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.

Playoff preview: Four key questions about San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, center, scores against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Between 2011 and 2014, the Spurs and Thunder combined for six Western Conferences Finals appearances with at least one reaching it each year. Last season featured Warriors vs. Rockets. This year, one – but only one – of San Antonio and Oklahoma City will return.

1. Are these Kevin Durant‘s final games with the Thunder?

Let’s get this out of the way. Durant, as you well know, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. At this point, the best thing Oklahoma City can do to keep him is win. He knows the city. He knows the franchise. He knows the roster (which would likely return in similar form if he re-signs). Whether the Thunder send him into free agency with a good taste in his mouth is the biggest variable.

Will Durant leave just because Oklahoma City loses to the Spurs? Of course not. Will Durant stay just because Oklahoma City beats the Spurs? Of course not.

But this is a big opportunity for the Thunder to accentuate their positives – and the Spurs, another team in the Durant hunt, to do the same.

2. Who wins the Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup?

More directly on the court… Durant is involved in what might be the best individual matchup of the 2016 playoffs

Durant and Leonard should both finish top five in MVP voting. If they do, it’d be the first time two players top five in MVP voting who play the same position met in the playoffs since 2012, when LeBron James and Durant faced off in the Finals.

The matchup should be fun on both ends of the court, but it’ll be particularly intriguing when Oklahoma City has the ball. Durant is one of the NBA’s best offensive players, Leonard the best defender. I can’t wait to watch them go at it.

3. How do the Spurs handle Oklahoma City’s athleticism?

In his last 20 games against San Antonio, Serge Ibaka is 15-5. Ibaka embodies the athletic advantage the Thunder hold over the Spurs. At his best, Ibaka attacks with hops and speed the Spurs’ bigs can’t match. Ibaka looked old throughout much of the regular season, but he appeared rejuvenated in the first round against the Mavericks. If he was just saving his energy for the playoffs, following the Dwight Howard model in previous years, Ibaka could play a major role.

Ditto Russell Westbrook, who will challenge Tony Parker to keep up. San Antonio could cross match with Danny Green, but that presents complications in transition.

The Spurs are collectively more skilled, but the Thunder have done a better job than most at neutralizing that advantage.

4. Has Billy Donovan found a rotation that narrows the gap?

Billy Donovan passed his first playoff test against Rick Carlisle. Now the challenge grows even greater against Gregg Popovich.

One thing Donovan did right: Putting Nick Collison, not Kyle Singler, in the playoff rotation. Collison’s minutes could be key against a Spurs team that often plays two slower bigs. I guesses Singler rather than Collison would play regularly, which lowered Oklahoma City’s adjusted net rating by a few points per 100 possessions when projecting using only players in the playoff rotation.

I’ll again use nba wowy! to rank playoff teams by regular-season net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the team’s postseason rotation, once the first round ends. But for now, here are San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s ratings, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the playoff rotation:

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

Both teams — already strong by this measure — benefited from beating up on their first-round competition, and the Thunder got a bump for using Collison over Singler. Oklahoma City still trails the Spurs, but the gap is much closer than overall regular-season results would suggest.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

Report: Deron Williams opting out of Mavericks contract

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 03:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball agains Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Center on November 3, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Deron Williams sacrificed $16 million to leave the Nets in a buyout last summer. He recouped $5,378,974 with the Mavericks this season.

Now – instead of exercising his $5,621,026 player option – he’s looking to get more.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Deron Williams intends to opt out of the second season of his contract with the Mavericks, sources told ESPN.com.

Williams could return to the Mavericks. They’re one of the few teams that need a starting point guard, and two others that do – the Nets and Knicks – are probably off the table given Williams’ antipathy for a large market. Expect Dallas to at least try for an upgrade like Mike Conley first.

But even if Williams signs as a backup, he can still probably command more than $6 million next season. With the salary cap skyrocketing to about $92 million and so many teams flush with cap space, the salary picture is changing.

This also increases the Mavericks’ potential cap space.

They project to fall about $24 million under the cap, counting cap holds for Williams, Chandler Parsons (who has a player option that could go either way) and Dwight Powell. In other words, Dallas could spend that $24 million then exceed the cap to re-sign Williams, Parsons and/or Powell.

Renouncing Williams ($6,454,769 cap hold), Parsons ($19,969,950 cap hold only if he opts out) and/or Powell ($1,180,431) could clear additional cap room. Parsons opting in would restrict the Mavericks’ ability to clear space .

Williams would have been a bargain if he opted in. Instead, Dallas gains flexibility.

Report: Kings willing to trade DeMarcus Cousins because his moodiness bothers teammates

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins walks up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 104-94. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
AP Photo/Darren Abate
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The Kings, after years of shutting down DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors, will reportedly seriously explore the market.

What changed for Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac?

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

the sense within the organization is Divac is tempted by the prospect of pairing his center with his personally selected coach but that he has become increasingly frustrated by his center’s ongoing issues and, for the first time, is willing to test the market for the two-time All-Star.

The disconnect between Karl and Divac, and Karl and Cousins, is rivaled closely by the discord within the fragmented locker room. Apart from Rondo, Cousins has few friends among his teammates. Several players privately have complained to management about his mood swings and disrespect for those around him, including his coaches and in particular Karl.

I still doubt Sacramento trades Cousins. There’s a vast gulf between soliciting Cousins offers and actually pulling the trigger on one. He remains one of the NBA’s most valuable players – already a star, 25 and locked up for two more seasons at a reasonable $35 million combined. It’d take a haul to land him, and I doubt any team offers a package that sways Divac – though a few could have him thinking.

But Cousins’ moodiness is a problem. It gets him harmful technical fouls, takes him out of games mentally and – as we learn here – upsets his teammates.

It seems the Kings are attempting to scare him straight – reports like this leaking, including one that their next coach will have management’s backing if he wants to discipline Cousins.  They have to try something. Rajon Rondo‘s leadership, while endearing to Cousins, apparently didn’t change the center significantly enough.

I wouldn’t rule out Sacramento trading Cousins. If you put a player on the market, you might just hear an offer you like. But selling low on Cousins a – franchise-level player – would be a mistake. It’s too hard to get a player with his talent just to dump him when he’s still young.

A far better outcome would be Cousins heeding these implicit messages, maturing and cutting out the nonsense that too often overshadows his immense talent.

Tony Allen warns Mike Conley: ‘If I see you in New York or one of them places, you got a flagrant foul coming’

Memphis Grizzlies forward Tony Allen (9) and guard Mike Conley (11) react during the second half of Game 2 in a second-round NBA playoff basketball series against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Marc Gasol has a simple plan for convincing Mike Conley to re-sign with the Grizzlies: Be nice.

Tony Allen is going another way.

Peter Fleischer of Fox 13 Memphis:

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace says Conley will re-sign with Memphis. Others disagree. For his part, Conley has been vague – though he left the door open for signing with the Knicks, need a point guard and could have max cap space .

Conley will have options, and he should explore them. This will be his first free agency after the Grizzlies drafted him and signed him to a contract extension. Staying with the only NBA team he has know should be appealing – but other options could be, too.

People in Memphis clearly care about him returning.

Each in their own way.