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.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.