A look back at LeBron’s Game 7s… he wins when he gets help

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LeBron James has never before been in an NBA Finals Game 7. Which isn’t a shock, there are not many of those.

But he has been in four Game 7s before, and when you look back at them you see a pretty unmistakable pattern — he puts up good numbers, but he only wins when somebody else steps up to help.

Which makes Thursday’s Game 7 interesting. Dwyane Wade is playing on two bad knees now and may not be the 2006 version of himself. Chris Bosh has to deal with Tim Duncan. So who is it going to be, who is the other guy that is going to step up? Mario Chalmers? Mike Miller?

Because history shows somebody has to. Here is a look at LeBron’s previous Game 7s, starting with the one from a couple weeks ago:

June 3, 2013: Heat 99, Pacers 76: LeBron put up big numbers — 32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists — but it was his work on the other end that was key. LeBron was asked to cover Paul George and he put the Pacers leader in a straightjacket, holding him to 2-of-9 shooting. LeBron got help from Wade (21 points) and Ray Allen (10) but it was really the intense Heat team defense and a big second quarter that won them this game.

June 9, 2012: Heat 101, Celtics 88: LeBron had an impressive 31 points on 21 shots, but he got help — Wade had 23, Chris Bosh had 19 and Shane Battier 12. Unlike the win over the Pacers this was all about the Heat offense — this was a good Celtics defense that could just do nothing to stop Miami when it mattered most.

May 18, 2008: Celtics 97, Cavaliers 91: LeBron had a monster game — 45 points on 29 shots — but it was him against the world. Only one other Cavaliers player — Delonte West with 15 points — was in double digits and Cavaliers not named LeBron shot 42 percent. These Celtics, on their way to a title, but 41 points out of Paul Pierce, while big men Kevin Garnett (13 points) and P.J. Brown (10) were key.

May 21, 2006: Pistons 79, Cavaliers 61: This was a very good defensive team in Detroit and it showed this day. LeBron put up a respectable 27 points on 24 shots, but the rest of the Cavaliers combined to shoot 22 percent for the game (9-for-41). The Pistons went on to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to a buzz saw of a Heat team led by Dwyane Wade (and Shaquille O’Neal).

Hours after game-winning tip, restaurant told Giannis Antetokounmpo he had to wait

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the toast of Milwaukee Sunday night: With the game on the line after a Boston comeback, he tipped in a missed Malcolm Brogdon lay-up that proved to be the game winner. (Jayson Tatum was in good position for Boston, he tried to move Antetokounmpo out of his rebounding spot, it just didn’t matter.)

Well, you would have thought Antetokounmpo was the toast of the town, but when he went to BelAir Cantina (a chainlet of Mexican restaurants in the area) he was told he had to wait. And wait. To the point he eventually left.

As you might imagine, the 6’11” Antetokounmpo walking into a restaurant a couple hours after tying up the series with the Celtics drew fast attention on social media. So did the fact he couldn’t get service.

First, good on Antetokounmpo for not pulling the “do you know who I am?” line. He was reportedly unassuming and just left after a while. No hard feelings, his girlfriend later tweeted this out.

As for BelAir Cantina, I kinda get it — I worked my way through college as a waiter and bartender. The restaurant got slammed, everyone working there was in the weeds, and things fall through the cracks. It happens.

But when the 6’11” toast of the town walks in, he cannot slip through the cracks. Cannot. Rather than social media posts about him not getting served and walking out, there would have been pictures all over of him eating the lamb barbacoa or whatever. It’s good for business. If you give the man a little special treatment after the game, nobody is going to complain (except the people who were going to complain about everything anyway… in that sense working in a restaurant was good preparation for me to use Twitter someday).

 

 

Kevin Durant apparently likes Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook (photo)

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Last summer Kevin Durant tweeted and deleted that the Thunder’s surrounding cast around him and Russell Westbrook was lacking when he played for Oklahoma City. Those tweets – another criticized Thunder coach Billy Donovan – appeared to be intended to come from a burner account, but Durant said he actually meant to send them from his own account.

Now, he apparently liked an Instagram comment with the opposite message about Westbrook. (I say apparently, because I can’t verify the authenticity of these screenshots, but they at least pass the initial smell test.)

“Like” is Instagram’s word. Maybe Durant uses the function for a different purpose – to note a comment, rather than endorse it.

Perhaps, Durant misread the conversation. The comment he liked rejected the notion that the Thunder were “subpar,” but it criticized Westbrook for them not living up to their ability. Perhaps, Durant focused on the comment sticking up for Oklahoma City overall and missed the part about Westbrook being the shortcoming. Skimming that conversation, it’s a plausible mistake.

Maybe Durant just actually hit the like button. It’s easy enough to do.

Or maybe Durant and Westbrook haven’t really gotten less hostile toward each other. Maybe Durant meant to like this from a burner account.

Those nefarious possibilities are the scintillating ones.

After getting crushed for those tweets last summer and repeatedly downplaying his feud with Westbrook, the Warriors star clearly wanted to move on from these storylines. But all those questions have suddenly reemerged. Perhaps for legitimate reasons, perhaps for benign ones. But we won’t know more about Durant’s intent until he answers to this.

Amir Johnson on South Beach: 2006 Pistons ‘let the streets beat us’

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Amir Johnson is a savvy veteran on the young 76ers.

On the 2006 Pistons, he was a scarcely used rookie straight out of high school.

But he was learning lessons he’d apply to his current role.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Philadelphia heeded Johnson’s advice. The 76ers won Games 3 and 4 in Miami to take a 3-1 series lead.

The Pistons went 0-3 in Miami during the six-game 2006 Eastern Conference finals. There was little shame in losing to those Heat. They pushed Detroit to seven games in the 2005 conference finals and were – with Dwyane Wade transcendent while Shaquille O’Neal remained in his prime – even better the following year.

But too much partying is a major charge and a somewhat surprising one. The Pistons were led by the same veteran core – Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace – that made the previous two NBA Finals and won the 2004 title. They’d been around long enough to know better.

Gregg Popovich to miss Spurs-Warriors Game 5

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has missed Games 3 and 4 of his team’s first-round series against the Warriors following the death of his wife, Erin.

Unsurprisingly, he won’t coach the Spurs as they leave San Antonio for Game 5 tomorrow at Golden State.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Popovich should take all the time he needs. Ettore Messina is capable as acting coach, and Popovich being with his family now is more important anyway.

This will probably be the final game of the series. Up 3-1, the Warriors are the better team and at home.