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.
Ultimately, this is moot. Nothing changes — not the critical last Pacers possession, not the fact LeBron James drained a three afterwards (and may well have anyway). All it provides is a little validation for frustrated Pacers fans and players.
Yes, LeBron did goaltend on Victor Oladipo‘s shot with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was then a tie game between the Pacers and Cavaliers. The NBA confirmed it in its Last Two Minute Report on Game 5 in that series. From the report.
“(Above the rim view) shows that James (CLE) blocks Oladipo’s (IND) shot attempt after it makes contact with the backboard.”
Oladipo called it goaltending. However, the officials didn’t call goaltending on the play, therefore it was not reviewable. Often on bang-bang plays like this one an official will call goaltending just to give themselves the chance to review it, but this crew did not (and that is a tough call to make accurately in real time).
From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.
The report also concluded that it was Thaddeus Young who knocked the ball out of bounds on the baseline with 27.6 seconds left, knocking the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The ball bounced on the line — and was therefore out, but the official didn’t call it — then bounced back up, hit LeBron on the arm and went clearly out of bounds. The referee called the second bounce after it hit LeBron. From the report:
“(Video) shows that Young (IND) deflects the ball away from James (CLE) and it lands out of bounds, but there is no whistle. The ball then bounces and hits James’ arm and lands out of bounds again, which is called. Possession of the ball is incorrectly awarded to the Pacers.”
One other note to Pacers fans: The goaltending call is not why Indiana lost. Oladipo shot 2-of-15 on the night. Darren Collison had a very an off night, was not aggressive, and was 1-of-5 shooting. There are a myriad of plays and decisions that go into a game, one blown call is not why the Pacers lost.
The question is can they regroup at home, get more secondary playmaking and buckets from someone other Oladipo, and can their defense force a Game 7? It can, but they have to put the end of Game 5 behind them first.
Delon Wright made some big plays down the stretch to help the Raptors to a Game 5 win over the Wizards last night. With Toronto up 3-2 in the first-round series and the home team winning the first five games, Game 6 is tomorrow in Washington.
Oubre, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:
“The next game is a different story. We’re back at home. Just like Delon doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home,” Oubre said, sharing inspiration coupled with a touch of an insult. “You can kind of chalk it up as the same story.”
Wright decided not to escalate the conflict when reporters asked him about it.
Wright has been much better in Toronto than Washington in this series. His average game score is 14.7 at home and 5.7 on the road.
But that’s such a small sample. During the regular season, there wasn’t nearly such a big split between Wright’s average game score at home (8.4) and on the road (6.9).
For what it’s worth, Oubre has a somewhat similar home-road average-game-score split, both in this series (9.4 at home, 6.3 on the road) and during the regular season (8.1 at home, 7.5 on the road). Which Oubre basically acknowledged in his diss of Wright/self-own.
This is pretty typical Oubre – hyper-competitive verging on out of control. It’s fun regardless.
Let’s just say he’s right, though, and the Wizards win Game 6. Game 7 would be Sunday in Toronto, where, by Oubre’s own admission, Wright plays well and the Raptors are undefeated in the postseason. Then what?
The Bulls tanked so hard this year, the NBA warned them to cut it out. It was a rare instance of the league responding to actual tanking measures rather than just talk of preferring to lose.
Bulls executive John Paxson, via Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago:
“We did this year what we felt was in the longterm best interests of the Bulls,” Paxson said. “It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again; it goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in; but it’s the way the system is set up.”
Chicago could try to turn around quickly. The Bulls project to have about $25 million in cap space this summer – enough to land a good player or two.
Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago:
The assumption in league circles is the Bulls will wait until 2019 to make their big move when players like Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving could be on the market, and might consider signing with the Bulls after watching another year of development from LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.
This is the wise course. It’s unlikely Chicago can lure anyone good enough to lift such a young core quickly. The Bulls are better off remaining patient – and bad, which will net another high draft pick as Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn develop.
This is also probably the course thrust upon Chicago. Even if they wanted to, the Bulls probably can’t land a premier free agent this summer. Star free agents can see the same problems with Chicago trying for a quick fix and will likely avoid the situation.
There’d be no harm in trying for top free agents like LeBron James or even Paul George. But the Bulls will probably be relegated to 2019 if they want to sign someone meaningful. Better they realize that than make a desperate attempt for relevance this year.
In 2011, the Trail Blazers surprisingly fired Rich Cho after only season as general manager.
Cho – since hired and fired by the Hornets – seems to be holding a grudge.
John Canzano of The Oregonian:
That’s a sentiment many people hold toward their former employer. Few say so publicly. That Cho did indicates just how strongly he feels.
Under owner Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers have run through numerous executives. It’s part of the culture in Portland, and it leaves a lot of outgoing people bitter.
Current general manager Neil Olshey ought to be mindful of that.