Dominant LeBron, resurgent Bosh have Heat one win from NBA Finals with easy Game 4 victory over Pacers

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LeBron James had been a quiet killer of sorts for the Heat through the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals, putting up extremely efficient statistical lines that were impactful while barely making a sound.

With the chance to put his team one win away from a fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals, however, James made plenty of noise. He had three monstrous highlights and was in attack mode from the start, finishing with a game-high 32 points in helping the Heat to a 102-90 victory that wasn’t nearly that close, which put Miami ahead three games to one in the best-of-seven series.

There were multiple factors that enabled Miami to pull away in this one — Chris Bosh returning to form with a strong start, Lance Stephenson getting into early foul trouble which shook his confidence, and Roy Hibbert being completely ineffective on both ends of the floor for almost all of his 22 minutes on the court.

But no one, on either side, was more impactful than James.

First, LeBron finished an and-1 dunk in traffic near the end of the first half that put his team up by double digits. Next, he hit an insanely well-contested three-pointer near the end of the shot clock on his way to a 14-point third quarter outburst that helped put the game out of reach. Finally, he converted a coast-to-coast fast break slam in transition that exemplified his unwillingness to be stopped in this particular contest.

LeBron finished 13-of-21 from the field, and added 10 rebounds and five assists to his 32-point performance.

Bosh broke out of his postseason funk in a huge way, and got Miami off to the strong start. After totaling just 27 points through the first three games of this series, he came out sharp in this one, scoring 10 points in less than eight first quarter minutes, on the way to 25 points for the game on only 12 shots.

Lance Stephenson seemed to believe he got into LeBron’s head a bit in Game 3, but James had a monster Game 4, while Stephenson’s performance went largely unnoticed. Lance battled foul trouble early on, and ended up with just nine points on seven shots in over 32 minutes of action, and the bulk of that production came once the game had already been decided.

Hibbert, meanwhile, went scoreless for the fourth time in this postseason, and did so against a Heat lineup that was forced to go small once Chris Andersen was ruled out due to injury.

The Pacers are built in a way that should be able to extend this Heat team, but only if they defend as they did during the regular season at a rate that was tops in the league, and do so for 48 minutes. Consistency has been the most elusive of characteristics for Indiana over the last couple of months of the regular season, and we’re seeing that trend continue, even as the Pacers have managed to advance this deep into the postseason.

But when LeBron is in attack mode as he was in this one, we’ve yet to see a team be able to stop him at any time over the past few seasons.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning 3-pointer to beat Kings (VIDEO)

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Welp, looks like Russell Westbrook is re-energized after All-Star Weekend.

As the first night of games after the break got underway on Thursday night, it was Westbrook who gave us a jolt as he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings on the road.

With just a second to go, Sacramento’s Justin Jackson had tied the game up at 107-107. This came after Vince Carter pulled up confidently from nearly 30 feet out, missing badly. Sacramento missed another follow, and then Jackson put home the final try.

Via Twitter:

That left the Thunder to advance the ball with just one second left.

Oklahoma City ran a simple play with Westbrook running near-to-far across the arc from the inbounder, eventually settling at the top of the 3-point line.

He let it fly, and that allowed OKC to come away with a win, 110-107.

Bulls find way to lose despite being up by 5 with 35 seconds left

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CHICAGO (AP) Ben Simmons scored 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115 on Thursday night.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.

Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers.

Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near half court and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.

Portis had a chance for a game winner, but his short attempt – with Embiid defending – just missed.

The 76ers raced to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter before Portis got hot and Chicago started making 3s.

Philadelphia’s lead was down to 33-29 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls busted out for 40 points in the second to take a 69-67 halftime lead. Chicago was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the quarter, including 4 for 5 by Portis.

The 76ers were up by five early in the fourth before Portis scored six straight points – on a 3-pointer and a three-point play – to put the Bulls on top 101-100. A few minutes later, Portis dunked over Embiid to stretch the lead to 111-106 with just over four minutes to play.

LaVine hit a 3-pointer to make it 115-110 with 1:02 left.

TIP INS

76ers: C Embiid has nine straight double-doubles . Simmons has six triple-doubles this season, which ties him with Wilt Chamberlain (three times) and Billy Cunningham for most in a season in team history.

Bulls: To look at some younger players during the final 25 games, C Robin Lopez and G/F Justin Holiday were removed from the starting lineup. Both were inactive on Thursday as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba (21 points) started; Also, Cameron Payne – who played in his first game on Thursday – will replace Jerian Grant as the backup point guard.

“It really is hard,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s hard for Robin, it’s hard for Justin and it’s hard for Jerian, who’s probably making as big a sacrifice as anybody.”

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Orlando on Saturday.

Bulls: Visit Minnesota Saturday night.

Kelly Oubre gets caught untying Rodney Hood’s shoes (VIDEO)

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The NBA seems to have a secret obsession with tying and untying shoes mid-game. J.R. Smith once got a warning for doing as much, finally earning himself a $50,000 fine after doing it multiple times. Likewise, other players like Rajon Rondo and Danny Green have pulled down the shorts of opponents while the clock was rolling.

Perhaps that emboldened Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre on Thursday night as his team took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio.

During the game, game operations crew at The Q ran a video on the big board that appeared to show Oubre untying the shoes of Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood.

Via Twitter:

These guys have so much to think about during a game I’m honestly impressed that they have the time to remember to do petty stuff like this.

I suppose it worked?

Oubre had 17 points off the bench, adding five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Hood had just eight points in 27 minutes on the floor.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers on the road, 110-103.

Report: Warriors will spend trip to D.C. with kids, not Trump

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Donald Trump decided to disinvite the Golden State Warriors to the White House despite team winning the 2017 NBA Championship. Many members of the Warriors have been critical of Trump during his short tenure in Washington D.C., which the former mail order steak salesman has not taken lightly.

With no invitation to the White House on hand, and considerable doubts that the team would go even if the opportunity resurfaced, the Warriors have decided to take a private tour around the nation’s capital instead.

According to a report from ESPN, the team will take a trip with just players, coaches, and some kids to a discreet location as part of a tour.

Via ESPN:

Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.

The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.

“It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”

Golden State will be in D.C. to play the Washington Wizards on February 28. They will reportedly take their trip — sure to be fun for the kids — the day before.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder if an NBA team will ever visit the White House while Trump lives there. People from LeBron James to Gregg Popovich have spoken out about their disagreements with him, and the Warriors were pretty vocal about not attending a ceremony with Trump.