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

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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.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.

Gregg Popovich: Spurs started Manu Ginobili ‘out of respect’

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The Spurs started Manu Ginobili in their Game 4 loss to the Warriors last night.

For strategic reasons or because they wanted to honor him in what could be his final game before retirement?

The was certainly a case for the former. Ginobili had played well in the series, and Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker were out injured. Ginobili played 32 minutes, much more manageable when starting. Plus, Zaza Pachulia was also out injured, so Golden State started small, and Ginobili could have helped San Antonio match up.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:

We started him tonight out of respect. That was the whole reason for starting him.

Before the game, you think it may or may not be the last game he ever plays in. And I did not want to miss the opportunity to honor him in front of our home fans for his selflessness over the years. I mean, this is a Hall of Fame player who allowed me to bring him off the bench for – I ca ‘t even remember now – the last decade or something, because it would make us a better team overall. So, obviously, he’s a big reason for our success. And he deserved to have that night of respect so that he really feels that we appreciate everything he’s done over the years.

If he decides he’s going to play again, that’s up to him. But I won’t try to convince him one way or the other. I don’t think he needs that.

Perhaps, Popovich was just giving Ginobili a just-in-case sendoff. Ginobili has said he’ll take a few weeks to decide on retirement.

But Popovich could have inside information and, if starting Ginobili was about honoring him rather than an adjustment to beat the Warriors, maybe the coach just tipped Ginobili’s hand.

Interesting video: Every LeBron James paint bucket in the 2017 playoffs

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Yes, the video is a little long, more than eight minutes. Have you watched LeBron James these playoffs?

LeBron has been the best player in the postseason and one of the reasons — along with his hitting threes and great passing — has been how often he got into the paint and scored buckets. He has taken advantages of mismatches (and there may be only one defender in the league who is not a mismatch) and attacked the rim, getting into the paint and finishing impressively.

JM Poulard, who has written for a number of good NBA blogs over the years, compiled this video and it’s interesting to watch. Both in terms of how LeBron is getting his buckets inside, and to just marvel at the greatest player of his generation.

Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob hopes team sees Cavaliers in Finals due to “unfinished business”

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It’s easy for him to say, Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob doesn’t have to set foot on the court in the next round and see LeBron James on the other side.

However, I bet a lot of Warriors’ players feel the same way.

Lacob spoke to some reporters after the Warriors swept their way into the playoffs. He suggested the Warriors would prefer a rubber match, a trilogy with the Cavaliers. Here are the comments, via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Honestly, I don’t really care who we play (shoots a sly grin). Ok, maybe a slight preference for Cleveland. Only because I feel we have some unfinished business from last season…

“I think (this team is better than last year’s). Honestly. I think we’re better. It’s hard not to be better when you have a guy as good as Kevin Durant on your team. We were awful good last year. The one difference is Steph was hurt, as we all know. How much we can debate. But he was not what you see out there now. Then of course we had some other issues in the Finals. With Kevin, this is a very, very good team. The opposition is going to be good in the Finals. So not taking anything for granted.”

These Warriors create new challenges for how the Cavaliers attacked them last postseason, particularly offensively because of Durant’s ability to score one-on-one. But we’ll get into a lot of that over the next eight days until the Finals begin.

Just don’t doubt the Warriors would like a little revenge.

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