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.

Heat hang on with Wade’s heroics, force Game 7 vs. Hornets

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 29:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat directs teammates against the Charlotte Hornets during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 29, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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“It’s a make-or-miss league” has been a worn-out cliche in the NBA for years, but it was never more apt than Friday night. Dwyane Wade, a career 28.4 percent three-point shooter who hadn’t hit a shot from beyond the arc in the calendar year of 2016, knocked down two threes late to help the Miami Heat hold on and beat the Charlotte Hornets, 97-90, to force a Game 7 on Sunday.

Wade finished with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists to lead Miami, and had a key block in the closing minute to stave off a Charlotte comeback. The Heat held off Kemba Walker‘s 37-point explosion, which kept Charlotte in the game for much of the second half even as they never led in the third or fourth quarters.

Neither team got much out of their benches, and Miami overcame a rough night from Goran Dragic (6-for-17 from the field) and Hassan Whiteside fouling out in just 28 minutes of action. A three by Walker cut Miami’s lead to 90-88, the closest the Hornets got in the second half.

The two teams will now play a Game 7 in Miami on Sunday, with the winner facing the winner of that same day’s Game 7 between the Raptors and Pacers.

Lakers announce hire of Luke Walton as head coach

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors chats with referee Derrick Stafford #9 during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 20, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Less than a week after firing head coach Byron Scott, the Lakers have their man to replace him: Luke Walton, who is currently associate head coach with the Warriors and coached the team to a 39-4 start to the season while Steve Kerr was out recovering from offseason back surgery.

The Lakers announced the hiring of Walton in a press release on Friday evening:

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Lakers and Luke Walton reached an agreement on a multi-year contract for Walton to become the next Head Coach of the team, it was announced by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Walton will begin his new duties at the conclusion of the Golden State Warriors season.
“We’re excited to bring Luke back to Los Angeles, where we feel he’s going to start an outstanding coaching career,” said Kupchak. “He’s one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game and we feel fortunate that he’ll be leading the on-court future of our team.”

The Warriors released statements from Kerr and GM Bob Myers after the Lakers’ announcement:

“We are thrilled for Luke,” said Warriors GM Bob Myers.  “This is a tremendous opportunity for him to return home and serve as head coach for one of the most storied franchises in sports.   Luke has done an incredible job during his two-year stint with our team and has played a significant role in our success, including last year’s championship and again this season under some very unique circumstances.  We are certainly going to miss Luke after we conclude our playoff run this season, but we wish him the very best with the Lakers.”

“I’m incredibly happy for Luke,” said Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr.  “As we witnessed earlier this season, he has all of the intangibles necessary to be an outstanding head coach in this league, including a terrific understanding of the game the ability to communicate with a wide range of people.   He’s certainly ready for this opportunity and I’m confident he’ll do a great job with the Lakers once our season is complete.”

Walton had long been rumored to be the Lakers’ top target, given his successful run with the Warriors and his ties to the organization, where he played for nine seasons. It’s a solid hire, not a big name but someone with a good reputation around the league.

Drake performs free concert outside Air Canada Centre before Raptors playoff game

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Game 6 of the Raptors-Pacers series is in Indianapolis, but that didn’t stop a large crowd from gathering outside the Air Canada Centre to watch it. And those people got rewarded for their trouble with a free impromptu performance by Drake. Here’s a video:

https://twitter.com/DilTamber/status/726213270986579968/video/1

Drake just released his latest album, Views, last night, and it includes several NBA references in the lyrics.

Optimism high as Celtics enter a likely active offseason

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BOSTON — The emergence of an All-Star and lots of victories made the Celtics one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season.

It also left Boston with lots of questions following its second straight first-round exit from the playoffs – this one, a six-game loss to the Atlanta Hawks – with a young roster that probably still needs a few more pieces to make the next step.

It has lots of draft picks and salary cap space to play with, which promises to make the summer an active one for the Celtics.

“This is probably the closest them I’ve been on. I love being around the guys. But everybody sees it. We do need a little more,” said point guard Isaiah Thomas, who averaged a career-best 22.2 points and was named to his first All-Star appearance in February. “(Celtics President Danny Ainge) will do his part. I know he will and this organization will come back even better.”

The rebuilding project that began three years ago under coach Brad Stevens is clearly ahead of schedule. The franchise that hit the reset button after the departure of Doc Rivers and its Big Three has gotten production from a young core anchored by Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.

Under Stevens’ defensive-minded approach Boston blossomed into one of the NBA’s stingiest teams.

“You go from…under .500 and barely making the playoffs and kind of eking in at the end by winning six straight, to being in the mix for being a top-four seed in the East. And so yes, there’s progress,” he said.

As much as Stevens recognizes the improvements, he said he also knows the bar only goes up from here.

“People have told me all along there’s two really tough tasks, right? One is getting to be a very good, competitive team at a top 10-15 level on offense and defense and give yourself a chance to be in the discussion we’re in now. And that’s been a path in the last three years to get there,” Stevens said.

Here are some other things to note as the Celtics head into the offseason:

HEALING UP: Before the Celtics can think about potential roster changes, they first have to make sure the players they have are healthy. Seven-footer Kelly Olynyk was only able to suit up in four of Boston’s playoff games after aggravating a right shoulder injury in Game 1 against the Hawks. Guard Avery Bradley was lost for the playoffs in that game with a strained right hamstring.

Olynyk said he planned to get multiple opinions from doctors on what his next step will be. They haven’t discussed a need for surgery, though he said nothing has been ruled out.

DRAFT PICKS GALORE: Ainge is known for his deal-making abilities and will have eight total draft picks in June, including three in the first round. The biggest, is the Nets’ unprotected first-round pick Boston acquired in 2013 when it traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. The Nets finished with the league’s third-worst record and have about a 16 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in May’s lottery.

Ainge has made it clear to Thomas that he wants him to be involved in the wooing of potential free agents this summer, and is in a symbolic move will send Thomas to represent the team at the lottery.

“I can get a few guys here,” Thomas said. “I’m gonna do my job…I’m gonna do the best I can to put my recruiting hat on.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Boston only has a handful of decisions to make with the roster it currently has. Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger are both restricted free agents who could be expendable. Meanwhile the contacts of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko aren’t fully guaranteed for next season if they are waived by July 3. The most interesting question is what to do with unrestricted free agent Evan Turner. His second year in Boston was his best season since 2013-14, but his production will certainly garner interest around the league. He said he wants to return, but that could depend on just how high his price tag winds up being.

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower