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.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

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It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.

Report: Final season of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract extension just $7 million guaranteed

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Spurs big LaMarcus Aldridge, who will earn $21,461,010 this season, agreed to exercise his $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19 in conjunction with signing a two-year, $50 million contract extension.

As usual, the devil is in the details.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Guaranteeing Aldridge just $7 million in 2020-21, when he’ll be 35, is obviously to San Antonio’s advantage relative to fully guaranteeing his extension. But it sets up an uneasy choice for the Spurs. Their three options for Aldridge will be:

  • Pay him $24 million in 2020-21 to play for them
  • Pay him $7 million in 2020-21 not to play for them
  • Pay him $2,333,333 in each 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 not to play for them

There’s a solid chance that none of those are appealing.

Some speculated San Antonio extended Aldridge to facilitate a trade, removing uncertainty stemming from Aldridge’s player option. Though the Spurs now can’t trade him before the deadline, they could move him in the offseason.

But that 15% trade kicker is a significant inhibitor. His salary is already lofty for his age. An increase would only dissuade teams.

The simplest explanation is probably correct: The Spurs value the stability of their core, no matter how old it is, over flexibility.

Thunder give P.J. Dozier No. 35, Kevin Durant’s old number

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The Thunder signed P.J. Dozier, who went undrafted out of South Carolina, to a seemingly innocuous two-way contract.

Then, they let him pick No. 35 – previously worn by Kevin Durant.

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:

Honoring Reggie Lewis seems like a valid reason for Dozier, who probably didn’t want to get swept into what has become a minor controversy.

Personally, I don’t mind a player wearing any unretired number. Even numbers that will clearly be retired can be fair game until the jersey goes into the rafters. This is a non-issue to me.

But people care about this stuff. Many see it as a sign of disrespect to Durant, who left Oklahoma City on bad terms when signing with the Warriors. The Thunder lose deniability about not caring, considering they told Dion Waiters he couldn’t wear No. 13, which was previously worn by James Harden.

Will Oklahoma City eventually retire Durant’s No. 35? He spent a fantastic eight years there (and another season with the Seattle SuperSonics before they moved). Time will ease the bitterness of his exit. It’s certainly possible he’s honored that way.

In the meantime, let Dozier wear No. 35 in peace. It should have nothing to do with Durant.

Cornrowed Joel Embiid calls minute limit f—ing BS

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76ers center Joel Embiid made clear yesterday he disliked the minute restriction placed on him, which Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said would keep Embiid below 20 minutes per game.

Today, sporting a new hairstyle, Embiid upped the rhetoric.

Embiid, via Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“That’s f—ing BS,” he said after practice Tuesday. “I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I’m ready for more than I don’t know whatever number they have.”

“I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated,” Embiid said. “I don’t think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it’s reacting.”

“They know that I’m frustrated, but once again you’ve got to trust the doctors,” Embiid said. “They care about me. It’s all about the long-term view.”

“Like I always say,” he said, “you’ve got to trust the process.”

We’ve been here before – an injury-prone Philadelphia center rocking cornrows (at least Embiid went all the way with them) and Embiid lashing out at his minute limit.

Embiid is incredibly competitive, and he can’t just turn it off. It’s an attribute that contributes to his on-court excellence.

Embiid appears to have just enough trust-the-process perspective here, but Brown will also likely have his hands full keeping Embiid from getting too frustrated throughout the season.

At least Embiid has his contract extension and isn’t restless to get on the court and earn his big payday.