Eastern Conference Finals Game 2: Can Pacers put on repeat performance?

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In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday the Pacers scored 119 points per 100 possessions and absolutely devastated the Heat defense. Indiana played smart pick-and-roll basketball to expose Miami’s poor rotations as the roll man got a lot of good looks in the paint. Indiana moved the ball, hit 8-of-19 shots from three, and made Miami look a step slow all game long. The Pacers were the aggressors, getting to the free throw line 37 times to the Heat’s 15.

It was not at all what anyone expected — the Pacers were built to grind the Heat down, not outscore them. Which begs the real question for Game 2:

Can the Pacers replicate that performance?

Or, was Game 1 a “one off” that will not look like any other game in this series?

We will find out Tuesday night with Game 2 between these teams in Indiana.

First off, expect a much more aggressive Miami defense. In Game 1 the Heat let the Pacers start their sets and get to their spots on the floor with little disruption, that will not be the case this time around. Also, expect much sharper defensive rotations for Miami, particularly off the pick-and-roll. The Pacers roll man continually got the ball in the paint and made plays, expect Miami to defend that with more aggressive play. However, in Game 1 the Pacers hit 8-of-14 from the midrange and 41.2 percent from three, do that again Miami will struggle to stop them.

Expect Udonis Haslem to start and Shane Battier to come off the bench, as the Heat did in the second half of Game 1. Miami needs the size and defense to match up better with Indiana — Roy Hibbert and David West combined for 38 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in Game 1. Don’t expect to see Greg Oden, who coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game 1 was not physically ready to go.

What Miami also needs is someone to play well on offense who is not named LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. We’re looking at you, Chris Bosh. He was 4-of-12 shooting and 0-of-5 from three in Game 1. Miami needs Bosh’s jump shot to pull the Heat bigs out of the paint and create room for LeBron and Wade to drive the lane. Bosh can do that. Also Miami could use more Ray Allen or Mario Chalmers or anyone else who can get hot from three and give them some points.

Indiana still has matchup advantages — mainly Miami doesn’t have a great answer for Roy Hibbert, who had 19 points (9 earned at the free throw line) and 9 rebounds in Game 1. But Hibbert has been anything but consistent these playoffs, posting some zero-zero games as well. He’s had games where he didn’t fight for position, or didn’t get the ball when he did. It begs the question which Roy Hibbert shows up on Tuesday?

It’s really the same question for Paul George and the entire Pacers offense — can they do it in back-to-back games? Because so far in these playoffs (and over the final months of the season) they have often followed a strong performance with a dud. The Pacers have been the very definition of inconsistent, a team Has Miami woken them up? Will the Pacers defense that was built to make life difficult for the Heat continue to thrive on Tuesday night?

Or was Game 1 a one off?

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.