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.

As expected, Blake Griffin reportedly opted out of contract with Clippers

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Doc Rivers says he wants Blake Griffin back with the Clippers next season.

The bigger question: Does Blake Griffin want to be back with the Clippers next season?

The decision is in Griffin’s hands as he has done what was expected, opting out of his contract for the coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

A number of teams — Boston, Miami, and others — are expected to take a run at Griffin. (In Boston’s case, he’s a backup plan to Gordon Hayward, but there will be conversations.)

What Chris Paul — also expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer — and Griffin choose to do will help set the market. They are two of the biggest free agent names out there where they could switch teams (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are staying put). If they take their time making a decision, it leaves the Clippers in a bind — they have to wait to hear from these two before starting replacing or rebuilding, but by the time they know other players may have decided — and could bottleneck the free agent process.

The Clippers are going to be one interesting team to watch this summer.

Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suspended two games for DUI

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This is the standard penalty for coaches and players hit with a DUI. I don’t think the penalty is stiff enough in general for a serious issue, but this is the precedent that has been set.

Detroit Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been suspended two games by the NBA for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan,” the NBA announced. He will miss the first two games of next season.

This will not stop Caldwell-Pope from getting PAID this summer.

A quality wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, he plays a position of need for a lot of teams and he is a restricted free agent. Other teams with cap space — Brooklyn and Sacramento come to mind — could step in and give him a max or near max offer. Then Stan Van Gundy needs to decide if he is going to match. He may not have much of a choice, if he wants to keep Andre Drummond and build an inside-out team around him, he needs Caldwell-Pope, and the Pistons don’t have the cap space to replace him.

One way or another, Caldwell-Pope is in line for a massive pay raise. This suspension will not slow teams, it just takes a little money out of his pocket.

 

Lonzo Ball tops Rookie of the Year early betting odds

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If you are betting right now on next year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award, you are a die-hard fan of your team and their new addition. Or, you have a problem and need to seek help. Maybe both.

Either way, the people at the gambling site Bovada have posted the early betting odds for the ROY award for next season.

Lonzo Ball (Lakers) 5/2
Ben Simmons (76ers) 3/1
Markelle Fultz (76ers) 5/1
De”Aaron Fox (Kings) 7/1
Josh Jackson (Suns) 9/1
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) 9/1
Jonathan Isaac (Magic) 16/1
Malik Monk (Hornets) 16/1
Dennis Smith (Mavericks) 16/1
John Collins (Hawks) 20/1
Justin Jackson (Trail Blazers) 22/1
Lauri Markkanen (Bulls) 22/1

Yes, Ben Simmons is in the mix.

The two bets I like here, if I were a gambling man, are Jackson in Phoenix and Dennis Smith in Dallas. I doubt Smith wins it, but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the draft Smith will start for them next year, which means he gets opportunities and can rack up assists feeding Dirk Nowitzki at the elbow for a year.

Jackson is going to be unleashed in an up-tempo Suns offense where he will be the defender they need on the wing, play with high energy, and get buckets in transition. Winning ROY is as much about fit and opportunity as talent, and Jackson has landed in a good spot.

Paul George-Gordon Hayward-Celtics rumor doesn’t add up

AP Photo/George Frey
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Paul George reportedly wants to play with Gordon Hayward. George is also reportedly willing to join his desired team (universally accepted to be the Lakers) by means that don’t guarantee the highest salary.

Could the Celtics – who are pursuing Hayward in free agency – leverage those conditions into getting George?

Adam Kauffman of 98.5 The Sports Hub:

I don’t what George would do, but it’d be a MAJOR financial disadvantage to go this route.

There a couple ways it could happen – George getting extended-and-trade or George getting traded then signing an extension six months later. The latter would allow George to earn more than the former, but even if he pledged to sign an extension, would the Celtics trade for him knowing he’d have six months to change his mind if he doesn’t like Boston as much as anticipated?

There’s a bigger issue, anyway. Both extension routes would leave George earning far less than simply letting his contract expire then signing a new deal, either with his incumbent team or a new one.

Here’s a representation of how much George could earn by:

  • Letting his contract expire and re-signing (green)
  • Letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere (purple)
  • Getting traded and signing an extension six months later (gray)
  • Signing an extend-and-trade (yellow)

image

Expire & re-sign Expire & leave Trade, extend later Extend-and-trade
2018-19 $30.6 million $30.6 million $23,410,750 $23,410,750
2019-20 $33.0 million $32.1 million $25,283,610 $24,581,287
2020-21 $35.5 million $33.7 million $27,156,470 $25,751,825
2021-22 $37.9 million $35.2 million $29,029,330
2022-23 $40.4 million
Total $177.5 million $131.6 million $104,880,158 $73,743,861

Firm numbers are used when it’s just a calculation based on George’s current contract. When necessary to project the 2018-19 salary cap, I rounded.

The Celtics could theoretically renegotiate-and-extend, but that would require cap room that almost certainly wouldn’t exist after signing Hayward.

Simply, it’s next to impossible to see this happening. It’d be too costly to George.