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.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.