Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 4

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers Game 5 preview: Can Pacers salvage one at home?

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I would not be shocked if the Pacers came out Wednesday night with a sense of desperation and played their best game in months, pounding the ball inside and playing the suffocating defense we saw in Game 1, the defense that got them the top seed in the East.

I also would not be surprised if they came out, rolled over and basically surrendered Game 5 once the Heat put on a little run.

Indiana has been the most frustratingly inconsistent, immature team of these playoffs. That has been increasingly evident as they have dropped their last three games to the Miami Heat and now stand on the brink of elimination down 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals. Maybe being in a must win game will refocus them on defense, get them to play to their strengths on offense.

Or maybe not. Who knows?

After an ugly outing in Game 4, rather than own that they got beat wire-to-wire and completely outplayed, the Pacers’ stars were pointing fingers and foolishly blaming the referees. That’s not a good sign for how they will come out in Game 5.

Coach Frank Vogel is trying to get his players to focus back on the court and the game, not the officials or anything else. And maybe have Lance Stephenson stop providing fuel to fire of LeBron James.

If the Pacers are going to win it will start with defense — in the regular season the Pacers allowed a league best 96.7 points per 100 possessions and allowed opponents to shoot 42 percent. The Heat are shooting 50.7 percent and have an offensive rating of 111.5 this series — Indiana, a defense built to slow the Heat, has not even come close. Miami has been able to go small with Chris Andersen out (and he is likely out for Game 5) and the Pacers have not made them pay a price. The Pacers struggles on offense are fueling the Heat’s transition game.

On offense, Indiana is often setting poor screens that are letting the Heat defenders fight over and through them. Miami’s defensive game plan is to be aggressive and force turnovers and combine that with guys fighting through screens and much smaller passing windows you get a Pacers team that is tentative on passes. Which means less ball movement. Which means tougher shots and the Pacers being easier to guard.

Indiana needs to run the offense more through David West on post ups (low block and at the high post) and Hibbert (on the low block) — then those two have to finish in the paint. They have not consistently.

Expect the Heat to come out playing with real energy on the road — they both know how to close a series out and understand a win Wednesday means a week off of rest before the Finals start. Dwyane Wade’s knees would appreciate that.

Chris Bosh came alive in Game 4 and if he is confident again and knocking down jumpers that’s trouble for the Pacers because it pulls Hibbert out of the paint and opens up driving lanes for LeBron and Wade. Miami is also using its defense to create transition and early offense points for itself, which is what they do best.

After Game 4, it’s easy to suggest that Pacers are back to imploding again, as they seemed to do the second half of this season and during parts of the playoffs. However, when threatened in this postseason they have put together their best games.

I have no idea what Pacers team will show up for Game 5. Sounds like the Pacers do not either.

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.

Kobe Bryant pays tribute to Kevin Garnett on Twitter

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts a shot up over Kevin Garnett #5 and Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 12, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.

The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.