Spurs’ Green, Neal, Leonard have same amount of points as LeBron, Wade, Bosh through 3 games of the Finals


SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs and their “Big Three” have taken it to the Heat so far in this series, and it’s one of the reasons that Miami finds itself down two games to one in the NBA Finals.

But it isn’t Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili who are keeping pace with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh through the first three games — it’s been the more unsung, role players who have risen up to perform on the game’s greatest stage, as pointed out by Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com.

Danny Green, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard have combined to score 130 points in the Finals thus far, and it’s the exact same amount tallied by James, Wade and Bosh.

Small sample size theater and all that, sure. And of course, the numbers get skewed even further with a game like Green and Neal combined for on Tuesday, scoring 51 of those 130 points in a single night while contributing to an historic shooting performance from three-point distance.

Miami will have to find away to defend the arc better as the series moves forward, but the bigger problem has been what the Heat haven’t been getting from their All-Star core, especially on Tuesday, and especially from James.

LeBron said afterward he just has to play better, and that’s going to mean taking the shots he wants instead of those that the Spurs are choosing to allow. James shot just 7-of-21 from the field in Game 2, but the location of those attempts is what needs to change for the Heat to start to find a consistent measure of success.

James was 5-of-7 in Game 2 from inside the restricted area, but made just one of his five attempts from beyond the three-point arc, and was even worse from midrange, where he was able to connect only one of nine times. Smart teams emphasize creating shots in the paint or in the corners for open looks at a short three, and by LeBron settling for the open midrange looks instead of forcing the issue to create something better, the Spurs are getting exactly what they want out of the league’s MVP.

It wasn’t only LeBron, however — his teammates seemed to be fine with settling for these shots in Game 2, as well. Miami was only 7-of-33 from outside the restricted area and inside the three-point arc, and that accounted for 43 percent of their shots.

None of that can continue if the Heat are to bounce back and eventually get control of this series, and you have to think that at some point the role players for San Antonio will cool off, and the Spurs will need to turn to their stars to get the required level of production.

But it doesn’t have to go on very much longer — it’s worked through three games, and the Spurs just need it to continue for two more in order to end up winning the title.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with shot of night to force OT with Spurs

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One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.

Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.

In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.

Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.


PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?

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The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.

So what team is coming out of the East?

We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.


Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury


In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.