LeBron, Wade talk about passing off the game-winning shot

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One week ago against the Jazz, LeBron James drove for a potential game-winning shot and when two defenders came to him he passed off to Udonis Haslem, who missed the shot. NBA fans screamed, “Why didn’t he take that shot? Why is he afraid of the big moment?”

On Wednesday night in the final minute of a tight game, Dwyane Wade passed the ball three times – twice to Haslem, once to Chris Bosh — and got the assist on all three when the guys drained their open looks. Nobody accuses Wade of fearing the moment.

Is it just the result that matters, or does making the pass to the open man count for something? Fans want “hero ball” shots, but statics will tell you that is not usually the most efficient way to score at the end of games.

Both Wade and LeBron spoke with Tom Haberstroh of ESPN’s Heat Index about taking those hero shots at the end. LeBron pointed to Michael Jordan as a guy who did both.

“At times you need hero-ball,” James said. A lot of big shots have come from big games from hero-ball. Michael Jordan has made shots that you’d call hero-ball, and you don’t take those from him.”…

“But he’s also made the play where he passed to John Paxson or passed to Steve Kerr for the game-winner,” James said. “You just play the game the right way and do whatever it takes in that point in time.”

Wade said it’s about feel.

“We all grew up in an era watching Michael Jordan and obviously Kobe Bryant,” Wade said. “A lot of those guys make unbelievable shots to win games. A lot of fans want to see their favorite players take those shots. Hit or miss, they want to see them take those shots….

“For those of us who play the game of basketball, sometimes that shot is there and you feel it and you take it,” Wade said. “And sometimes it’s not and you understand that someone might have a better shot than you.”

Ultimately, fans will forgive players who pass if the shot falls, but if it doesn’t he takes heat.

Except for LeBron. He’s painted into a corner. He passed at the end of the All-Star Game and last weekend against the Jazz and it didn’t work out either time. If he had taken the shots and missed he would have heard about that. If he had taken those shots and made them both his critics would say it doesn’t matter in an exhibition and then regular season game. Until LeBron wins a ring and plays well in the finals he cannot shake his rep.

Even if passing is the right basketball play to make.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.