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.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.
Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.
The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.
Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.
But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.
Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.
Take comfort, chairs and staffers.
The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.
Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.
Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.
The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.
This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.
Opponents shoot just 41.8% at the rim with Rudy Gobert defending it – which is now second to Hassan Whiteside among the 50 players who defend the most shots at the rim per game.
But James Johnson went up with no fear, scoring two of his 24 points in the Heat’s 111-110 win over the Jazz last night.
The Hornets didn’t just beat the Mavericks, 97-87, last night.
Nicolas Batum got Charlotte style points with this pass through Dwight Powell‘s legs, assisting Cody Zeller.