Heat vs. Spurs NBA Finals Game 3 preview: Was Heat’s run an aberration?

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The Miami Heat just have another gear that no NBA team can match. The kind of gear that puts on a 33-5 run against a very good Spurs team in the NBA Finals.

But they have played these playoffs more like a Top Fuel dragster — they can’t sustain that level of play for an extended period of time.

That leads to the big question coming into Game 3: Which version of the Heat shows up? That question gets answered Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Eastern.

If the Heat play like the team from the final 16 minutes of Game 2, the Spurs are in a lot of trouble (really, it was more like 8 minutes of great play followed by 8 minutes of garbage time). But for the previous 80 minutes of this series San Antonio had hung right with Miami and now going home you can expect some better shooting and fewer turnovers from San Antonio.

The turnovers are the first (and one of the most obvious) keys for the Spurs — they had 4 in Game 1, 17 in Game 2. For much of this series San Antonio has done a fantastic job of getting back in transition, taking away the easy points that the Heat thrive on. But the turnover became too much and undid all that good work in Game 2. The Heat’s defensive pressure is not going away, this is on the Spurs to adjust.

“I’ll figure it out,” Tony Parker said Wednesday at morning shootaround. Okay then.

The other key is how the Spurs will adjust to dealing with the Mario Chalmers/LeBron James pick-and-roll. Miami ran it at the elbow or lower and an attacking Chalmers, plus all the threats LeBron poses, had the Spurs defense scrambling. Their rotations were a step slow and suddenly Mike Miller and Ray Allen were open for threes. Which they hit (that’s far from a given lately). There are a number of ways the Spurs can choose to deal with this, but they need to be more aggressive because the Heat picked them apart.

Expect the combo Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to shoot better than they did in Game 2 when they were 10-of-33 as a group. The Heat defense was better but Duncan and Parker also just missed shots they normally make. You can expect those to fall at home.

Ginobili is another matter — he is 7-of-23 since Game 4 against Memphis. He lost his dribble a few times last game and just looked awful, so Gregg Popovich held him to 18 minutes. I’m not sure what is going on but he just doesn’t look right at all.

There are other factors, like who stays hot from three — Danny Green from the Spurs and Mike Miller and Ray Allen from the Heat have found their groove. Both provide some important points and floor spacing to their teams. Then there is Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — they played better in Game 2, the Heat need more of that (particularly from Bosh)

In the end, the question remains — can the Heat hit that other gear again? If they do, what the Spurs do isn’t really going to matter much. But you know the Spurs are not going to roll over, the Heat are going to have to earn this.

Isaiah Thomas scores 33, Celtics beat Bulls 104-95 to tie series

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CHICAGO (AP) Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points, and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 104-95 on Sunday to tie their first-round playoff series at 2-all.

Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead.

Gerald Green made four 3-pointers on his way to 18 points, helping the top-seeded Celtics return the favor in Chicago after dropping the first two games at home. Al Horford added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls with 33 points and nine assists. Nikola Mirotic and seldom-used Isaiah Canaan each scored 13 points, but Dwyane Wade finished with just 11.

Canaan made his first appearance since April 10, with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg searching for help at point guard with Rajon Rondo missing his second straight game because of a broken right thumb.

The Celtics led by 20 in the second quarter and were still up 10 in the third when Chicago scored 12 straight. The Bulls went ahead 65-63 on Robin Lopez‘s hook shot with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Thomas answered with back-to-back layups and scored 10 points in a 12-0 run that gave the Celtics a 75-65 lead, and they withstood a push by the Bulls early in the fourth.

With Thomas and Green each scoring 16 in the first half, the Celtics carried a 57-46 lead into the break.

Butler led the Bulls with 17 in the half. But the offense struggled in a big way with Rondo unavailable. Jerian Grant started and went to the bench after about five ineffective minutes. Michael Carter-Williams then picked up two quick fouls, forcing the Bulls to go with Canaan in the first quarter.

The Celtics, meanwhile, led 41-21 early in the second quarter. But things started to turn after Canaan stole the ball from Marcus Smart and scored on a layup.

Smart feigned throwing the ball at Butler. The two came nose to nose, resulting in technical fouls for both players, and the Bulls started to shoot their way back into it.

Mirotic hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight in the quarter. Bobby Portis cut it to 52-42 with his basket late in the half, and Butler hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds left to make it 57-46.

RONDO FINED

The NBA fined Rondo for attempting to trip Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder from the bench in Game 3. Crowder jawed at the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper and Rondo extended his leg as Crowder walked by.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Thomas was just 1 of 9 on 3-pointers but made 12 of 13 free throws.

Bulls: Butler made 19 of 23 foul shots after failing to get to the line in Game 3. … Canaan was inactive for the first three games.

LeBron James swats Thaddeus Young on yet another chasedown block (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is The King, but he’s also the king of chasedown blocks in the NBA. During Sunday’s Game 4 matchup with the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers star dropped the hammer yet again on an unsuspecting opponent.

The victim this time was Pacers forward Thaddeus Young, who was out on a 2-on-2 break with LeBron trailing.

To be honest, Young should have known better than to try this.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Robin Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Jae Crowder’s shoe (VIDEO)

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Why did Robin Lopez tie Jae Crowder‘s shoe during Sunday’s Game 4 between the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls? We may never know. Perhaps he was just helping the Celtics forward after he tossed him to the ground? Or maybe he’s just doing weird Robin Lopez things?

In any case, Lopez helpfully stopped to tie Crowder’s shoe after it came off during a battle down low early in the third quarter at United Center.

Here’s how it went down.

Via Twitter:

I still have no idea.

Noticeably frustrated, Russell Westbrook gets prickly with reporter after loss to Rockets (VIDEO)

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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets played an ugly game down the stretch on Sunday. The Rockets employed a hack-a-Andre Roberson strategy, while the Thunder played sloppy and often poorly with Russell Westbrook out of the game.

The latter was the subject in question when Oklahoman reporter Berry Tramel spoke with Westbrook and Steven Adams at a postgame press conference following the Game 4 loss, 113-109.

Tramel’s question — whether the Rockets got a boost when Westbrook was off the floor — was directed at Adams, but the Thunder MVP candidate couldn’t let it go.

Snapping at Tramel, Westbrook told him not to split them up.

Via Twitter:

Tramel’s question is legitimate, and one of the overarching themes of this series thus far. Westbrook’s response is pretty far off the mark, but it did tell the story of how he’s feeling going away from Chesapeake Arena down 3-1.

Game 5 is on Tuesday in Houston.