Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game 5

Danny Green takes NBA Finals 3-point record, NBA Finals MVP award next?

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Danny Green rose for his 33rd 3-point attempt of the 2013 NBA Finals, and for the 23rd time, the ball splashed through the net.

On cue, the Heat called timeout, creating a scene similar baseball’s game stoppages to honor broken records.

Green – who broke the record for 3-pointers in an NBA Finals and would push the the mark to 25 (on 38 attempts) by the end of the Spurs’ 114-104 Game 5 victory – clapped his hands and screamed, and then he headed to the bench for pats on the back from teammates and coaches.

Ray Allen, who saw his record of 22 3-pointers in the 2008 Finals broken, sat on the Miami bench and made no attempts to hide the disgust pouring over his face.

Green had never made this many 3-pointers in a five-game stretch, though he’d played just 106 games entering the Finals, because he was too busy getting cut by the Cavaliers, Spurs and Spurs again. Yet, this passionate mid-game celebration was all about him.

This is the awesomeness of Danny Green, the hottest player on the biggest stage.

But what happened in the moments preceding his record-breaking trey show the full story of Danny Green, the reason we can witness his awesomeness.

Dwyane Wade pushed the ball upcourt, and Green caught him from behind. With Green hounding Wade, Manu Ginobili poked the ball loose, getting credit for the steal when Green dove to the floor to corral the ball. Green passed from his back to Ginobli, and the Spurs surged the other direction.

Green momentarily stumbled over Wade as he tried to get up, but Green still reached his feet first. Again, Green raced down the floor quicker and was wide open as the trailer, Wade still languishing in the distance, on the record-breaking triple.

That is why Green, whom Gregg Popovich cut for a failure to bring consistent effort, is playing for the Spurs. It’s also why Green is in the driver’s seat to become the most unlikely NBA Finals MVP ever.

Green found a team that embraces his biggest strength, 3-point shooting. Not long ago, progressive teams tolerated 3-point shots. Popovich seeks 3-pointers and their and the 50 percent more points they produce than other makes.

But Popovich also wouldn’t tolerate Green’s effort lapses, and Green didn’t even get even a guaranteed roster spot until he solved those issues. With the help of his former North Carolina coach, Roy Williams, Green did that.

Now, Green leads the Spurs, who hold a 3-2 series advantage, in scoring by nine points. Because the Spurs’ traditionally recognized stars – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – have been up and down, there’s no clear-cut choice for Finals MVP if San Antonio hangs on. But 28 of the last 30 Finals MVPs led the winning team in scoring,* so Green is certainly on track to get consideration from the voters who prefer simple measures.

*Chauncey Billups (2004) and Larry Bird (1986) being the exceptions.

The voters who take a deeper examination will see Green’s hustle plays and helpful defense on LeBron James, which might be enough of a complement to Green’s 3-point shooting and earn him the award if Duncan, Parker or Ginobili doesn’t overtake him the rest of the series.

Of course, the Heat can still win, or perhaps, voters could reward the player who’s had the best series so far – LeBron – even though a player on the losing team hasn’t wont Finals MVP since Jerry West took the inaugural award in 1969.

At minimum, Green is planted firmly in the conversation. If the Finals ended today, he would get my hypothetical vote ahead of any Spur (though I would vote for LeBron).

Only great teams reach the NBA Finals, and greats teams are usually led by great players. Finals MVPs are typically the best of the best, perhaps creating an even better list of the game’s best than regular-season MVPs. All but three* of 45 Finals MVP awards have gone to Hall of Famers (Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Dennis Johnson, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jo Jo White, Rick Barry, John Havlicek, Willis Reed, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West) or sure-fire future Hall of Famers (LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal).

*Chauncey Billups, Cedric Maxwell and Jo Jo White being the exceptions.

Green is not a Hall of Famer or a sure-fire future Hall of Famer, but he’s also not just the novelty who made 5-of-5 3-pointers in Game 2. He airballed a 3-pointer early in Game 5, shook it off and finished 6-for-10 from beyond the arc, still lowering his Finals 3-point percentage.

He’s playing with supreme confidence and forcing the basketball world to take notice.

Undoubtedly, part of Green’s stirring Finals is a run of good fortune, a hot streak coming at the most opportune time. Green could turn into a pumpkin at any moment.

But even if that happens and his 3-point shooting goes cold, you can still count on Green beating the Heat for loose balls and beating them downcourt.

Green’s 3-point shooting is why you’re noticing him, but his hustle is why he’s here.

Both explain why he’s suddenly the front-runner for Finals MVP.

Isaiah Thomas’ big fourth quarter carries Celtics past Hornets 108-98

Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) raises his arms as he celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Thomas had 35 points as the Celtics defeated the Hornets 108-98. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Associated Press
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BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas’ 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He’s been putting up big final quarters of late – scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams had 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight – all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 1/2 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Entered averaging the second-fewest turnovers in the league at 12.1 per game. They had 11.

Celtics: G Avery Bradley returned after missing four straight games because of a strained right Achilles. He scored five points on 2-of -9 shooting. … Thomas scored a team-record 29 points in the final quarter of a victory against Miami on Dec. 30 to finish with 52.

INSPIRING WORDS

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown addressed the crowd before the game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Without notes, he quoted King in saying: “The day our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.”

NICE CATCH

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount sat courtside behind a basket and made a two-handed grab of a ball flying out of bounds.

SPORTS TRANSITION

It was the nightcap of a hockey/basketball doubleheader, and 6-foot-4 Celtics guard Marcus Smart entered TD Garden wearing a winter jacket and hat. He paused and stood seemingly unnoticed as a group of youngsters and parents – most wearing Boston Bruins colors – walked down a hall to meet some of the hockey players.

Smart smiled when a media member said, “I don’t think anyone noticed you.”

Later, 6-foot-9 Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara headed past folks walking in for the basketball game.

 

Clippers guard Chris Paul leaves game with sprained thumb, more tests coming

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The Clippers have now won seven games in a row, but if they don’t have Chris Paul in the lineup that streak is going to turn around very quickly (remember just a couple of weeks ago when he missed seven games with a hamstring strain?).

Which is why Paul leaving the game with what the team has called a sprained thumb is potentially troubling news. Paul was trying to get over the top of a Joffrey Lauvergne screen when he ran into Russell Westbrook who had pulled up to take a three, Paul’s hand hitting Westbrook’s hip and seemingly getting caught up in his shorts. Paul walked off the court and went straight to the locker room, making it seem worse than the team said it is so far.

From the press release from the Clippers:

X-rays during the game were negative, but further tests still need to be done to determine the extent of the injury, which occurred in the second quarter after Paul jammed his left hand on Russell Westbrook’s right leg.

The Clippers held on without Paul for the comfortable win over the Thunder, 120-98.

The Clippers are the four seed in the West but could fall down that ladder if Paul is out for any stretch of time. Starting Saturday The Clippers have 10-of-11 games on the road — and the one home game is the Warriors. That’s going to be a tough run of games even with Paul.

Kevin Durant scores 21, Stephen Curry 20 to help Warriors cruise past Cavs (VIDEOS)

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Pretty much everything the Warriors did Monday against the Cavaliers worked — transition buckets, pull-up threes, drive-and-dish plays, curls off screens, you name it and the Warriors got enough space to get a shot they wanted. Then they knocked them down. Which is why the Warriors won going away.

Stephen Curry had a big night with 20 points and 11 assists, which you can see highlights of above. It was a big night for Curry’s confidence: In the Cavaliers four-straight wins against the Warriors, Cleveland trapped Curry off picks, were physical, and when Curry tried to make the playground passes that worked against other teams Cavaliers’ help defenders made steals and were off in transition the other way. Monday night Curry took the pressure in stride, used his handles to create space, used his gravity to draw defenders to him, then he whipped smart passes around the floor. Curry had 10 assists and zero turnovers in the first half.

Kevin Durant benefitted from some of those passes and had 21 points on the night, and he chipped in three blocks.

 

Get out of my head: Golden State routs Cleveland in last regular season meeting before Finals

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No regular season game is going to erase the memory of blowing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead.

No January game is an accurate crystal ball into an NBA Finals matchup.

But the Warriors can put to rest the “Cleveland is in their heads” rhetoric and take a little confidence away from an absolute drubbing of the NBA Champions on national television Monday night.

Golden State caught fire midway through the first quarter and led by 15 after one, put up 78 points in the first half to lead by 29 at the break, and it all happened so fast it left Tyronn Lue’s face as the meme of the night.

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From there, the Warriors cruised in (sloppily at times, but cruised) for the 126-91 win.

“It was very important to come out and get off to a good start, but more importantly to hold on to that, to continue to keep our foot on the gas,” Draymond Green, speaking to the blown leads issue in his postgame TNT interview. “We did that the entire night, they had one little stretch there, I think it was the end of the third quarter, but other than that we kept our foot on the gas the entire time.”

Everyone in a Warriors uniform looked sharp. Klay Thompson had 26 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. Kevin Durant had 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Stephen Curry had 20 points and 11 assists. Green had a triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Conversely, for the Cavaliers LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were a combined 13-of-43 (30.2 percent shooting), with just five assists to 13 turnovers between them. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 35.2 percent overall and 9-of-34 from three (26.5 percent). Love didn’t play in the second half due to lower back soreness.

The Cavaliers looked like the team on the last night of a six-game road trip counting the minutes until they got back home, which is exactly what they were.

Neither side thinks this game portends anything going forward.

“It wasn’t about sending a message,” Green said in his interview. “At the end of the day, that’s the defending champs, we played them guys in two straight Finals, you’re not sending a message with a regular season win.”

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good for the Warriors (and is cathartic for their fans).

The only real moment of drama in the game was when Green shouldered LeBron to the ground in the second quarter and picked up a Flagrant 1 for his efforts.

Golden State started the game slow, getting good looks but shooting just 1-of-7 from three. Still, it felt like with the looks they were getting the shots would fall at some point, and they did as the Warriors hit six of their next eight from deep. Cleveland tried to match that but found no rhythm, shooting 2-of-12 from three early. With the hot shooting continuing for them, the Warriors stretched the lead up as high as 22, but the Cavaliers had Richard Jefferson come in and muck the game up, LeBron started attacking off the drive, and the Cavaliers cut the lead down to 14.

Then the Warriors got a couple of live-ball turnovers — including Curry stripping LeBron — and converted those to fast-break buckets the other way, then all that was left was Lue looking dazed. The Warriors were moving the ball and not getting sucked into isolation, racking up 26 first half assists. The Warriors also were out and running and had 34 fast break points in the first half — credit Golden State for pushing the tempo, but the Cavaliers transition defense was a horror show. And not in a cool, “Let the Right One In” kind of way, but in the “Cavs fans never want to see that again” kind of way. Dazed Lue is right there with them.

No more meetings between these teams until the Finals we all expect to see. It’s six months of these teams getting better, trying to stay healthy, and gaining confidence going into that series. Cleveland has plenty of confidence. Golden State just got a little more.