Your unexpected hero: Shane Battier drains six three-pointers in Heat win

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“Reports of my demise were premature. That’s my opening statement.”

Those were the first words Shane Battier spoke when he went to the podium in the interview room after playing a key role in the Heat’s 95-88 Game 7 win over the Spurs.

The last Game 7 the Heat were in — a couple weeks back against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals — Battier never got off the bench. He was 2-of-16 from three in that series and as the Heat went big to match the Pacers he got squeezed out of the rotation.

For the first five games of the NBA Finals he was little better — 3-for-15 and he again was barely getting in games. But through it all he kept talking about sticking to his routine, getting up his shots in practice, being ready.

“Winston Churchill said ‘When going through Hell keep going.’ So I don’t need to reinvent anything, I just need to do what I do and when the shot is there, take it,” Battier said before Game 5.

He started to find that rhythm in Game 6 (3-of-4 from three).

Then he exploded in Game 7 with an NBA Finals Game 7 record 6 three pointers (on 8 shots), which led to 18 points. All series long the Spurs tried to clog the paint and take away the drives of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but the trade off was room for shooters at the arc.

Battier finally made them pay at the most opportune possible moment for the Heat.

“Honestly, I felt good the last couple of games,” Battier said. “And I made a couple of threes last game, and so I felt really confident tonight. I knew that our starters were going to be pretty tired after Game 6. It was an emotionally and physically draining game. I only played 12 minutes. So I felt great.”

Battier is a guy with the perspective of a veteran, so he didn’t see Game 7 as pressure filled.

“I’ve always thought that pressure is trying to feed your family, trying to make the mortgage. We play a game,” Battier said. “We play basketball.”

Thursday night he played it very well, and for that reason he is a back-to-back NBA Champion.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.