Heat force a Finals Game 7 with thrilling overtime win over Spurs

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MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for the trophy presentation.

But it wasn’t over yet.

The Heat had it back to a single-possession game with 19 seconds left, and Ray Allen made an incredibly difficult shot to send it into overtime, where Miami was able to prevent the Spurs’ championship celebration with a thrilling 103-100 victory that forces a Game 7 on Thursday.

Erik Spoelstra said he wasn’t aware of the machine that was in process, in terms of the building readying to crown the Spurs as champions.

“Come on,” Spoelstra said with a smile. “At that time I don’t think anybody noticed. That’s probably the best way to live in life is in the moment, and that will guarantee you’re in the moment.”

The Heat’s head coach may not have noticed, but key players on his team told a different story.

Chris Bosh said it “pissed him off” seeing all that happening before the game was officially decided, and LeBron James echoed that sentiment.

“Yeah, I noticed it,” James said. “It kind of did the same to all of us. There’s a few guys in the locker room that talked about it. We seen the championship board already out there, the yellow tape. And you know, that’s why you play the game, to the final buzzer.”

Before we got to that point, and due to the way that it finished, this game was an all-time classic.

Miami got out to a lead of as many as seven points in the second quarter, thanks to some early Spurs turnovers and some hot three-point shooting. James was in facilitator mode for the Heat, and consistently found his open shooters. But his offense was lacking, and when the Spurs made their push from the end of the first half on through to the start of the fourth, it was a problem as the Heat struggled with an offense that was tentative overall.

Through three quarters, James had 14 points on just 3-of-12 shooting, the Spurs held a 10-point lead, and Miami appeared to be on the ropes.

LeBron wasn’t going to go out like that, however, and his aggression in the final period was the reason the Heat were able to bring themselves back. He had 16 points in the fourth on 7-of-11 shooting, and attacked, attacked, attacked, finally forcing a Spurs team that was so effective defensively into impossible situations.

James finished with a triple-double line of 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, while playing 50 of the game’s 53 minutes.

Before Allen’s clutch game-tying shot, there were two big ones from Tony Parker — a fadeaway three-pointer, followed by a 12-foot jumper — that turned a three-point Spurs deficit into a two-point San Antonio lead with under a minute to play. The Spurs played stifling defense on the next couple of possessions to force two James turnovers, and free throws pushed the lead to five that began to put the plans in motion for the Spurs and the title celebration that was anticipated.

The Heat rallied, and the big-time three from Allen — which came after James missed a three to tie, and Chris Bosh secured the offensive rebound — got them five more minutes to stave off elimination. He took us through that crazy sequence near the end of regulation.

“Well, LeBron took the shot, and I knew we had time, I had to go,” Allen said. “I went into the paint to try to get the ball and make something happen. At that point there’s no guarantee who is going to get the ball or what may happen, and when I seen CB get the ball, I just backpedaled right to the three‑point line, and I was hoping I was where I needed to be — but I wasn’t quite sure. But just from years of shooting, I got to my spot.”

The overtime session featured two teams that were completely gassed from the intensity of the first 48 minutes. The Spurs trailed by three with just over a second left, and while Danny Green received the ball and rose up to try to tie it, Chris Bosh was there to block his shot as time expired.

We got this far without even mentioning Tim Duncan, who was on track to post one of the greatest games of his career, and one of the best in Finals history. He dominated early with 25 first half points on 11-of-13 shooting, and finished with 30 to go along with 17 rebounds. Had the Spurs held off the late Heat comeback, Duncan’s performance might have netted him the Finals MVP.

But talking about the Spurs and their title prematurely was not a good idea on this night, and the early arena prep may just have given the Heat the little extra push they needed to turn things around.

“It was a helluva game,” Gregg Popovich said afterward. “It was a helluva game. It was an overtime game. It’s a game of mistakes, and they ended up on the winning side.”

LeBron took it a step further, after just competing in one of the greatest games we’ve seen in recent Finals history.

“It was by far the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” James said. “The ups and downs, the roller coaster, the emotions, good and bad throughout the whole game.  To be a part of something like this is something you would never be able to recreate once you’re done playing the game. And I’m blessed to be a part of something like this.”

Jimmy Butler’s trainer calls Bulls GM Gar Forman a liar, less moral than drug dealers

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The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves last night, reuniting the star wing with Tom Thibodeau.

Butler apparently took it well. Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

Butler’s agent showed perspective. Bernard Lee:

Butler’s trainer, on the other hand, took a completely different tone. Travelle Gaines‏:

I don’t like the implication that drug dealers are immoral.

Otherwise, is Gaines right about Bulls general manager Gar Forman? I don’t know what Forman told Butler.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I do know Forman probably shouldn’t have allowed himself to be drug into public a back-and-forth with Gaines, especially coming across as scolding the trainer. There’s little to be gained there – much like the trade itself.

Watch NBA deputy commissioner crack up as fan announces pick before he does

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If you’re on Twitter during the NBA Draft, there is no suspense. Every pick has been announced minutes before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, or later Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, head to the podium to make the announcement.

On Thursday night, deep in the second round as the crowd at the Barclay’s Centre had mostly left and only a few, not completely sober, diehards remained, Tatum walked up to the podium to give the 52nd pick — and thought it was funny when a fan beat him to it.

I love that he thought it was funny. You think David Stern would have laughed?

Five guys not taken in NBA Draft worth watching

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As a rule of thumb, about 15 percent of the NBA at any point is made of up guys who went undrafted and fought their way into the league. They tend not to be stars, but quality role players who have found a role — and are getting paid. Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore, Seth Curry, Tyler Johnson, Joe Ingles, Matthew Dellavendova, Langston Galloway and Robert Covington, are just part of the list of undrafted guys currently in the league.

Here are five guys that went undrafted Thursday night worth watching.

1. P.J. Dozier 6’6” shooting guard (South Carolina). He has already signed with the Lakers and will be on their Summer League team. He passes the eye test of “has all the physical tools you want in a quality NBA two guard” but has yet to show much polish or string together consistent play. He shows it in flashes, but he needs to be more consistent, particularly finishing with floaters or from the midrange. If he can become more consistent with his shot and handles, he has potential as a combo one/two guard who can both work off the ball and be a secondary shot creator (he has good court vision).

2. Johnathan Motley, 6’9” power forward/center (Baylor). He plays like a center, and he’s undersized but a 7’4” wingspan covers for a lot. He is an amazing rebounder who can score in post. He’s a good athlete who could fit as a small-ball five off the bench to start. He’s an average rim protector, and he is not going to stretch the floor (although he has shown some improvement in that area). He’s a bit raw, he’s inconsistent, and he’s coming off an injury. All that said, some team will give him a shot, this is one of the bigger surprises of guys not taken.

3. Isaiah Hicks, 6’8” power forward (North Carolina). He’s signed with the Clippers and will be on their Summer League team. He’s got an NBA body, which is part of the draw here, but in college he was a power player who could use his strength to his advantage and overwhelm opponents. In the NBA he will find it much harder to do going against men. He does have a soft touch and can run the floor to get points. He’s got to work on his left hand, and developing a more diversified offensive game.

4. George De Paula, 6’6” point guard (Brazil).
At 21 he was the starting point guard for the team that made the Brazilian League finals. He has all the physical tools teams could hope for, including a 7’0” wingspan. He’s made big strides the past couple of years in the things teams want from a point guard such as decision-making and being a floor general, but he is still very raw. This is a project and may continue to develop in Brazil or Europe, but show up in the NBA at some point.

5. Devin Robinson, 6’8″ forward (Florida).
 Already signed with the Washington Wizards to be on their Summer League team. He’s got the versatility of an NBA forward who can cover multiple positions, plus he shot 39.1 percent from three last year. It’s all a bit raw, especially on defense, but he has the tools to fit into the NBA game. His shooting needs to be a little more consistent, he’s got to get stronger and fight through stuff, and there are just concerns about his decision-making and feel for the game. Still, smart gamble by the Wizards.

NBA Draft Winners, Losers: It was a good night in Philadelphia, Minnesota

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Let’s be honest, judging the winners and losers hours after the draft is throwing darts at a board. There are picks and moves we think are smart that turn out to fall flat, and there are picks that are smart we don’t see coming. This year, a lot of people around the league thought that someone in this draft between picks five and 12 would turn out to be a stud — they all have potential and flaws, but who will work and be able to fill in the holes in their game? It’s too early to know.

That doesn’t stop us from making our projections.

Here ar our 2017 NBA Draft winners and losers.

WINNERS:

The Minnesota Timberwolves. When news of them pushing for a Jimmy Butler trade came up, I thought it foolish to give up a lot of quality pieces for a guy not on the timeline with Karl-Anthony Towns. However, this deal was a good one. Minnesota got Butler and the No. 16 pick (Justin Patton) for the No. 7 pick (Lauri Markkanen), Zach LaVine (an athletic two guard coming off an ACL injury), and Kris Dunn (who was unimpressive as a rookie, but maybe bounces back). This is a great deal giving the Timberwolves both another strong defender, someone who knows Tom Thibodeau’s system, and a professional locker room leader. Minnesota now starts Ricky Rubio, Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Towns, and they look like a playoff team next season.

The Philadelphia 76ers. Unlike a certain GM in Boston, Bryan Colangelo and the Sixers were willing to push their chips into the middle of the table to get their three stars. Now they have it after trading for the No. 1 pick (at a fairly high cost, but if you have the chips this is what they are for). Markelle Fultz was taken with the top pick to go with Ben Simmons (last year’s No. 1) and Joel Embiid. Add in quality players around them like Dario Saric and Robert Covington, and the Sixers potentially have a foundation for greatness. now they just need to keep everyone healthy for a season.

The Sacramento Kings. It seems weird to type this, but they nailed this draft. They got their point guard of the future in De'Aaron Fox (who now gets to go up against Lonzo Ball four times a season — that’s going to be fun). They traded out of the No. 10 pick to get the No. 15 and 20, and they got Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. I’m higher on Jackson than most, but he certainly should be an NBA rotation player. And Giles, if healthy and anywhere near back to form, could be the steal of this draft. Frank Mason was a solid second round get. The Kings were a smart, mature franchise for a night. We’ll see if this is a trend.

Golden State Warriors. They didn’t have a pick in this draft, but they bought one early in the second round to land Jordan Bell (Long Beach Poly shout out). He showed in the NCAA tournament against Kansas he showed how he is a fierce defender of multiple positions (and he did the same at the combine). He’s athletic, has an NBA body, but he can score a little around the basket or from farther out if left wide open — and on the Warriors he’ll be left wide open. Bell is a nice player but this is a perfect fit.

LOSERS:

The Chicago Bulls. Management deciding it couldn’t build around Jimmy Butler and it was time to move on to a real rebuild is completely legitimate — but then you’ve got to get more back for an All-NBA player who is elite on both ends of the court. Maybe Lauri Markkanen is more than just a stretch four, hopefully, Zach LaVine fully recovers from his ACL injury, and Kris Dunn can’t be a bad as he looked last year — and that’s still not enough. Butler had time left on his contract, there was no rush to get this done, yet the Bulls pulled the trigger on a sub-par package that slows those rebuilding efforts. It was not pretty in the Windy City.

Boston Celtics fans. They were teased all day with dreams of Kristaps Porzingis, or Butler, or Paul George, and in the end they got Jayson Tatum. I like the Celtics’ picks, I think Semi Ojeleye could be a steal in the second round. But all day long Celtics fans were told of big dreams, none of which yet came to pass and Danny Ainge continues to hold on to his chips. Someday he’ll make a move. Probably. But that day is not today.