Spurs'  Duncan and Heat's Battier battle for the ball during Game 1 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami

NBA Finals Game 2: Heat even series with 103-84 win

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This was a close game for most of three quarters — then the Heat went on one of their runs. It was 62-61 Spurs with 3:50 left in the third quarter and the Heat went on a 34-5 run that just blew the game wide open. The final score was 103-84 and the final five minutes of the game were “let’s let Shane Battier take some threes” garbage time.

Miami got some help for LeBron James — LeBron started 2-of-12 and finished with 17 points, but Mario Chalmers had 19 points, Ray Allen had 13, Chris Bosh had 12 and they got a complete team game.

The Spurs turned the ball over 16 times and Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker combined to shoot 10-of-33 on the night. That isn’t the Spurs, and it wasn’t all Miami.

:025 Fourth Quarter: Shane Battier hit a three. He laughed about it.

2:33 Fourth Quarter: This is garbage time now, with all that entails.

4:28 Fourth Quarter: Rashard Lewis now has a bucket in these finals. I thought you’d want to know. 98-71 Heat.

4:58 Fourth Quarter: Time to empty the benches, coaches. Yup, Battier and McGrady are now in the game.

5:37 Fourth Quarter: LeBron started the game shooting 2-of-12 but has gone 5-of-5 since then. That said he was right when he said it wasn’t about him doing more, it was his teammates stepping up that has been key.

7:43 Fourth Quarter: A lot of teams this kind of loss would bother them, but the Spurs are too veteran for that. They go home for Game 3 and will be their old selves again.

7:57 Fourth Quarter: LeBron blocks Splitter at the rim on a dunk attempt, which leads to a Ray Allen three. Next Spurs possession another turnover and it’s a LeBron open court dunk that has the crowd buzzing. LeBron woke up and this one is all but over. 91-67 Heat.

9:11 Fourth Quarter: This is what the Heat do — you think it’s close and with a couple minute run you are blown out of the building. Heat up by 19 and the people of Miami don’t need much of a reason to start the party early.

9:36 Fourth Quarter: This is when the Heat are so hard to beat — the Spurs have focused very hard on taking away transition baskets and putting a wall up in front of LeBron James, but when Chalmers and Mike Miller are scoring you are in trouble because you can’t be everywhere. 84-65 Heat now.

10:54 Fourth Quarter: Spurs start fourth with a turnover, next possession a Parker airball. 77-65 Heat.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Spurs had 5 turnovers in third quarter, 13 now for the game. I know what Gregg Popovich is going to be pissed about after the game.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: The play that was working for the Heat at the end of the third is LeBron setting the pick for Chalmers.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: 75-65 Miami Heat. Miami won the third quarter 25-20 behind 7 points from Chalmers and 6 for Bosh. The Spurs got 7 from Leonard.

:50 Third Quarter: Tony Parker pretty rainbow floater answered with Mike Miller three for Heat. 72-65 Heat.

2:22 Third Quarter: Another sloppy Ginobili turnover leads to a break and a Ray Allen 3. 67-62 Heat.

3:11 Third Quarter: LeBron 2-of-12 shooting tonight for 6 points.

3:11 Third Quarter: We were all expecting the Danny Green/Mario Chalmers show tonight, right? Green has 17 points, Chalmers 14, both lead their teams.

3:28 Third Quarter: Chris Bosh has 12 points, the last two on a little step back over Duncan. Duncan answered with a dunk. Chalmers and-1 drive makes it 64-62 Heat.

5:00 Third Quarter: LeBron picked up his second foul for a moving screen, except he wasn’t. 58-58 tie game.

7:17 Third Quarter: Danny Green’s 5 three ties him with Robert Horry for Spurs Finals record. Green is going to break that tonight. 56-56.

7:53 Third Quarter: Spurs get out on the break (5-2 because a bunch of Heat players fell), Heat defenders go to the paint, Danny Green goes to the arc and hits another three. 54-53 Heat.

9:06 Third Quarter: A lot of LeBron on the ball handler for the Spurs, Parker or Danny Green. Then he’s leaking out and had a couple fast break opportunities (missed one, fouled on the next). 54-46 Heat.

11:39 Third Quarter: Wade misses from in the paint, Parker gets the outlet and nobody stops the ball until he is at the rim, so Haslem fouls him. 50-46 Heat.

HALFTIME: Heat also 4-of-8 from three.

HALFTIME: Heat had 26 first half points in the paint on 13-of-22 shooting. They are attacking more.

HALFTIME: Heat 50, Spurs 45. Heat shot 51.2 percent and started to find some ways to score in the halfcourt offense. The Spurs are in this because they are 7-of-10 from three.

1:55 Second Quarter: On that last Green three, Heat assistant Fizdale tried to distract him by yelling and stomping his foot. Green nailed it anyway, then just smiled at him.

2:43 Second Quarter: Dwyane Wade gets away with a double-dribble to hit a runner in the lane. But the Spurs answer with a Danny Green three. 45-45.

4:40 Second Quarter: Ray Allen three answered by Tony Parker driving layup. 40-39 Spurs.

6:00 Second Quarter: Some people brought Eva Longoria face posters to waive at Tony Parker, but arena security took them away. I thought that was pretty creative.

7:11 Second Quarter: Ginobili with a three. Spurs also are bringing the double on LeBron in the post or anywhere really. 34-30 Spurs.

8:30 Second Quarter: Gloria Estefan in the house tonight. Just thought I’d mention that.

8:43 Second Quarter: Danny Green with nine points, Gary Neal with eight. They are a combined 5-5 from three.

8:43 Second Quarter: Heat defense on Parker much better with Norris Cole in, but the Spurs share the ball and a Gary Neal three ties this at 29-29.

10:41 Second Quarter: Manu Ginoblili with a couple mishandles and some sloppy play. He needs to step up for Spurs because Heat are starting to trap really hard on Parker to make him give up the ball. 27-24 Heat.

START OF SECOND QUARTER: Key to Spurs first quarter — they were 4-5 from three. Not going to stay quite that hot but they are getting good looks.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: We are tied 22-22. If I’m the Spurs I’m pretty happy, you cut out their transition points and LeBron only scored 2 points. They controlled the flow.

1:23 First Quarter: Chris Andersen with the dunk and the crowd goes nuts. They love him here. 20-19 Heat.

2:01 First Quarter: Bosh tips in a LeBron miss, but they got LeBron the ball in the post. Good move, he’s not been as engaged as usual so far.

2:49 First Quarter: Wade hurt himself a little on a loose ball scramble at midcourt. Something to watch, next possession Wade pulled up for a jumper rather than drive, and he missed it.

3:42 First Quarter: The Spurs were back but Chalmers just attacked in transition anyway and drew the foul hits both and Heat have first lead at 16-15.

4:10 First Quarter: Haslem with the and-1 layup and foul off a nice LeBron pass. 15-14 Spurs.

5:51 First Quarter: Two great Heat possessions in a row, both started on Wade drives. First he kicked out for the corner three that Chalmers made, second one he scored on the up and under. 13-11 Spurs.

6:31 First Quarter: Of course Pitbull did a Miami Heat finals remix of “Feel this Moment.” They just played it in the arena and now that is just going to be stuck in my head all night.

7:26 First Quarter: Wade tried to alley-oop to LeBron in transition and the Spurs were back to break it up. They are not sticking around looking for the offensive board, they are just getting back and not letting the Heat get any easy ones. 11-6 Spurs.

8:03 First Quarter: Green now 3-3 from three to start. Going to have to stick with him. 9-6 Spurs.

9:45 First Quarter: Kawhi Leonard just outworked the Heat for two offensive rebounds, led to another Danny Green three. 6-4 Spurs.

9:45 First Quarter: The Spurs transition defense this series has really been spectacular.

11:10 First Quarter: First Heat possession Wade misses a good look elbow jumper, at the other end Danny Green hits a three. 3-0 Spurs.

12:00 First Quarter: They may not be normally like this, but the Heat crowd is loud and into it tonight. They know the Heat have to win this game.

12:00 First Quarter: Yes, Joey Crawford is your lead referee tonight, along with Ken Mauer and Ed Malloy. I think Crawford being here is bad news for the Heat — he makes more big calls against the home team than any ref in the league.

12:00 First Quarter: For the record, I am in the 300 level and can feel the heat coming off those flame things they shoot up during introductions. Those are hot.

12:00 First Quarter: You think any of the Heat players are big White Stripes fans? Maybe the Birdman.

12:00 First Quarter: Almost national anthem time, but first more highlight videos in the arena and more commercials for those of you at home. You may have the better end of that deal.

12:00 First Quarter: Fans still streaming in as we are 10 minutes away from the extended introductions that go on before an NBA Finals game (the players actually warm up, go through the introductions, then get to warm up for a couple of minutes again because it takes that long.

MIAMI — Greetings from high up in the rafters of the AmericanAirlines Arena, where we will be blogging all the action of Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Pull up a seat and make yourself comfortable

I’m Kurt, and I’ll be your host, commenter and bartender for the night. I’ll be updating the game and score, providing some commentary and making some asides. So sit back, enjoy the game and follow along.

Report: Clippers owner Ballmer will spend “whatever it takes” to keep Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, center, responds to reporters while Chris Paul, left, and DeAndre Jordan laugh during the team's NBA basketball media day, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Playa Vista, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
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Is this the season the Clippers break through? They have been one of the eight best teams — usually one of the top five — for several years now, but that has not been enough to get them past the second round of the playoffs. A combination of injuries and running into superior teams has gotten in their way.

This season they will start as the fourth-best team in the league according to most NBA power rankings (including ProBasketballTalk’s), but they will still be third best in the West. If things play out according to that script, it would mean another second-round exit.

The difference is next summer Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can be — and almost certainly will be — free agents (both have early termination options). If there is another second-round flame-out, can the Clippers keep them?

Owner Steve Ballmer is committed to spend whatever it takes to keep them in Clipper red, white, and blue, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Most importantly, according to Clippers insiders, is his commitment to keeping both Griffin and Paul long term no matter what it costs.

Do both want to stay? That’s impossible to predict nine months out. But it’s hard to imagine either finding as good of a set up as they have in Los Angeles. Both have firmly planted roots in L.A., with deep ties to the business and entertainment worlds.

Take a moment to step back and realize just how much Ballmer has changed the Clippers’ culture in three years from what Donald Sterling would have done. If Sterling still owned the team we’d be asking if he would open his pocketbook to spend to keep his two big stars in the same summer, and even if he was would that be enough or would both players be looking just to get away.

Now it’s harder to make a case that either wants out — and that includes the idea that Griffin will bolt to go home to Oklahoma City and play for the Thunder next to Russell Westbrook. Few players have taken advantage of the Los Angeles lifestyle and opportunities as Griffin, who is an executive producer of one television show making a pilot and has worked on a career as a comic.

As for the inevitable Griffin/CP3 trade rumors, take them with a whole box of kosher salt.

As for the idea that they’d make a blockbuster trade, consider this: The only way the Clippers get a decent return is if Paul and/or Griffin agreed to waive their player option for next season, or guaranteed they’d re-sign long term in the city they were traded. There’s no compelling reason for either of them to do that after the infusion of television rights’ money spikes the salary cap up more than $100 million next summer.

Griffin and Paul will be free agents next summer. Whether they stay in Los Angeles or leave will depend in part on how this season goes and the prospects for them and the Clippers after this season. It’s possible they leave.

But with Ballmer willing to open up his bloated checkbook, it’s much easier to make the case they both stay put.

Matt Barnes says he’s been warned for chewing gum, using bathroom during national anthem

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 19:  NBA players Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick attend the David Yurman in-store shopping event to celebrate the launch of Men's Faceted Metal Collection at David Yurman Boutique on March 19, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for David Yurman)
Angela Weiss/Getty Images for David Yurman
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The NBA has long taken a hard stance on the national anthem.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was infamously suspended for sitting during the national anthem 1996. The league has a specific rule  – which it doesn’t plan to change – that states, “Players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem.”

That makes it more difficult for the NBA and union to compromise on national-anthem protests – especially because precedent has set a strict tone on the rule.

Kings forward Matt Barnes on The Vertical Podcast with JJ Redick:

They don’t want you chewing gum. They told me, take the gum out of your mouth.

I was using the bathroom. They said you can’t miss the anthem. I’m like, “Man, I had to pee.” “Next time you’ll be fined.” I said, “Ohh, OK.”

I doubt NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to punish players for demonstrating on behalf of important social issues. But he’s also behold to the team owners and corporate sponsors, and he must enforce the league’s rules.

It’s a fine line, one that the NBA’s prior warnings on national-anthem conduction make even more difficult for Silver to walk.

Maybe the solution is raised fists? Kneeling, like Colin Kaepernick, would seem to violate the “stand” requirement. But if players are on their feet and in place, would the league really deem a raised fist an undignified posture?

Joel Embiid to start in Sixers first preseason game

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Here’s a little bit of good news for beleaguered Sixers fans:

Joel Embiid will start the Sixers first preseason game next Tuesday. Embiid was the No. 3 pick and a very highly rated prospect coming out of Kansas, but foot injuries sidelined him the entirety of his first two seasons. Now he’s healthy and going to get a start next Tuesday, according to coach Brett Brown.

This will be a process. It will be two steps up and one step back all season for Embiid, but at least he’s healthy enough to take those steps now.

Now the focus shifts to when Ben Simmons will be able to take his first steps.

Another report Donatas Motiejunas, Rockets nowhere near deal as deadline approaches

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 17:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is fouled as he shoots by Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half at Staples Center on December 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Donatas Motiejunas and his agent had given the Rockets a Saturday deadline to make a contract extension offer they liked.

But the sides aren’t even talking in a serious way.

That was reported early on Friday, and now comes another report — this was from Calvin Watkins of ESPN — that the two sides are nowhere close to a deal.

With the deadline to sign a qualifying offer approaching, restricted free-agent power forward Donatas Motiejunas and the Houston Rockets have exchanged contract proposals but remain far apart on an agreement, multiple sources told ESPN.

Motiejunas is seeking a larger financial deal from the Rockets, but the two sides haven’t had serious contract discussions in a month, the sources said.

Motiejuas, a restricted free agent, has a $4.4 million qualifying offer on the table that expires Sunday. He likely will sign it — if so he will have the ability to veto trades during the season then would be a free agent next summer.  Motiejuas could let the deal expire then sign a new one-year deal with the Rockets, but he would make less money.

Last season the Rockets agreed to trade Motiejunas to the Pistons. However, Pistons voided the deal after he failed his physical. Motiejunas hammered Detroit for how it went down. That left Motiejunas a restricted free agent this summer, but he didn’t land any offers from other squads (many thought the Rockets would just match).

That gets us to where we are today, where Motiejunas appears headed to signing the qualifying offer, then testing the market next summer as an unrestricted free agent.