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.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.