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.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.