MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan.
Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting to go along with eight rebounds in just 19 first-half minutes. He’s scored on spinning one-handed bank shots, dunks and put-backs, and has completely dominated the proceedings over the first two periods.
Things started off just fine for the Heat, but the way they built their early lead proved to be unsustainable. LeBron James looked to get his teammates involved early, and either scored or assisted on 19 of his team’s 24 first quarter points. The Heat were getting their points from three-point distance and off of Spurs turnovers, but neither of those continued late in the second period.
Miami led by as many as seven in the second, but the team turned tentative offensively and the Spurs were able to take advantage. San Antonio ended the half on an 11-0 run, while James either settled for midrange jumpers, didn’t take them at all when the Spurs dared him to, or deferred to his teammates.
After a five-point, five-assist first quarter from James, he was just 1-of-6 from the field in the second, and Miami as a team was held to just 31.6 percent shooting, while the Spurs knocked down better than 55 percent of their shots.
The Heat will need a much more aggressive performance from James in the second half if they plan on forcing a Game 7, but if Duncan continues to play anywhere close to the way he has thus far, the Spurs will be crowned as champions before the night is through.
LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry
“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”
“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”
LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.
Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)
But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:
Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.
That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.
The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.
Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to the league:
Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.
But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.
Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.
Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)
Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.
The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.
It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.