Remember back to the last Game 7 of the NBA Finals: 2010, Celtics at Lakers. Kobe Bryant was tight. Paul Pierce was tight. The game was played fairly cautiously.
Who were the two best players on the court? Probably Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace) and Rasheed Wallace. The two guys hardwired not to feel human pressure.
LeBron James and Tim Duncan will do their part, but in any Game 7 (and any one-game championship like the Super Bowl) there is always a role player who steps up and has a career day. That is the guy who ends up swinging Game 7 with a monster play or just a hot hand (if you believe such a thing exists).
So who is it going to be Thursday night? Here are a few options.
• Mike Miller (Heat). As evidence, I point to Game 5 against the Thunder last NBA Finals — 23 points, 7-of-8 from three to help close out the series win for the Heat at home. Three point shooters can find space and fill it up for one game, and we know Miller can be that guy.
• Danny Green (Spurs). This guy was in the series MVP discussion after five games as he set the record for most three pointers made in an NBA Finals (25). Then in Game 6 the Heat decided maybe they shouldn’t sag off him so much to jump passing lanes and he couldn’t find a rhythm. If he gets a little room and gets going again in Game 7 it’s a great sign for the Spurs (because it also means Tony Parker is getting in the lane and creating shots for him).
• Mario Chalmers (Heat). This guy has taken and made the big shot since college, when a key three helped Kansas win a national title. Chalmers reminds me of Derek Fisher in the sense he has unwavering belief in his ability to hit the next shot and that kind of immunity to pressure pays off in games of this magnitude.
• Kawhi Leonard (Spurs). The stars for the Spurs — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker — had tired legs by the end of Game 6, leading to questions about how they bounce back for Game 7 48 hours later. If you’re looking at Spurs with fresh young legs who have had a good series already Leonard is your guy. He’s going to get time on LeBron James defensively, and that will be key, but he’s had a good offensive series and has hit threes as well. This could be a big day for the young future star of the Spurs.
After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.
Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.
They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.
Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.
The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.
76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.
The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.
LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.
“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”
LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.
But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.
The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.
It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.
Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.
So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.
Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.
Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.
Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.