Heat's James and Wade pause during a break in play against the Spurs during Game 7 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami

NBA Finals Game 7 Spurs vs. Heat: Miami earns repeat title in dramatic Game 7

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The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA Champions, but the San Antonio Spurs made them earn every last bit of it.

It was a hard-fought if not always pretty Game 7, but LeBron James finished with 37 points and 12 rebounds to lead Miami to a 95-88 win.

LeBron was rightfully named NBA Finals MVP. He earned that with a good series where he stepped up and played his best when his team needed it in the fourth quarter of Game 6 and all of Game 7. LeBron joins Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players to win back-to-back MVPs and NBA titles in the same years.

This has been the most entertaining NBA Finals in years and that was due in large part to a Spurs team that never wilted under Miami’s pressure. Tim Duncan had 24 points, 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard had 18 and the Spurs as a team showed why they were one of the best teams of their generation. But in the end Tony Parker had to sit as he was gassed and Manu Ginobili made turnovers. Even the great Duncan missed a clean look to tie it late.

Miami had great games from LeBron and Dwyane Wade — 23 points as he attacked on two bad knees — and then the surprise performance from Shane Battier who had 18 points with an NBA Finals record 6 three pointers. But it was the pressure of the Heat defense that ended up getting them this series, they forced enough key turnovers and made enough plays to win.

And with that they carve out a little bit of NBA history as back-to-back champions.

 

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Here is our live blog from Game 7:

END OF REGULATION The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA Champions. They had to earn it in one of the best NBA Finals we have seen in a long time.

END OF REGULATION MIAMI WINS 95-88.

:16.3 Fourth Quarter: Ginobili misses long three, desperate three. Wade gets rebound, fouled, hits one. 95-88 Miami.

:23.5 Fourth Quarter: LeBron hits both, 94-88 Heat.

:23.5 Fourth Quarter: Tony Parker on the bench and Manu Ginobili drove baseline and then threw a bad pass that LeBron steals. Terrible play by Manu.

:28 Fourth Quarter: If Game 6 taught us anything, it is that this game is not over.

:28 Fourth Quarter: LeBron with pull-up 18-footer gives Heat 92-88 lead.

:46 Fourth Quarter: Tim Duncan had a chance to tie, had smaller Battier on him in the block, spun to the lane and missed, then missed the tip in. Oh, what a chance. Heat lead 90-88 with the ball and a chance to really make this hard on the spurs.

1:35 Fourth Quarter: Chalmers fouled by Green on a drive (bad reach in by Green), missed both freebies. 90-88 Heat.

2:00 Fourth Quarter: Leonard has ice water in his veins, hits three. 90-88 Heat.

2:34 Fourth Quarter: Wade scores inside. Duncan misses. 90-85 Heat.

3:06 Fourth Quarter: Shane Battier with 18 points on 6-7 from three. That is an NBA Finals Game 7 record for threes. He is the role player who steps up.

3:06 Fourth Quarter: Duncan with an and-1 that is Bosh’s fifth foul. 88-85 Heat.

3:17 Fourth Quarter: Shane Battier with a corner three on a LeBron kickout.Heat by 6.

4:09 Fourth Quarter: Ginobili three made it 85-82 and Green had a chance to tie on a Heat turnover.

4:58 Fourth Quarter: Chris Bosh 0-5 for the game, but he has played good defense on Duncan. Thing is, Duncan still scores because he is a machine with 12 counter moves in the post. 83-79 Heat.

5:37 Fourth Quarter: LeBron James with 31 points on 19 shots. Dwyane Wade has added 20 playing on two bad knees. Together 51 points on 38 shots.

5:37 Fourth Quarter: Ginobili throws the ball into the first row, fifth turnover of the quarter for the Spurs, that will kill them. LeBron bucket makes it 83-77 Heat.

6:38 Fourth Quarter: 81-77 Heat. Spurs refuse to go away, helped a lot by Ginobili with 15.

7:34 Fourth Quarter: Common foul from Spurs on key play — Spurs fouled LeBron in back court as he passed to Wade, who had a clear path for a fast break… except Wade had fallen and would not have been able to make a play. Good call by refs, Wade would not have scored on that play.

8:34 Fourth Quarter: I’m going to go through withdrawals tomorrow with this series over. It has been that good.

8:34 Fourth Quarter: Battier misses three. Battier misses three. Kawhi Leonard has 13 rebounds already. 77-75 Heat.

9:42 Fourth Quarter: Birdman takes an offensive charge, gets an offensive rebound. Miami looks quicker and like they have more energy right now. LeBron free throws make it 77-73 Heat.

10:28 Fourth Quarter: That didn’t take long, Duncan and Parker back in. 76-73 Heat

11:05 Fourth Quarter: Battier with another three, 5-5 from deep. 75-71 Heat.

11:55 Fourth Quarter: Spurs stick with their rotation, rest Parker and Duncan to start fourth, Wade and LeBron in the game.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Both teams shot 50 percent in the third quarter. They loosened up.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: 72-71 Heat. Manu Gimobili made an impressive driving layup, the Heat had five seconds and Chalmers drove and took a long straight-away three that he banked in just before the buzzer. Wild end to the quarter. Chalmers loves his buzzer beaters in big games.

:27 Third Quarter: Shane Battier with his fourth three of the night ties it, 69-69.

1:33 Third Quarter: Ray Allen 0-4 from three tonight with three turnovers. Might be time for Heat to go away from him. 67-66 Heat.

2:18 Third Quarter: The shot clocks over the basket at one end are out, so they are turning off at both ends… wait, they fixed it. So all is right with the world. Sort of.

2:34 Third Quarter: This in some ways feels like the games the Spurs have won when they take the Heat’s best punch and keep finding ways. But will their legs hold out in the fourth is the question. If so they could win this.

2:34 Third Quarter: Duncan layup off pass from Diaw — Spurs once again withstand a little Heat run. 65-64 Spurs.

3:33 Third Quarter: Heat don’t want LeBron driving but he hits his second three in a row. Five threes from LeBron. Kawhi Leonard answers with an impressive and-1 62-60 Heat.

4:23 Third Quarter: LeBron drains his fourth three of the game on a pick-and-pop with Ray Allen. 59-57 Heat.

5:27 Third Quarter: Wade with a nice drive across the lane floater. Green answers with his first three all game. 57-56 Spurs. Green at 27 three for series.

6:48 Third Quarter: 54-54 at a timeout after Green got trapped. Rough game for Green, he has missed all his threes.

7:50 Third Quarter: Duncan with a bucket to tied it 54-54. Also, Duncan has four steals this game.

8:02 Third Quarter: Heat take lead on that pretty LeBron shot.

8:36 Third Quarter: Spurs turnover becomes pretty LeBron to Wade dunk in transition. 54-52 Heat.

9:55 Third Quarter: LeBron had time to build a campfire, make some smores, clean his hands, then set his feet and make a three. 51-48 Heat.

11:01 Third Quarter: Both teams looking a little more steady to start the second half, 46-46 tie.

HALFTIME: Here is the Heat shot chart by zone for the first half.

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HALFTIME: Here is the Spurs shot chart by zone for the first half.

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HALFTIME: This has been a slugfest of a first half, in particular compared to what was a pretty series up to then most of the time.

HALFTIME: Spurs took 26 shots in the paint in the first half, but hit just 45 percent of them. Heat, however, only 10 shots in the paint. They are knocking down jumpers now, but can they keep that up? Spurs would be willing to bet no.

HALFTIME: Heat shot 43.2 percent overall and 5-14 from three led by 15 from LeBron James and 14 from Dwyane Wade. They’d have a bigger lead but had 8 turnovers.

HALFTIME: Spurs shot 35 percent for first half, led by 13 points from Tim Duncan and 10 from Tony Parker. They are just 2-7 from three but got some good minutes from Manu Ginobili.

HALFTIME: 46-44 Heat as half ends with a Wade step back jumper.

1:25 Second Quarter: Ginobili draws questionable foul, hits both free throws, 42-40 Spurs back in lead.

1:43 Second Quarter: LeBron three, Leonard drive and foul. Next possession Duncan three. 40-40 tie.

2:53 Second Quarter: Heat have their 9th turnover of the game, this one courtesy Ray Allen. Heat have cracked 40 percent shooting barrier but turnovers helping keep Spurs close.

3:02 Second Quarter: Heat win scramble for loose ball on the floor, they seem to be winning a lot of 50/50 balls. 37-34 Heat.

4:15 Second Quarter: Spurs hanging around thanks to “look what I found” Gary Neal bank shot from three, and a couple Tim Duncan free throws. 35-32 Heat.

5:21 Second Quarter: LeBron James with a three makes it 33-27 Heat. Spurs have to hold on and not let a run happen.

6:29 Second Quarter: LeBron with a good an impressive and-1. So hard to foul him and stop his shooting motion. 30-27 Heat.

6:40 Second Quarter: Both teams shooting 36.7 percent, Heat hotter from three but turning ball over four more times. 27-27 tie.

7:46 Second Quarter: Duncan with the and-1 where he picked up the third foul on Bosh and sends him to the bench, Chris Andersen back in. 27-27 tie.

8:07 Second Quarter: Tony Parker post up? Tony Parker post up. 25-24 Heat.

9:12 Second Quarter: Heat get three offensive rebounds in once sequence, leads to a Chalmers drive and layup. 23-20 Heat.

9:55 Second Quarter: The in-arena music in Miami is like being in a dance club. In San Antonio it’s like 1988 Metal Fest.

9:55 Second Quarter: Shane Battier is shooting like he’s back at Cameron Indoor Arena, but the 7th Heat turnover leads the Spurs back. 21-20 Heat.

11:12 Second Quarter: Another Battier three. 21-16 Heat.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: Shane Battier with 6 points, he could be the role player star you know would come out of somewhere this quarter. Tim Duncan was really solid for the Spurs but not anyone else.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: 18-16 Heat after 1. Not a very pretty first quarter. Heat shooting 36.8 percent, Spurs 31.8 percent.

:33 First Quarter: Another Shane Battier open three and Heat have their first lead, 18-15.

:50 First Quarter: Spurs have Duncan and Parker sitting, this is a key stretch for the Heat. Battier three and Birdman putback next possession 15-15

1:02 First Quarter: Drake is in the house, they showed him on the scoreboard. He has a Heat championship ring from last year… no, I have no idea why.

2:12 First Quarter: Spurs start out shooting 35% with 3 early turnovers, Heat 30.8% and they have 4 turnovers. Guys are tight. Not a surprise, especially if you remember the wrestling match that was Lakers/Celtics Game 7 in 2010.

3:03 First Quarter: Birdman with a block 15-10 Spurs.

6:18 First Quarter: The Spurs out to fast starts (or the Heat off to slow starts) has been a pattern this series. When the Spurs are on they don’t wilt under the Heat’s runs later in the game that close the gap.

6:18 First Quarter: Ginobili has to sit with his second foul. Heat shooting 2-of-8 to start and the lack of outside shots is not pulling the Spurs defense out of the paint. 11-6 Spurs

7:22 First Quarter: Hangover from last game, what hangover? 11-4 Spurs lead. They bounced back, the question is will their legs get tired in the second half.

8:01 First Quarter: Duncan starts 2-2 shooting, but Spurs with 2 turnovers. Chalmers off to a rough start. Ginobili with a three 9-2 Spurs.

9:58 First Quarter: Tim Duncan with a steal then he leads the “fast” break and dunks. 6-2 Spurs.

10:48 First Quarter: Tony Parker scores the first bucket of the game, a backdoor cut where Mike Miller lost him. LeBron jumper on the other end. 2-2.

11:25 First Quarter: LeBron starts on Ginobili, which means Chalmers on Parker.

12:00 First Quarter: Best part of the being in the arena, I don’t have to see Jessie Williams social media thing they apparently keep doing before the games (according to people complaining on my twitter timeline).

12:00 First Quarter: Dwyane Wade could be key — if he is off tonight and the Spurs defense can ignore him outside 15 feet they will pack the paint and make things hard for LeBron. If they need to be honest on him, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and the rest things open up for the Heat offense.

12:00 First Quarter: Heat can’t go away from Julia Dale at this point.

12:00 First Quarter: Every Game 7 has a role player rise up as a star, that is going to be fascinating. Remember in 2010 it was then Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace, who won Game 7 for the Lakers against the Celtics. Both teams were tight that day — Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce included. That was more wrestling match than basketball game and the winning team shot just over 32 percent. We’ll see who is loose tonight.

12:00 First Quarter: If you haven’t seen it, we have the video of LeBron James talking to the media before the game up live here at PBT, check it out.

12:00 First Quarter: We should note that Danny Green of the Spurs said before the game that he has come down with some kind of bug and is feeling a little off. May not impact his play, but something to watch.

One game. For the NBA championship.

Welcome to the ProBasketballTalk live blog for Game 7. This has been the best, most entertaining NBA Finals series in a while so it is fitting that it  has gone 7 games — and it’s good for us as fans. I’m Kurt, your host and bartender for the evening. I will be keeping you updated on the score, the action, the vibe and all things Game 7. Plus there will be snide remarks and sarcasm. Just know that going in.

Now pull up a chair and have fun.

Watch some of Hawks 12 blocked shots in close-out Game 6 vs. Celtics

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Atlanta got to the playoffs on the strength of their defense.

That also won the Hawks their first-round series against the Celtics — Boston struggled to get score consistently against Atlanta. On Thursday night that included 12 blocked shots as the Hawks took away the paint and the Celtics could not make them play.

Well done by the Hawks but that defense is about to be put to the test in the next round — the Cleveland Cavaliers have much more dangerous weapons.

No longer rebuilding, Pistons hope to improve in offseason

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 20: Tobias Harris #34 Andre Drummond #0 and Marcus Morris #13 of the Detroit Pistons celebrates during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons have finally moved beyond the rebuilding stage.

After their first playoff appearance since 2009, Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons can look ahead to the offseason knowing that if they simply keep their current starting lineup intact, the future could be fairly bright. That’s not to say that Detroit will stand pat, but the team’s key players are young enough that the Pistons can envision more success if this group stays together.

“We’re now not at the time of wholesale change anymore. We went through that,” said Van Gundy, who just wrapped up his second season as Detroit’s coach and team president. “We’re not making deals just to make deals. We like the guys we have, but we’ve got to add to it, and if there’s ever a chance to make a significant upgrade – yeah.”

The Pistons went 44-38, their best record since 2008, before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by top-seeded Cleveland. When Van Gundy met with reporters Thursday, he talked about a lot of potential improvements that can come from within – such as Andre Drummond‘s free throw shooting, Stanley Johnson‘s skill set and the team’s overall defensive approach.

The 22-year-old Drummond remains the Pistons’ biggest star. As he enters restricted free agency, the team has not expressed any reservations about trying to sign him long term – despite his sub-40 percent free throw shooting, an issue which occasionally relegated him to the bench during crunch time.

“He’s a 22-year-old All-Star center. There aren’t very many guys in the league who have the abilities that he has,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll move forward and obviously do everything we possibly can to try to get him re-signed.”

Detroit’s starting lineup of Drummond, Reggie Jackson (26 years old), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (23), Tobias Harris (23) and Marcus Morris (26) was good enough to lift the Pistons into the postseason, and the team also has the 19-year-old Johnson, a lottery pick last year. Van Gundy says he wants Johnson to work on developing his individual skills in the offseason, which isn’t always easy for players in the years before they reach the NBA.

“They don’t really get, or haven’t had summers where they could take an extended period of time and really focus on skill development,” Van Gundy said. “They’re always playing AAU, then with Stanley, USA Basketball, then they have a summer where they’re going to draft workout after draft workout after draft workout, and then right after that, they’re just going into summer league.”

As for Drummond’s woeful foul shooting, Van Gundy says it’s wrong to view it purely as a mechanics problem. Drummond shot 35.5 percent this season from the line and was 11 of 34 in the playoffs.

Van Gundy was asked if having Drummond try to shoot underhanded could be an option.

“I think right now everything’s on the table,” Van Gundy said. “We all know it’s an important thing, Andre more than any of us. I think he’s pretty open to anything, but there’s a lot of ways to attack this problem, and we’ll all have a hand in it.”

Although the Pistons don’t have to worry much about losing Drummond before next season, Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake are both unrestricted free agents. They combined for only 69 minutes in the playoff series, and Van Gundy was somewhat noncommittal about their future.

“In just a very general sense, I like the idea of having both of them back,” he said. “But – and I was honest with them – there’s priorities ahead of re-signing them.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Hawks close out Celtics, advance to face Cavaliers

<> during the first quarter of Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on April 28, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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The first Eastern Conference semifinals matchup is set: the Atlanta Hawks closed out the Boston Celtics 104-92 on the road to win their first-round series in six games and advance to the second round, where they will face the Cleveland Cavaliers beginning on Monday.

The Hawks controlled the game from start to finish, neutralizing Boston’s offense and attacking Isaiah Thomas on the other end. Thomas finished with 25 points, leading all scorers, but shot just 9-for-24 from the field.

In the second half, Atlanta’s lead stretched as far as 28 points, before a Marcus Smart-led comeback in the fourth quarter cut it to 12 and Atlanta was able to put the game away.

From a talent standpoint, this series was always going to be skewed away from the Celtics, especially after Avery Bradley‘s hamstring injury in the first round of the playoffs. And Atlanta’s superior talent won out in Game 6, with every Hawks starter reaching double figures.

From here, Atlanta will face Cleveland in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, this time with everybody fully healthy for both teams. Boston is set up for an interesting offseason, with a high lottery pick coming from Brooklyn, a ton of cap space and dark-horse status in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes.

Livingston enjoying the moment filling in for injured Curry

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 03: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors and Shaun Livingston #34 celebrate during a second half time out against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on February 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Warriors defeated the Wizards 134 to 121. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Shaun Livingston‘s left leg could have been amputated nine years ago.

The knee injury he suffered while with the Clippers in 2007 was that severe. Going for a layup, Livingston’s leg buckled backward, parallel to the court, when he fell in a freak accident. He screamed and writhed in agony.

Now, healthy and reliable, Livingston is making a new name for himself on the NBA’s postseason stage. He has filled in admirably for the NBA’s best player as Golden State moves on to the second round of the playoffs without injured MVP Stephen Curry.

Livingston scored 16 points in each of his three starts in place of Curry during Golden State’s 4-1 first-round series win against the Houston Rockets.

“I think when you go through traumatic events like that, you understand,” Livingston said. “Now, being in this position and playing with guys like Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Draymond (Green), All-Stars, being on this team, there was a time I was getting waived off teams that weren’t winning 20 games.”

Journeyman for this guy is practically an understatement. Just 30, the Warriors are already his ninth NBA team. Livingston has played in the most games of his career the past two seasons, 78 each, and emerged as a trustworthy backup to Curry when he comes off the bench with high energy and an aggressive style.

That night of Feb. 26, 2007, still fuels him. Livingston overcame long medical odds just to get back on the court, and for that he is so grateful each time he laces up his shoes for practice or game day.

Livingston tore three major ligaments in his knee – the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral – as well as his lateral meniscus, then required extensive surgery performed by renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Alabama.

Livingston also dislocated his knee cap and tibiofemoral joint. Though the injury could have potentially ended his career at age 21, he still believed he would play again. First he had to walk again.

After all that, the Warriors love watching him contribute in such a meaningful way as they chase a second straight championship.

“He’s been huge. Not just this series, all year,” Green said after Golden State eliminated Houston on Wednesday night, 114-81. “But really stepping in for Steph, and it’s different. It’s not the same thing that you’re used to, which is so unique about it. But he’s been incredible for us, always steady, somebody we know we can go to if we need a basket, and taking care of the ball and really running the offense.”

Livingston’s remarkable comeback inspired coach Steve Kerr this season when he was coping with his own trying ordeal, a long leave of absence following complications from two back surgeries.

“I admire Shaun Livingston. Shaun had probably the worst knee injury that I’ve ever seen, that anybody’s ever seen in NBA history, almost had his leg amputated,” Kerr said this week after being named Coach of the Year. “Think about what it took for Shaun to get back to the point where he is now, several years of rehabilitation. That inspires me, my players inspire me. … People may forget, but if it weren’t for the knee injury, Shaun was headed for a superstar career.”

Livingston, drafted fourth overall by the Clippers in 2004 out of Peoria Central High in Illinois, was hit with plenty of injury hard luck well before the frightening knee blowout and had yet to even play a full NBA season because of injuries.

“Going through those experiences, it’s humbling, and never getting too high or too low,” Livingston said. “Just respecting the process, keeping your head down and keep grinding.”

He has vowed to be aggressive and make things happen at every chance to keep Golden State’s record-setting season going. The Warriors had an NBA-best 24-0 start on the way to a 73-9 record that topped the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ previous-best finish of 72-10.

Kerr was on that team. The encouraging words from the coach mean so much to Livingston.

“He’s played and won championships as a player, and he’s been around,” Livingston said. “He’s played with the greatest and been coached by the greatest. So to hear those words, it’s very humbling. I’m grateful. I take it in stride, and I just try to let it fuel me.”

At 6-foot-7, Livingston is a tough matchup because of his length and athletic ability.

His teammates don’t want him to change a thing.

“He’s been phenomenal, so we’re going to need him to continue to be that way,” Green said. “We’re not sure how long Steph will be out, but until then Shaun will be holding it down for us. So he’s been big, and we look forward to him continuing to do that.”