Heat look sharp, cruise to blowout Game 1 win over Nets

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The Nets beat the Heat all four times that the two teams met during the regular season, an achievement that could have given them confidence heading into a playoff battle that many expected to need the full seven games to be decided.

If Brooklyn was feeling good about its chances, Miami crushed that sentiment with 107-86 victory in Game 1 that honestly wasn’t that close.

The plan from the get go seemed to be for Nets head coach Jason Kidd not to push his players in what figures to be a long series, especially coming off of a thrilling Game 7 victory over the Raptors just two days before. He had gone 11 players deep into his bench by early in the second quarter — a move that isn’t uncommon for Kidd, but one that seemed to shuffle too many bodies in and out of the lineup while the team was struggling to find any offensive rhythm in the early going.

Miami had gotten out to a lead of as many as 11 points in the second, and primarily did so by taking high-percentage shots close to the basket. Points in the paint were a huge differentiator in this Heat victory, where the Nets were outscored 52-28. Miami took 35 of its 74 shots from the restricted area, and made 24 of them which was good for a mark of 68.4 percent.

The Nets, meanwhile, were just 8-of-20 from in close, but above average three-point shooting (10-of-24) kept the deficit manageable at times.

Despite Miami’s early success, they were up just three at halftime. They made quick work of the Nets in the third, however, and used a 15-2 run to build a 16-point lead that would be impossible to come back from, both given the way the Heat were scoring inside, along with the extremely slow pace of the contest.

As John Schumann of NBA.com noted, the 13-point deficit the Nets faced entering the fourth seemed much worse. The Heat scored 61 points on 41 possessions in the second half, which was an insane clip that would have translated into 149 points per 100 possessions.

LeBron James led the way for Miami with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, on a night where the Heat shot 56.8 percent from the field. The lead reached as many as 23 points, which allowed Kidd to sit Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams the entire fourth period, while playing Kevin Garnett just 1:16 over the final 12 minutes.

If rest was what the Nets needed, they certainly got plenty of it in this one once the game got out of hand perhaps earlier than expected. They’ll need to plan to play everyone much heavier minutes in Game 2 to try to steal one before things shift back to Brooklyn, but if the Heat are able to get what they want offensively as they did in this one, it’s going to make for a very quick series.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.