SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs got the best of both worlds — an up-tempo game and 15 points out of Tim Duncan rolling to the rim — and that got them a 54-49 lead over the Heat at the half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
It was a tightly contested half, but the Spurs at home are just executing at a level the Heat have not had to face coming out of the Eastern Conference. Their passing was crisp and it led to 50% shooting overall for the Spurs — plus they were 7-of-14 from three. Manu Ginobili has 11 for the Spurs, Tony Parker 10.
Miami has 13 points from LeBron James on 5-of-9 shooting, a dozen points from Dwyane Wade, 10 each for Chris Bosh and Ray Allen.
It’s a myth that the Spurs want to play slow and the Heat fast, over the course of the season it was the opposite (Spurs one of 10 fastest, Heat one of five slowest) and in what had to be a good sign the first half was played at the Spurs pace.
Miami went small from the opening tip, staring Rashard Lewis at the four and Bosh at center. Gregg Popovich stayed, big, with Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan as the front line, although Boris Diaw came off the bench for 17 minutes and we are going to see a lot of him (maybe starting the second half).
Miami raced out to 7-2 lead thanks to Bosh hitting his first two shots, but Spurs settled down and came back quickly, leading to a tight first quarter.
What kept the Spurs ahead was Ginobili, who went 3-3 from beyond the arc early, which electrified the AT&T Center. Heat’s defense not as consistent this playoffs but this level of Spurs ball movement and shooting would expose anyone.
If the Heat are going to win Game 1 in a very warm AT&T Center (conditioning will be an issue for players, it’s hot in here and not in a Nelly way) they are going to need LeBron James to be the best player on the planet. Because at home the Spurs will be the Spurs and that has been a force at home.
Jose Calderon, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings all officially waived; contenders line up for their services
They have to clear waivers (Wednesday) before they can sign with a new team. However, all three seem to be headed to teams with dreams of going deep into the playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors want a little depth at the point for the postseason, and they are going with the steady but aged veteran Calderon. He will have limited run behind Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston, but he will have a role in the playoffs and as a steadying force.
The Washington Wizards are going another, more talented but more combustible direction, and appear the frontrunners to sign Brandon Jennings (Chris Haynes of ESPN had that link. . The Wizards have not loved the play of Trey Burke this season and have leaned on Tomas Satoransky to run some point, expect Jennings to get some healthy run if and when he arrives in Washington.
Bogut is expected to sign with the Cavaliers, although the Spurs could have a shot at him and other teams are asking to get in the mix (not his former team the Warriors, however).
NBA: Bulls beat Suns after two key missed calls late in fourth quarter
The collective ‘we’ were happy the Bulls reached overtime against the Suns on Friday, because we saw Dwyane Wade‘s fantastic dagger dunk.
The Bulls were happy they reached overtime, because they won the game in the extra period.
But with correct officiating down the stretch, Phoenix probably would have won in regulation.
The Bulls got away with two key violations late in the fourth quarter, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.
First, Jimmy Butler got away with traveling with 1:58 left, per the league:
Butler (CHI) move his pivot foot.
Instead of a Chicago turnover, Butler kicked the ball to Nikola Mirotic, who hit a 3-pointer.
Then, Denzel Valentine got away with a defensive three-second violation with a minute left, per the league:
Valentine (CHI) is in the paint without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds.
A correct call would’ve given any Sun on the court — either Eric Bledsoe (who’s making 85% of his free throws this season and 80% for his career) or Devin Booker (82%, 83%) — a single free throw and Phoenix a fresh shot clock.
Instead, the Suns — facing a tougher road penetrating the paint — turned the ball over.
On their own, those missed calls were each big swings. Together, they were huge in Chicago’s win.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have waived veteran forward Luis Scola.
Scola averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 36 games this season, falling out of the rotation as the league-worst Nets focused more on their younger players, even though the Celtics hold swap rights on Brooklyn’s first-round pick.
General manager Sean Marks said Monday the Nets felt that Scola “deserved the opportunity to contribute to a playoff contender.” Because he was waived by the March 1 deadline, Scola would be eligible to sign with another team and appear on its playoff roster.
Scola has averaged 12 points while playing for five teams in his 10 NBA seasons, and won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004.
Raptors’ Kyle Lowry undergoing surgery, aims to return for playoffs
Lowry is the Raptors best player, and answering his call, they upgraded around him by trading for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker. Now Lowry isn’t around to lead the charge.
Maybe I’m reading too much into the wording, but merely aiming to return for the playoffs is hardly convincing. Does that mean there’s a chance he could miss the postseason?
That’d be a disaster for Toronto, which has put eggs in the basket for this season, Lowry’s last before unrestricted free agency.
Even if Lowry misses “only” several weeks and returns fully healthy for the playoffs, this harms the Raptors majorly. They’re fourth in the East, but barely behind the third-place Wizards and a chance to avoid the Cavaliers until the conference finals.
This is welcome news to Washington and the Celtics, who might be underdogs in the second round to Toronto’s souped-up roster. Now, it seems increasingly likely Cleveland would face the Raptors in the second round — if they get that far.
Cory Joseph is a fine backup, and Delon Wright offers intrigue as a third point guard. Pressing both up a level just invites problems.
Toronto’s trades positioned the Raptors to rise down the stretch. Now, they’ll just try to hold their ground.