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.

Timberwolves new CEO knows exactly what he’s getting into

This 2016 image provided by the San Francisco 49ers shows Ethan Casson posed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. In 1998, Casson called sports teams all over the country asking to get a foot in the door. The Minnesota Timberwolves answered, giving him an entry-level position. Almost 20 years later, Casson returns to the franchise as the team's new CEO hoping to help a team that has struggled on the business side almost as much as it has on the court. (Terrell Lloyd/The San Francisco 49ers via AP)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) In the winter of 1998, Ethan Casson started calling professional franchise after professional franchise, begging them to get his foot in the door in any capacity.

One night, a human resources employee for the Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the phone and Casson talked his way into a meeting. He flew from the East Coast, met with several Timberwolves executives and, during the third quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors, was offered an entry-level position on the business side of the operation at $24,000 per year.

“To think that what started as a cold call of me begging an HR person to let me come in and prove my worth 18 years later turned into me coming back as a CEO is amazing and certainly very special to me,” Casson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Casson had to sell his car and some other possessions to raise the money to pay for his move from Boston to the Twin Cities, but the leap of faith has paid off. Six years after he left the Timberwolves to climb the ladder with the San Francisco 49ers, he is returning as CEO to breathe new life into one of the NBA’s struggling operations.

Timberwolves President Chris Wright remembered the impression Casson left in those first face-to-face meetings.

“I told him we’re going to find a place for you in this franchise because you are exactly the type of person that we want build this franchise around,” Wright said.

Casson’s first stint with the Timberwolves lasted 11 years. He worked his way up to senior vice president of corporate partnerships and met his future wife here before leaving for the 49ers in 2010.

When he arrived in the Bay Area, the once-proud 49ers were in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought. Their revenue had dropped to near the bottom of the league and they were playing in an outdated stadium that couldn’t compete with the shiny new ones popping up around the league. He leaves after helping to secure a 20-year, $220 million naming rights deal with Levi’s for the new stadium and rebuilding the franchise’s business operations.

The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since 2004, the longest active drought in the league. That futility has contributed significantly to plummeting revenue and a dwindling season ticket base.

“I’m not saying it’s apples to apples, but I certainly feel I’ve been on a six-year journey that involved a lot of similar themes,” Casson said. “And I’ll apply all of those lessons to this next phase of my career.”

Casson replaces Rob Moor, the longtime CEO who stepped aside to work more closely with Wolves owner Glen Taylor’s other business interests. At 42 years old, Casson is part of a youth movement coming into the organization. Taylor also brought in 41-year-old New York real estate mogul Meyer Orbach and 35-year-old Chinese entrepreneur John Jiang as minority owners, and he hopes the three of them help bring a new perspective and energy to the business side that mirrors the vibe youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are bringing to the team.

“I was very aware and respectful that taking on this role wasn’t about coming in and fixing things that were broken,” Casson said. “I don’t look at opportunities like this as somethings not working. I look at it as an opportunity to reset and plot out a different course or a different version of a course that moves the business forward.”

The challenges are real. The Timberwolves’ competitive dormancy buried them in a crowded sports marketplace. Tickets have been hard to sell and the NFL’s Vikings, the NHL’s Wild and MLB’s Twins are competing for the corporate dollars.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” said Wright, who is entering his 25th season with the Wolves. “I’ve tried to do it what I consider the best way for the franchise given all of the different sort of environments we’ve found ourselves in over the last 12 years as we’ve not been making the playoffs. And I think Ethan is going to just bring a completely fresh, new look to all of that and lead us in the direction we need to be as a club in the 21st century.”

The Wolves have one of the most promising young cores in the league, a brand new practice facility in downtown Minneapolis and have begun renovations on the dusty Target Center.

“There’s a lot of momentum in and around the organization that made it very exciting for me as a fan and now as someone who is coming back as CEO,” he said. “That will come and go. The renovation will eventually be complete. The team will stabilize and be competitive. You still have to make sure the business model is sustainable and drivable. That’s what we’re going to be.”

Joel Embiid arm wrestled Justin Bieber in a club? Yup. There is video.

THERMAL, CA - APRIL 16:  Professional basketball player Joel Embiid attends the Levi's Brand and RE/DONE Levi's presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 16, 2016 in Thermal, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Tequila Don Julio)
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Joel Embiid is officially 7’0″ tall and 250 pounds, although when you see him in person now that number seems low, he looks thicker and stronger.

Justin Bieber is a 5’9″ waiflike person.

So of course, they arm wrestled at the club Hyde in Los Angeles. It went about as you’d expect. Here is some video, hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie (arguably the best arm wrestler in the NBA media).

If you’re about to make an “at least Embiid didn’t get hurt” joke, be more creative.

Hopefully, we get to see what Embiid can do on the court this fall, where the competition will be a lot tougher than any Canadian pop star.

Larry Sanders asks in Twitter poll what team he should play for next season

Larry Sanders
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Larry Sanders is talking about getting back into the NBA. He walked away in 2015 to say he needed to deal with anxiety and depression, to find a balance in his life. Recently he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders this:

“But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”

But where? A lot of teams could use an athletic big who averaged 1.4 blocks per game over the five years he was in the NBA, although with the conservative nature of NBA front offices they will not want to take much risk (Golden State reportedly thought about it and decided not to offer him a contract).

Sanders decided to ask Twitter where he should go, putting Twitter’s poll feature to good use.

The question becomes, where is there mutual interest from any of these teams?

If Sanders and his agent can win a team over in an interview, the contract will be small and the number of guaranteed years is not exceeding one (if even that). From the perspective of an NBA team, Sanders has to prove himself again.

But never underestimate how many chances big men get in this league.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Warriors’ just re-signed Anderson Varejao leaves Brazil to have back examined in USA

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16: Anderson Varejao #18 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Anderson Varejao was spending the past couple days helping his nation prepare to host the 2016 Olympics in less than two weeks, including carrying the Olympic flame.

#tochaolimpica #varejao #olimpiadas #rio2016 #brazil #sampacool 😍⚾⛳🎾⚽🏀🏁🏂🏆🏊🏇

A video posted by Marcus Bado (@marcusbado) on

But now he is on his way back to the United States to have his chronically bad back examined. Again. From Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.

The Warriors re-signed Varejao on a one-year, veteran minimum contract where he will make $980,431. He is expected to back up Zaza Pachulia at the five spot, although his run would have been limited (which is good, he’s not terribly effective anymore).

A variety of injuries — back, Achilles, wrist — have meant the most games Varejao has played in a season since the 2010-11 season is 65. Last season that number was 53, the final 22 of it with the Warriors.

If Varejao can’t go or is limited, the Warriors may look around at other options. But the pickings are slim at this point.