SAN ANTONIO — You had to know the two-time defending champion Miami Heat had too much pride to just roll over. They were going to come out ready to defend their title down 3-1 and needing a win just to force a Game 6.
And they did — Miami played the best, most energized and aggressive defense they have played all playoffs, LeBron James came out on fire with 17 first quarter points and the Heat raced out to a 19-5 lead, the biggest lead the Heat have had all Finals.
But Miami has had spurts of great execution all season and through these Finals, the issue has been sustaining it against a relentless Spurs team.
They couldn’t. San Antonio climbed back, slowly at first behind Manu Ginobili (a 6-0 personal run at one point, a poster dunk on Chris Bosh later) and later with a 17-2 run sparked by Kawhi Leonard (15 first half points).
The Spurs lead 47-40 at the half and are 24 minutes from an NBA title.
This feels like a game San Antonio could just blow open in the third.
Miami has 20 points from LeBron on 6-of-12 shooting, they have 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting from everyone else. Numbers reminiscent of Game 4.
Ginobili had 14 for the Spurs, who shot 50 percent in the second quarter as they moved the ball and got good looks (the Heat sharp rotations from the opening six minutes were gone). The Heat shot 26.7 percent in the second.
San Antonio got 22 points from its bench in the first half, the Heat got 2. Not enough depth to sustain the energy levels Miami needs, but they need to find some way in the second half or this could get ugly.
As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.
For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.
Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.
Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.
Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.
Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.
Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.
Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.
A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…
“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”
Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.
The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.
It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.
But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.
Best. Dunk. Ever.
Weis was never the same.
In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.
Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.