SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs and the Heat are tied 49-49 at halftime of Game 4 of the NBA Finals, and this game has been every bit as exciting as one played at the championship level between the league’s two best teams.
Each team led by as many as 10 points over the first 24 minutes, and the stars are out in a big way thus far.
LeBron James guaranteed he’d be better in Game 4, and while it took him a few minutes to get started, he’s certainly delivered on that promise. James had 11 first quarter points, and got there by being in complete attack mode, literally running up the floor with the ball and then forcing the action with strong drives to the basket. He has 15 points, four rebounds, and two assists at the break.
Dwyane Wade has been just as aggressive as LeBron, and nearly as productive. His drives to the basket and looks from midrange have him with 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals — as active a performance as we’ve seen from Wade in some time.
The Spurs put together a fast start to the half, and concluded it with a strong finish.
San Antonio started the game on a 15-5 run, thanks to three-pointers from Danny Green and Gary Neal that went down as if this was simply a continuation of Game 3. To end the half, the Spurs put together an 11-2 run over the final 3:03 on the strength of some stellar play from Tony Parker, who finished the half with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, to go along with six assists.
In a word, this game has been awesome. LeBron and Wade have delivered, and the Spurs, led by Parker, have made it clear they aren’t going anywhere. It’s anyone’s game as we head to the final 24 minutes.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.