Tag: Miami Heat

LeBron James, Tim Duncan

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


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.

Spurs, Heat tied at half of Game 2. Tim Duncan, LeBron James put on show.

2014 NBA Finals - Game Two

SAN ANTONIO — This has been a very even NBA Finals, outside the final five minutes of Game 1.

Game two has played out that way — San Antonio raced out to an 11 point lead early in the second quarter behind Tim Duncan getting shots at the rim, but the Heat came back as LeBron James attacked the rim himself.

The result is a 43-43 tie at halftime of Game 2.

Tony Parker has 12 points to lead the Spurs. LeBron had 13 points, Chris Bosh 10 for the Heat.

Early on the Spurs were sharp with their interior passing, they seemed unbothered by the Heat pressure, and the ball kept finding Tim Duncan. He was throwing down dunks, and once again getting his shots in the paint.

LeBron James started 1-of-4 shooting with a couple turnovers and came out with more than two minutes left in the first (early for him). With him out the Spurs stretched out their lead (thanks to Heat turnovers, they had 10 in the first half) and it was 26-19 after one quarter.

When LeBron came back in he was aggressive and just attacked the rim — 9 of his 11 first half shots came inside 8 feet. The Spurs continue to play up on him, not going under picks but trying to pressure him.

The game got a bit physical and chippy — it started to really feel like a playoff series — and the referees did a poor job trying to control it. They gave Duncan a technical, and Manu Ginobili picked up his third foul on a flop by Dwyane Wade that should earn a fine.

LeBron says he does not feel “normal,” Spoelstra says he’ll monitor him, trust depth more

Erik Spoelstra

SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James said he is ready to go for Game 2 Sunday night, but added he is still feeling some of the effect of the cramps he suffered in Game 1.

He said he does not feel “normal.”

So exactly how many minutes can the Heat’s Mr. Everything go?

“Not sure,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Game 2 Sunday night in San Antonio. “I’m open to it. I’ll read it. Obviously we’ll be attentive to it, and if we need to go deeper (into the bench), we will. Anticipate we might have to. He’s been through every situation you can possibly go through. We had an extra day of rest and we’ll manage it.”

The good news for the Heat is the air conditioning is working and on in the building.

Spoelstra talked about the Heat trusting their depth, but he tends not to really lean on it the way the Spurs and Gregg Popovich does. In Game 1 of the Finals, despite his cramping, LeBron James played almost 33 minutes. Rashard Lewis, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen were all over 30 minutes, and Norris Cole played 29. Those heavy minutes in the heat had Miami players wilting more than Spurs players at the end, when San Antonio pulled away for the win.

One Heat player we could see more of is Chris Andersen.

The Birdman has been limited because of a thigh bruise suffered in the Pacers series. He played 17:32 in Game 1 but wasn’t as explosive and impactful as he had been against the Spurs last season. Miami could use minutes from him to protect the paint and challenge Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter inside.

“He actually looked probably his best yesterday in practice,” Spoelstra said. “So we will see. You know, it was a rough week for him, but he’s getting better each day.”

Report: Kevin Love doesn’t want to play for the Cavaliers

Kevin Love

Are the Cleveland Cavaliers still dreaming of signing LeBron James?

Kyrie Irving is a desirable teammate, and this year’s No. 1 pick should produce another quality player. But LeBron will become a free agent in one of the next three offseasons. There might not be time to wait for a young player to develop.

But, hey, Kevin Love is available, and the Cavaliers showed interest in him long before he threatened to leave the Timberwolves. How about a deal based on No. 1 for Love?

Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com:

Cleveland has the No.1 pick and has interest in Love, sources confirm, but the feeling isn’t mutual.

Love is under contract for next season without an option, so if the Cavaliers trade for him, he’d have little recourse. But as soon as next season ends, he could opt out and get the heck out of Cleveland.

By agreeing to opt in for 2015-16 as a condition of trade proposals to teams he likes more, Love could indicate his displeasure for the Cavaliers and avoid – or at least lower his odds of – a year in Cleveland.

It’s not clear whether the Cavaliers would pull a Sacramento and trade for Love anyway. What is clear: They shouldn’t.

Cleveland just traded for a star player heading into free agency and tried to sell him on its organization. It didn’t work.

In Irving and one of the Joel Embiid/Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker trio, the Cavaliers have a solid young core. If one of their other recent high picks – Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson – reaches near-star status, even better. But either way, there’s enough to build on.

They shouldn’t throw that away for a disgruntled Love.

NBA Finals Game 2 preview: Don’t expect Game 2 to look, feel like Game 1

LeBron James

SAN ANTONIO — There isn’t much you can take away from Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The air conditioning going out, the AT&T Center becoming a sauna, and the effect that had on LeBron James (cramping up and missing almost the entire second half of the fourth quarter) and the rest of the players (both teams had their rotations slow, Miami’s just much more) made this a game a one-off. An outlier.

Whatever happens Sunday night in Game 2 — with the air conditioning working in the building — it will not look like Game 1.

What both teams talked about over the couple of days off, besides the recovery from Game 1, was tightening things up — sharper defensive rotations and cutting down the turnovers.

“My guess is you won’t see that tomorrow night, turnover-wise,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Saturday, talking about how the teams combined for 40 turnovers in Game 1. “I don’t think either one of us will turn it over as much as we did. In that regard we were both pretty sloppy.”

“We need to do what we do better and harder,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said about the Miami defense. “They make it tough with their passing and, you know, getting into the paint with their rolls and spreading you out with three-point shooters. So we need to do that better, there is no question about it.”

That means being disruptive and forcing those turnovers for the Heat. The ones that Popovich has drilled into his guys to limit.

The Heat also want to make Miami’s ball movement more difficult.

“We’re going to try to get our hands in the passing lanes a little more, make those extra passes tougher, so it’s not on a straight line,” Miami’s Chris Bosh said.

That kind of pressure, the gambling that makes the Miami’s defense hard to deal with when they are focused, also requires tight rotations. Ones that failed them at points in Game 1, particularly the final five minutes.

“I think just communication,” Bosh said of improving those rotations. “They get you moving on the weak side, they make it very difficult. But we’ve always said you’ve got to be ahead of the play with this team, and there were a couple times where we weren’t ahead of the play and our weakside help wasn’t there on time — which is early — and we’re just going to have to trust each other that we’re going to make the proper rotations. Sometimes we’re thinking ‘I’ve got a three-point shooter,’ they do that for a reason, make you hesitate one split second and they get a lay-up. We’ll fix it. We’ll make sure we’re on the same page.”

Sounds logical, but if the Heat do exactly what Bosh suggests and pre-rotate more, that can be its own problem.

“They caught us pre-rotating a few times in the last game, and that makes it difficult sometimes because one guy is off and one guy pre-rotates, they make those reads fairly quickly,” Bosh said. “That’s what makes them who they are.”

The Spurs just need to not do too much — keep it simple, Tony Parker said.

“I think the key for us is do the first easy pass. Don’t try to invent something, just play our game,” Parker said. “We need to have the pace and we know Miami is a great defensive team and they have a great rotation, they’re fast but if we do the first easy pass and move the ball at the end, you know, I think we will get good shots.”

The last 12 times the Heat lost a playoff game, they won the next one. That streak includes last year’s Finals, when the Spurs took Game 1 but lost Game 2 and eventually the series. San Antonio played the season on a mission to get back to this very series and force a different outcome.

Winning Game 2 would be a big step in that direction.

But however they do it, it will not look anything like Game 1.