m not worried about his family. I’m not worried about his kids. If somebody asks me a question I’ll answer it the way I feel like answering it. But I have nothing against LeBron or his kids.

So, they can go ahead and make them the best or make them the worst. It ain’t got nothing to do with me.

People just asking me questions. I’ve been talking all my life. It’s just now the cameras and the things are in front of me. So, I’m just saying, if people ask me something, I’m going to give you an answer, because I can have freedom of speech to say whatever I want. And it’s either going to be good or bad, and it’s just for conversation for the next day.

I don’t have nobody telling me nothing. I don’t have nobody telling me nothing. It’s just like people saying, “Keep my family’s mouth” – whatever they’re saying, I don’t care. They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing. If they take a little edgy edge on it and they get a little touchy because I answered something a certain way, who cares? They’re not going to do nothing to me. I’m not going to do nothing to them. So, it ain’t no big deal.

LaVar Ball’s inability to say the phrase “Keep my name out of your mouth” or any variation of it is poetic.

Some advice to LeBron: Don’t respond. You’ll get nowhere with someone who can say so much publicly about something he admits “ain’t got nothing to do with me.” The elder Ball is too attention-hungry to back down, and engaging him further will only serve his agenda.