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


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.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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LaMarcus Aldridge’s 39 points lead Spurs past Wolves, 117-101

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) – LaMarcus Aldridge had 39 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a sluggish start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-101 on Saturday night.

San Antonio won its third straight to move into fifth in the Western Conference five days after dropping to 10th and out of playoff position.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped to sixth in the West.

The Spurs had lost three straight and nine of 11 but are now unbeaten halfway through a six-game homestand.

San Antonio shot 84 percent in the second quarter, their best shooting quarter since 2010.

Two nights after battling New Orleans’ Anthony Davis on both ends, Aldridge had to take on another All-Star in Towns. Aldridge responded by leading the Spurs in scoring for the 49th time this season while helping keep Towns in check.

Aldridge scored 18 of 21 points during a five-minute stretch in the second quarter, including 12 straight. He capped the run by coming from the weak side to swat Towns’ floater deep into the seats.

Minnesota started quickly, shooting 78 percent from the floor in the first 5 1/2 minutes while San Antonio floundered at 17 percent. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called timeout, only to watch the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague steal the ball once play resumed.

The Spurs responded behind veteran reserves Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. San Antonio went on a 16-4 run bridging the first and second quarters to take a 29-26 lead.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points for Minnesota and Teague had 16.