San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 6

Ray Allen giving Heat exactly what they expected this season, including his clutch 3-pointer in Game 6


Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings.

Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title, and both sides were a little bitter. That bitterness increased tenfold when Allen left Boston to sign with the Heat, and all those emotions could have boiled over before Miami’s season opener even began.

But Allen handled the moment with grace and class, waiting in the locker room and deferring to his Heat teammates who’d been part of the championship run.

“It’s their moment,” he said.

Tonight, Allen had his moment with the Heat.

Allen made a 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation to send Game 6 of the NBA Finals to overtime, where Miami emerged with a 103-100 win over the San Antonio Spurs. If the Heat win Game 7 on Thursday, it will go down as one of the greatest shots in NBA history.

The Heat knew they’d be getting the quiet dignity Allen showed before the opener, but they were also counting on shots like these – clutch 3-pointers – and Allen delivered all season. Nobody made more 3-pointers with the game separated by five or fewer points in the final five minutes during the regular season.

In the playoffs, though, Miami has turned to its biggest superstar a little more. LeBron James has made and attempted twice as many such shots as Allen this postseason.

But in Game 6, hardly Allen’s best game – he shot 3-for-8 and scored nine points – the Heat were seemingly waiting for him to reward their trust him. Allen played 40 minutes, including the final 23 – in all, the most he’s played in a game with Miami aside from a double-overtime win over the Sacramento Kings in February. Only LeBron and Mario Chalmers, who was without a backup in the Heat’s tightened rotation, played more tonight.

At 37 years old, Allen was getting every chance make be on the court to make a big shot. He made the biggest.

Allen has spoken throughout the season about how much he enjoys playing for the Heat, but the experience has come with difficulties. Before the season, he even complained playing with LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sometimes left him uncomfortably open.

But in the final moments of the fourth quarter of Game 6, Allen used all three of those stars to spring him loose. Wade set a hard screen to give Allen space and force Manu Ginobili to switch off Allen. LeBron drew the Spurs’ attention by attempting a 3-pointer. Chris Bosh grabbed the offensive rebounded and kicked to Allen, who was scrambling to get behind the 3-point arc and certainly wasn’t too open anymore.

Allen was backpedaling when he caught the pass, but as he stressed when he signed with the Heat, he’s moving forward. And thanks to his shot, the biggest of the NBA Finals, the Heat are moving forward, too.

Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor
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The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


It has seemed like this was it for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Bulls’ Dunleavy to see specialist after suffering setback with back injury

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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CHICAGO—Over the past few weeks, Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy has seemed to be making progress in his back rehab. Dunleavy underwent back surgery shortly before the start of training camp and was initially given a timeline of 8-10 weeks. Recently, he’s been increasing his workload, and he traveled with the team on their recent west coast road trip.

However, his recovery may have hit a snag.

“Mike is going to see a doctor again tomorrow and then we should have a better update after that,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after practice on Sunday. “He had a little bit of soreness. But we’ll have more on that tomorrow.”

An update to Dunleavy’s status is coming, but given Dunleavy’s age (35) and the frequency of back injuries to reoccur, this news certainly isn’t encouraging. Between Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor on the wing. Getting Dunleavy back, whenever that happens, will be a huge help. But nobody knows when that will be.

Stan Van Gundy calls out Andre Drummond’s effort after loss to Thunder

Andre Drummond
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After a promising start to the season, the Pistons have lost three of their last four games and seven of their last 10. And although he’s been outstanding for most of the season, Andre Drummond has not been above receiving criticism from Stan Van Gundy. The coach called out Drummond’s effort on Friday night after a loss to the Thunder.

Via Sportando:

“I didn’t think he brought much energy to the Milwaukee game, and I didn’t think he brought much energy tonight,” Van Gundy said of the two beatings the Pistons received this week. “Why that is, I don’t know. But we need a lot more from him than we got tonight.”

Calling out your best player in the media is bold, but Van Gundy has enough of a track record and a reputation, going back to his days in Orlando with Dwight Howard, that he can get away with it. It also sends a message to the entire team that Van Gundy isn’t going to hold his star to a different standard than the rest of the team.

Despite a couple of poor performances, Drummond is having a career year, leading the league in rebounding at 17.1 per game while also averaging 17.9 points.