Spurs head coach Popovich directs his team against the Grizzlies during the fourth quarter in Game 3 of their NBA Western Conference final playoff basketball series in Memphis

Heat seek to take unprecedented lead over Spurs in Finals


The San Antonio Spurs have never trailed in an NBA Finals series.

With the Finals tied, the Spurs are 10-0 and have won by an average of 11.1 points per game. Not the New York Knicks in 1999, New Jersey Nets in 2003, Detroit Pistons in 2005, Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007 or Miami Heat this year have cracked that code (though the Pistons came close).

To a degree, this is probably coincidence. San Antonio is 9-7 in Finals games when leading the series, but that hardly seems telling of anything, so this can only mean so much.

But it also seems this could be the Gregg Popovich advantage at play in the area between luck and results.

The Spurs have faced Jeff Van Gundy, Byron Scott, Larry Brown, Mike Brown and now Erik Spoelstra. Those coaches are good enough to make adjustments.

Popovich sets the agenda.

After San Antonio took a 2-1 series lead against Miami, Spoelstra adjusted by going small, starting Mike Miller for Udonis Haslem in Game 4. Popovich wasted just 48 seconds before inserting Gary Neal for Tiago Splitter, and the Spurs led by 10 points before the next substitution. Popovich started Boris Diaw in the second half, and both teams played evenly before substitutions began again.

The Spurs, it seems, weathered the storm of Spoelstra’s biggest adjustment, even if they lost the game for other reasons.

Now, it’s Popovich’s turn to set the agenda once again.

The Heat, like all San Antonio’s Finals opponents before them, have been playing catch up. Tied 2-2, they’ll have a chance to finally put the Spurs behind in the Finals, but history suggest that challenge is mighty difficult.

Kristaps Porzingis grew up a Kobe fan. Still is one.


When you hear player comparisons for Knicks rookie, the most common is Dirk Nowitzki — a European big with ridiculous shooting range and potential to embarrass anyone.

So did he grow up idolizing Dirk? Not so much.

Rather, like many of his generation, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, he told Mike Francesa of WFAN.

“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”

There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.

In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.

There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.

(Hat tip NBA reddit)

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton
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If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports NBCBayArea.com.

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.

Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards

Paul George, Marcus Morris
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.

Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.

Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.

Hassan Whiteside on intentional fouls: “It’s not working, so keep fouling me”

Hassan Whiteside

Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.

Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.

And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”

He’s even smart at not getting fouled.

Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.

“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”

Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.

And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.