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.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”

Report: Kawhi Leonard to return to San Antonio around exit interviews. Then…

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Nobody is sure how the Kawhi Leonard situation is going to play out with the Spurs. As is the nature of the NBA, the GMs of other teams are starting to circle the Spurs like vultures, on the chance that this time Gregg Popovich cannot smooth out the relationship with his star player and needs to trade him. Leonard spent the playoffs away from the team, working out and talking to doctors in New York while “his group” shielded him from attempts from San Antonio to reach out.

Now has come the time for the sides to talk, and that will happen soon reports Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News.

What happens during and after that meeting is anyone’s guess.

The Spurs will only move Leonard as a last resort, and they have two things on their side. First, Gregg Popovich, who has maintained a healthy relationship with his star pupil through all of this. LaMarcus Aldridge told Popovich he wanted to be traded last summer, and over the course of some dinner meetings and self-reflection, Popovich was able to both keep Aldridge in the fold and put him in positions to be an All-NBA level player this season. The key is that both sides were willing to talk with an open mind, are Leonard and his advisors open to that?

Second, the Spurs have the ultimate hammer — the $219 million designated veteran extension (the contract James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed this year). Put that on the table and Leonard will sign it. The question is will the Spurs put it out there? Probably not if Leonard makes it clear he doesn’t want to be in San Antonio any longer. That’s when the trade talks start to gain traction.

But we’re not there yet. Not even close. Let the meetings play out first.

Back home, Thunder try to avoid elimination against Jazz

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City was built this offseason around three All-Stars with the hopes of contending for the Western Conference crown.

The Utah Jazz started the year 18-26 without center Rudy Gobert. However, Gobert returned and the Jazz rolled off 11 straight wins into Valentine’s Day with the help of a surprise rookie of the year contender.

One more win and the Jazz will reach the second round for the second straight year. They’ll send the Thunder home with a second straight first-round exit — despite Oklahoma City’s overhauled, star-studded roster.

After losing the first game on the road, Utah won decisively in each of the past three games, including a 17-point victory in Game 4 — a game the Thunder called a must-win in Salt Lake City.

“It’s the playoffs, it’s gonna be war,” Utah point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a triple-double in Game 3, told the Salt Lake Tribune after Utah’s 113-96 victory in Game 4. “We know that it’s gonna be another war next game. We just have to be tough but at the same time, mentally ready for that.”

Game 5 is set for 9:30 p.m. EST Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 20 points per game during the regular season, has averaged 27.6 points during the past three games — taking his play to another level to lead a balanced Jazz attack that has five players averaging in double figures. Mitchell, who was the 13th overall pick in last year’s draft, has scored 110 points through the first four games, the most by a rookie in his first four games since Michael Jordan’s 117 in 1985, according to nba.com.

“To be honest, a lot of this is surreal. I’m just taking it game-by-game and not really getting caught up in the big picture,” Mitchell told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “Just focusing on game-by-game. My teammates have helped me out a lot as far as that goes. But we’re playing together.”

Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook picked up four fouls before halftime in Game 4 and was fined $10,000 for an altercation with Gobert late in the game. Luckily for the Thunder, he was not suspended following his altercation with the Utah center.

Westbrook’s foul trouble has hardly been the Thunder’s biggest issue.

Oklahoma City was inconsistent much of the year, but it has had to contend with shooting woes from offseason acquisition Carmelo Anthony, who has hit just 25 percent of his 3-pointers in the first four games of the playoffs.

“We gotta win, nothing to it,” Anthony said after the Game 4 loss. “We’ve just gotta win. We can sit here and say what we gotta do, or what we didn’t do or what we did do, but it comes down to having the will to win that game Wednesday and forcing a Game 6 back in Utah.”

Winning in Utah won’t to be easy, where the Jazz have won six straight. Oklahoma City has to get back to Salt Lake City first and stave off elimination. But Utah hasn’t lost three straight games since Gobert’s return to the lineup in mid-January.

“Every game’s been physical,” Gobert said to reporters. “We just got to watch the tape, see how much better we can get and get ready to play basketball.”

Any end to one-and-done rule remains a couple of years away

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Condoleezza Rice and the Commission on College Basketball released their much-anticipated report and…

Yawn.

We’ll see how much the NCAA wishes to police itself and ban coaches caught cheating from the sport, or to do anything that would stem the flow of money from shoe companies and boosters into college hoops. Will the NCAA make an organizational shift to focus less on enforcement and more on involvement with players before they get to college?

One thing the report wants is an end to the one-and-done rule with the NBA, and it issues some veiled threats about getting back together and coming up with new recommendations if the NBA and its players’ union does not act within a year. Yawn. The NBA will continue to work toward this at its own pace, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes.

Allowing guys to go back to college if not drafted — even if they had an agent — is a good step.

The NBA will move at its own pace with reforms to its draft rules, and we are still years away from that (if the owners can be herded into a consensus in the first place). This commission’s report changes none of that, and without the NBA and players’ union’s cooperation the commission can’t accomplish some of its goals anyway.

The NBA is moving toward ending one-and-done, NBA commissioner Adam Silver had said they were waiting on this report to take the next steps down that road. With the assistance of the NCAA, the league could move to something more akin to the baseball model (players can be drafted out of high school to the NBA, but if they go to college they have to stay two or three seasons). However, this remains years away. For now, players such as Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III will continue to be one-and-dones. Nobody likes it, but it is the rule for now.