Heat's James and Spurs' Parker follow the play during Game 2 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami

NBA Finals Game 4: Heat big three key 109-93 win

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Miami needed a better defensive effort and they got it — San Antonio shot 44.3 percent, the Heat forced 18 turnovers and allowed the Spurs just 5 offensive rebounds.

They needed someone to step up besides LeBron James and they got Dwyane Wade in the hot tub time machine back to 2006 — 32 points, 6 steals, 6 rebounds, 4 assists. LeBron pitched in 33 points.

The result is a 109-93 Miami win that evens the series 2-2. There is a HUGE Game 5 Sunday in San Antonio and then it is back to Miami for Game 6 next week.

And by the way, while it got away at the end this was a thrilling and entertaining game. Television ratings are down which is too bad, this is a great series to watch.

END OF GAME: 109-93 Heat win, and the series is tied 2-2. Much better defensive effort from Miami — keyed by good defense from Bosh — and a lot of points from LeBron and Wade.

1:10 Fourth Quarter: So it is Game 5 that is key and we can all book flights to Miami for Game 6.

2:15 Fourth Quarter: Spoelstra still has stars in, he’s not taking any chances.

3:20 Fourth Quarter: Popovich empties the bench down 15 and throws up the white flag with De Carlo and DeJuan Blair entering the game.

5:05 Fourth Quarter: Wade scooping layup lifts Heat to 15 point lead. I keep expecting a Spurs run but the Heat are making plays and have answers.

6:16 Fourth Quarter: Wade with 30 points on 21 shots, 5 steals, 6 rebounds, 4 assists.

6:57 Fourth Quarter: Bosh lay-in on Wade assist and Heat go up by 11, 94-83.

7:42 Fourth Quarter: Since LeBron went to the bench it is Wade 4, Spurs 4.

8:46 Fourth Quarter: Shane Battier just got called for a blocking foul (ironically on a play he didn’t flop). This is a sign of the end times.

9:34 Fourth Quarter: LeBron getting a rest, he looked tired too.

9:52 Fourth Quarter: Tempo up in the fourth quarter and the Spurs look tired. Well, Diaw always looks tired. 86-79 Heat.

11:24 Fourth Quarter: Parker and Duncan both resting to start the quarter. Green has missed two threes in a row, now he is just 19-28 from three in the Finals. That’s 68 percent. And ridiculous.

START OF FOURTH QUARTER: For those of us who watch a lot of basketball over the course of a season, it’s hard to remember a game that was better played than this one.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: 81-76 Miami. LeBron James has 24, Wade has 22, Chris Bosh has 14 and has had a strong defensive game. Tony Parker did not score in the third but five Spurs are in double figures.

1:37 Third Quarter: But Gary Neal is still hitting them, 76-73 Heat.

2:09 Third Quarter: I just saw Danny Green miss a three. Maybe he is human.

3:10 Third Quarter: Mario Chalmers just knocks down second corner three of the quarter. At other end LeBron blocks Duncan. 74-66 Heat.

3:56 Third Quarter: This needs to be said: Chris Bosh has played good defense this game. The Heat have as a whole, but Bosh is the center of it all in the paint.

3:56 Third Quarter: Leonard catches ball at the arc, hard closeout by Wade so he drives by him and gets and-1 at the rim. 69-66 Heat.

5:19 Third Quarter: Finally Parker with the drive, dish to Green for a three. Followed by a great cut and layin for Allen to spark 7-0 Heat run. 67-61 Heat.

6:43 Third Quarter: Those blown Wade layups, four years ago they would have been powerful dunks. He’s gotten old.

7:00 Third Quarter: Wade has now missed two transition layups. Bosh has two big blocks, the second on Parker, then Diaw blocks LeBron. 58-58.

8:39 Third Quarter: Wade picks up his fourth foul blocking a shot on Tim Duncan in the paint. Spoelstra doesn’t take him out.

8:50 Third Quarter: In the first three games Wade faded in the second half of games (blame the knee) but he is off to a good start in the second half here, gets the and-1. 56-53 Heat.

10:21 Third Quarter: Wade blows a transition layup, LeBron blows the putback, on the other end Diaw scores on a cut. 53-51 Spurs.

12:00 Third Quarter: Boris Diaw starts the second half for the Spurs.

HALFTIME: Can I just say — this is a great game. Like Game 1, this is just a joy to watch being played.

HALFTIME: LeBron James and Tony Parker both on the attack, both with 15 points to lead their teams. Heat have Wade with 14, Ray Allen and Chris Bosh with 8. For Spurs Tim Duncan, Gary Neal and Boris Diaw all with 7.

HALFTIME: Heat 0-3 from three, Spurs 4-7. Spurs with 9 turnovers and zero offensive rebounds.

HALFTIME: On the final play with three seconds to go, Bosh puts on a nice pump fake, Duncan bites and Bosh attacks… all the way to the rim for a dunk after the clock expired. Blown opportunity, halftime score is 49-49.

:12 Second Quarter: Spurs get the block in the paint, Boris Diaw scores on the layup. 11-2 Spurs run and it is 49-49.

:50 Second Quarter: Ray Allen with a nice little runner, he has 8 points in the first half, 49-45 Heat.

2:08 Second Quarter: And as I type that, Boris Diaw hits a three. 47-43 Heat.

2:41 Second Quarter: Spurs don’t have a three point attempt in the second quarter.

4:27 Second Quarter: Mike Miller started, we’ve seen Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem, but not Chris, Birdman Andersen. Big rotation changes for Heat.

5:35 Second Quarter: Heat just have no answer for Parker’s quickness, with or without a screen. They need him to get into the paint, that’s when their offense works. Overall, they are shooting 39 percent (too many jumpers).

5:35 Second Quarter: Duncan has four quick points, and a Parker drive and spin move pass to Leonard cuts it to 41-36 Heat.

6:07 Second Quarter: Seeing the replay now, Bosh flopped to get that last foul on Duncan. That will be $5K. Ginobili has three fouls now, by the way.

6:18 Second Quarter: Wade with 14 points, that would tie his playoff average. Think he’s more aggressive? 8 Spurs tunvoers, 41-32 Heat.

7:40 Second Quarter: LeBron picks up his second foul, both times it was trying to back a guy down in the post. 39-31 Heat.

8:52 Second Quarter: LeBron 6-7 shooting, Wade 5-9. Bosh… don’t ask.

8:52 Second Quarter: Another LeBron layup off a Spurs turnover. 37-28 Heat. Heat’s defensive pressure killing the Spurs ball movement right now.

9:17 Second Quarter: Remember the Spurs were up 10 at one point in the first half, up to a 17-point swing now. 35-28 Heat.

10:17 Second Quarter: Splitter struggling to finish inside, blocked twice in a row, and the Spurs need the points or to stop the Heat. 33-28 Heat.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: 29-26 Heat after 1. Heat shoot 61 percent, Spurs 52.9 percent. LeBron James 11 points, Wade 10, Tony Parker 10.

:35 First Quarter: Shane Battier sells the contact (and there was contact, enough for a foul) to get a foul called on Ginobili. Spurs fans hate it, but that’s Karma.

1:31 First Quarter: LeBron with back-to-back jumpers when defense played off him. Gave Heat lead but Tony Parker with the And-1 around Haslem. 25-24 Heat.

2:25 First Quarter: Heat’s ball movement is more like we saw during regular season. So is Spurs’. 21-21 tie.

3:27 First Quarter: LeBron with back-to-back driving transition layups and it is 19-19.

4:00 First Quarter: With Parker on the bench the Heat have become more more aggressive and trapping on defense. After a couple Bosh free throws it’s 19-15 Spurs.

5:08 First Quarter: Popovich calls timeout after fourth Spurs turnover. He knows if one thing gets the Heat going and back in this, it is more turnovers from his guys. 17-11 Spurs.

5:42 First Quarter: Parker sits, 8 points and 2 assists. So, not so worried about that injury thing.

6:27 First Quarter: LeBron passes to cutting Wade for layup, then LeBron gets transition layup. 15-9 Spurs.

7:10 First Quarter: If LeBron is going to take over, now would be a good time for the Heat.

7:10 First Quarter: Wade passed up the good look elbow jumper there to pass out to a covered guy. He’s in his own head. And knee. Kawhi Leonard hits a corner three and it is 15-5 Spurs already. They are playing beautiful offense and the Heat are scrambling.

9:20 First Quarter: Gary Neal hits a 3, Spurs start 4-4 shooting. Wade 3 makes it 10-5 Spurs.

10:16 First Quarter: Danny Green hits a three, Mike Miller misses his. 7-2 Spurs early.

11:20 First Quarter: Tony Parker’s first possession, little step back jumper over Bosh for 2. Dwyane Wade draws foul on Splitter, so Gary Neal in for Splitter. 2-2

12:00 First Quarter: After the Game 3 disaster, Eric Spoelstra was all about the Heat defense was the problem more than the offense. Mike Miller is a better defender than he gets credit for, but what does switching out Miller for Haslem in the starting lineup say about his thinking?

12:00 First Quarter: Yes, Tony Parker is playing and starting. His health is something to monitor, but just having him out there gives the Heat a lot more to think about.

12:00 First Quarter: Good on the Spurs for bringing this kid back to do the national anthem. There was a number of racist tweets during this last time, this boy is as American as you or me. Good for the Spurs. Plus, kid can sing.

12:00 First Quarter: It’s official, Mike Miller is starting for the Miami Heat in place of Udonis Haslem. There is some real logic to doing this — they need the shooting and the floor spacing more than they need the little defense and rebounding Haslem brings at this point. But I have long said that the first coach to make a major change in rotation or strategy in a series is the one that knows he is beat and is now throwing anything up to see what works. Every once in a while it does, but it is not a good sign if you are a Heat fan.

Hello friends and welcome to PBT’s live blog for Game 4 of the NBA Finals. San Antonio leads the series 2-1 after a Game 3 blowout win and the pressure is on the Heat now — if they go down 3-1 in this series they are toast. And they know it.

I’m Kurt, and I’ll be running the blog tonight, keeping you all up to date, making snide comments, and serving as your bartender for the night. So sit back, enjoy the game and follow along.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.

PBT Podcast: NBA All-Star Weekend talk, predictions with Sean Highkin

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NBA All-Star weekend descends upon frigid Toronto starting Friday, with everything from the Rookie/Sophomore… er, Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Dunk Contest/Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and the main event on Sunday.

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk break it all down, from Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler to predictions on the Dunk Contest and if anyone can knock off Zach LaVine. Plus, there is plenty of “why Sting?” talk.

PBT will be in Toronto with reports from the event all weekend, so come back early and often for all the latest (plus trade talk, as all the GMs get together in one city where it’s too cold for them to go outside).

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Pistons retire Chauncey Billups’ jersey at halftime (VIDEO)

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Moments before his jersey went up to the rafters, Chauncey Billups spoke to the crowd about the night the Detroit Pistons wrapped up the 2004 NBA title by routing the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Finals.

“We had one motivation,” he said. “We wanted to win it here at home.”

Billups was the most valuable player in the Finals that year, and he had his No. 1 jersey retired by the Pistons on Wednesday night at halftime of their game against Denver.

He was the second player from that 2004 team honored by the Pistons this year. The Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s jersey last month at a similar ceremony – in front of a packed house on a night Detroit beat Golden State.

There were some empty seats in the upper level Wednesday, but Billups wanted to be honored while the Pistons were playing the Nuggets. Billups is a Denver native and played for the Nuggets for two stints during his career.

“This was by design, only because there’s a lot of people that contributed to my success as a player and as a man, in Denver, my hometown,” Billups said before the game. “There were several dates that I could have chosen. This one obviously stuck out.”

Billups does have a mild regret about his run of success with the Pistons. He figures they could have won more titles.

“I felt like, two and maybe three championships – we were that good,” he said.

Ben Wallace was on hand Wednesday, and so were Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 champions. Pistons great Isiah Thomas was also at the Palace for the ceremony.

“This is what tradition looks like,” Thomas told the crowd. “This is what it feels like.”

Five Takeaways from NBA Wednesday: How ‘Bout them Celtics!

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Traditionally, NBA players treat the last game before the All-Star break like you treated the last day of school before summer vacation. But through the slop, there were some entertaining games on Wednesday, here is what you need to know:

1) If you weren’t taking the Celtics seriously before, the Clippers think you should start. The Boston Celtics are 32-23, have the third-best defense in the NBA, and in their last 10 games are outscoring opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions (fifth best in the NBA in that stretch). They are legitimate. Not title contenders, but they are looking like the third best team in the East and a second-round showdown with Toronto could be interesting (especially if Danny Ainge can pull off a big move at the trade deadline — he’s trying). Brad Stevens is earning Coach of the Year votes every time the Celtics step on the court.

The latest sign the Celtics are for real — winning a shootout against the Los Angeles Clippers. Two good defensive teams decided to take the night off on that end, which was entertaining and fit the “last day of school before break” theme. Isaiah Thomas just shredded the Clippers perimeter defense on his way to 36 points and 11 assists (watching how quick he is on the dribble, he’s got to be the favorite at the All-Star Saturday skills challenge). Chris Paul countered with 35 points and 13 assists. It was an old-fashioned, 1980s-style barn burner that went to overtime when the Clippers didn’t score a field goal in the final 3:29 of regulation and the Celtics completed a comeback in a Thomas jumper. In OT, J.J. Redick started out hot, but the Celtics closed hotter and got the win. The one bit of bad news for Boston Kelly Olynyk suffered a shoulder subluxation, he will have the week off to let that rest. (We will now note that happened on the same night Kevin Love suffered a shoulder injury, too. His was just a stinger, and he will be back after the break.)

2) Kawhi Leonard drains game winner to give Spurs another win. A couple of seasons back, when the Spurs motion offense was clicking, with the game on the line they would have run a play, four guys would touch the ball, and they would get a clean look. But this is how much Gregg Popovich trusts Kawhi Leonard now: Tie game with 13.3 seconds remaining, and the play design is a 1-4 flat isolation for Leonard. That’s what you call for LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Popovich called it for Leonard. And he was rewarded with the win.



3) Chauncey Billups got his number retired in Detroit.
There is a 2004 championship banner hanging above the Detroit Pistons court in large part because for a stretch Billups was not only the ultimate leader but played as well as anyone in the league. Just ask Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Wednesday night they honored Billups in the Motor City (well, in Auburn Hills) by retiring his number.

4) Portland beats Houston to take over final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If the playoffs started today, the Trail Blazers would be the eight seed in the West and the Rockets would be golfing. That’s because Portland beat Houston 116-103 to move to .500 and ahead of Houston in the standings by half a game. Houston had some success scoring in the first quarter thanks to some old school Dwight Howard in the post and James Harden on the drive. The problem is, when Portland adjusted and Houston’s offense sputtered, they had no defense to fall back on — Portland scored at will all night. Damian Lillard finished with 31 points, the Trail Blazers had an offensive rating on the night of 115.6, and the Rockets head into the break trying to answer the same questions they had back when Kevin McHale got fired. Houston thinks things can come together, and they can make another playoff run, but a playoff run would be based on defense and the Rockets don’t play four quarters on that end nightly.

5) Suns Markieff Morris, Aaron Goodwin scuffle on bench. After the game — a 112-104 loss to Golden State — Morris said this was no more than two guys as close as brothers having a disagreement. It’s just a little hard considering everything that has gone on in Phoenix this season — including Morris’ poor play and the towel throwing incident with now-fired coach Jeff Hornacek — to think this is not another window into the chemistry problem in the Suns locker room.