Transcendent LeBron puts up 35, leads Heat to 98-96 win to tie series 1-1

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SAN ANTONIO — If the Heat were going to beat a Spurs team that had won nine in a row at home, they were going to need a transcendent game from LeBron James. The guy who had his toughness questioned by some after missing the end of Game 1 due to cramps.

They got it — video game LeBron (complete with cheat codes) showed up in the second half Sunday night in San Antonio. It felt like NBA Jam.

LeBron finished with 35 points on 22 shots (he shot 64 percent), grabbed 10 rebounds, defended Tony Parker down the stretch and was a +11 in a two point game. He started slow, he got more rest than normal, but when it mattered in the second half LeBron James took over the game shooting 8-of-11, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc after halftime.

The result was a 98-96 Miami win that evens the NBA Finals at 1-1.

Game 3 is in Miami Tuesday night.

“LeBron with the ball did a great job at his end and we had to be really pretty perfect at the other end and we didn’t,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We didn’t take advantage of things, we made bad decisions.”

LeBron started 1-of-4 shooting with a couple turnovers but after a rest he came back in the second quarter and was aggressive attacking the rim — 9 of his 11 first half shots came inside 8 feet.

“I just continued to attack,” LeBron said of his run starting in the second quarter, extending into the second half. “I had a slow start, but all my misses were in the paint…. I was confident in where I was getting on the floor and I had to stick with it.”

After all that attacking the Spurs switched their defense on LeBron and played off him more in the second half (similar to how they played him last Finals). LeBron just started draining jumpers over them. Not that what they did mattered much, LeBron was 9-of-15 on contested shots in the game. He was hitting everything.

Miami was far sharper defensively this game, forcing the Spurs to take 29 percent of their shots from the midrange – San Antonio was 7-of-23 from there. That is not their game. After a slow start Miami’s defensive rotations inside were tight, contesting everything in the paint (San Antonio shot 17-of-33 in the paint for the game, they were 7-of-15 in the restricted area after a hot start) and the Heat were chasing guys off the arc. Miami did a good job of switching pick-and-roll coverages, throwing different looks at the Spurs to keep them off balance.

Under that pressure, the Spurs ball movement stopped late. With that they did not get shots in the paint down the stretch.

“We’ve got to be close to perfect to win, and tonight we were far from perfect,” Manu Ginobili said.

“I think it’s a 48-minute game and we didn’t move it enough of those minutes, basically,” Popovich said. “It’s how we have to score.  We can’t put it in somebody’s hands and have them create everything for us.  It’s got to be a group effort and we didn’t do that….

“You move it or you die.”

“(We had) more awareness of their shooters,” Dwyane Wade said. “We still make mistakes, it wasn’t perfect. Bit we made them take tougher shots. Our defense on the ball was a lot better and we rebounded the ball once the shot went up.”

A key turning point may have come with 6:43 left in the fourth quarter: The Spurs were up two when Mario Chalmers was whistled for a flagrant foul when he threw an elbow to Tony Parker’s gut while Chalmers was on the drive. It was the right call. But then Parker missed both flagrant free throws (he said the pain from the blow was part of that). The Spurs got the ball out of bounds, ran a play for Tim Duncan who was fouled driving the lane. He got to the line and missed both of his free throws. Rather than stretch the lead out to six, it remained at two.

Then at the other end LeBron hit a three.

“I just wanted to put pressure on their defense,” LeBron said.

“I don’t think we lose the game on that,” Parker said. “We were up one with 1:30 to go or two minutes and we made the stops that we needed. We just couldn’t make the shots to come out on top. We had a great opportunity.”

Miami got 18 points from Chris Bosh including a clutch three in the fourth quarter to give the Heat the lead for good — it was the same pass, same play LeBron made to Bosh for a potential game-tying shot against the Pacers, but he missed it then. He got nothing but net Sunday.

Miami also got 14 each from Dwyane Wade and Rashard Lewis (who played surprisingly well).

San Antonio had 18 from Tim Duncan, 11 in the first quarter, 21 from Tony Parker and 19 from Manu Ginobili.

Report: Pacers offered Paul George for Kyrie Irving

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The Cavaliers think they were close to trading for Paul George, a text message away from completing a three-team trade with the Pacers and Nuggets that would have sent Kevin Love to Denver.

But Cleveland could’ve ensured itself George, whom Indiana ultimately dealt to the Thunder. All the Cavs had to do was send Kyrie Irving to the Pacers.

Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN on The Lowe Post podcast:

  • Windhorst: “I know that around the draft and in the Paul George talks, the Cavs were not willing to make Kyrie Irving available for Paul George.”
  • Lowe: “We can say on this podcast: The Pacers offered Paul George for Kyrie Irving. That’s a thing that happened, according to people that we’ve talked to.”
  • Windhorst: “Multiple times.”

Even if the Cavaliers knew of Irving’s unhappiness – maybe they did, or at least should have – while George was still in Indiana, this would have been a bad trade for them.

Irving is locked up for two more years, and George is on an expiring contract. That simply makes Irving more valuable than George, who – like LeBron James – could have walked in a year. George is ineligible for a reasonable contract extension, and there’s so much buzz about him joining the Lakers.

Now, if the Cavs were more on top of Irving’s trade request when George were still available, maybe they would have more aggressively tried to bridge the gap. Perhaps, Indiana could have sent another player or draft pick.

But Cleveland shouldn’t be kicking itself over not dealing Irving for George straight up.

Report: LeBron James eager for Kyrie Irving to be traded

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LeBron James reportedly wants to fight Kyrie Irving over the guard’s trade request.

But sometimes, people continue to work with those whom they dislike. LeBron partnered with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert again and again, after all.

Might LeBron realize keeping Irving is Cleveland’s best chance to win another title? Could LeBron put personal feelings aside in that pursuit?

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Irving has asked for a trade and James is eager to see him off.

This might explain why the Cavs appear so gung-ho about moving Irving. LeBron usually gets what he wants in Cleveland, especially in a contract year.

It’s not too late for LeBron and Irving to reconcile until a trade is completed, but with LeBron welcoming Derrick Rose, they just move further from that possibility.

Damian Lillard says players who want to leave team owe teammates, fans truth

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Damian Lillard was making the rounds on a media tour Monday, and at virtually each and every stop he was asked about Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony. We told you about Lillard’s recruiting pitch to Anthony.

One of his stops was with one of my favorite radio shows,  Bill Reiter’s Reiter Than You on CBS Radio. Lillard talked about what players owe teammates when they try to push their way out of town.

“You owe your teammates first because those are the guys that you spend the most time around that you have relationships with, more so than anybody else,” Lillard said. “And also the fans because they are part of your team. They’re the people that come and cheer for you and support you as much as anybody. So I think they’re the two groups of people that you owe the truth. They deserve to know the truth in where you stand and what your plans are.”

Hard to argue with that.

Of course, honesty can lead to some bad blood. If Kyrie Irving went to his teammates and the fans in Cleveland and said, “Look, LeBron James is leaving in a year, and I don’t want to be the guy holding the bag, so I’m forcing my way out while I can” how would that go over? It’s the truth — or maybe the largest part of the truth, there is never just one thing — but it would rub a lot of people the wrong way. And Irving would get roasted in the media (more than he is already).

It sounds good to be honest, and a lot of guys try, but they have talked themselves into that narrative before they sell it everywhere else. Everything is spin, to a degree.

Watch Stephen Curry make fun of Klay Thompson’s 360 dunk fail in China

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By now we have all seen Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson brick that dunk attempt in China, right?

Here is the link to the video if you haven’t seen it.

Well, teammate Stephen Curry was also in China this week and decided to do a little mocking of Thompson’s missed dunk for the crowd.

It was all in good fun, and of course we all know about the Warriors team culture. Glad that Curry and Thompson can jab at each other like this.