Preview: Pacers must take back paint to even series with Heat

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In their Thursday press availabilities, the tones between the Heat and Pacers were different.

Indiana may have lost Game 1 but there was an optimistic “we can beat these guys” vibe around the team. Miami may be up 1-0 but there was more of a “that was not us, we can play a lot better” sense from the team.

They are both right.

This was never going to be an easy series for Miami — Indiana is a grinding, physical squad, and their size and defense were always going to be a challenge to Miami. That said, the Heat can and will play better in Game 2 than they did in Game 1.

Expect the Heat to throw different looks at David West, trying to keep the proficient big man from going off from the midrange as he did in Game 1. Also look for the Heat to get their catch-and-shoot three point shooters better looks.

But there are two real keys to Game 2 to watch.

First, points in the paint — Miami had 60 in Game 1. Indiana’s defense is designed to run teams off the three-point line and make things difficult around the basket, on the season they allowed about 35 a game. The Pacers want to force you into midrange jumpers. And in Game 1 Indiana did a pretty good job protecting the arc — Miami was just 5-of-18 from three.

But the paint was another issue. First the ability to space the floor with Chris Bosh and the shooting bigs of the Heat pulls Roy Hibbert and West out of the paint. Miami guards would blow by their defenders and the path to the rim was open. Second, when Miami drives the lane and Hibbert slides over to cut off the drive, Hibbert’s man makes a sharp cut to the basket — the result is LeBron James dumping it off to Chris Andersen and the Birdman is getting buckets at the rim. Often that came because the Heat ran pick-and-rolls using West’s man as the screener and once the ball handler was attacking Hibbert was left with only difficult choices.

Indiana needs to do a better job cutting of those drives out at the point of attack off the pick. Then they have to protect the rim better — and keep Miami off the offensive glass. The Heat grabbed the offensive rebound on 38 percent of their missed shots in Game 1, that is too many for the team with the size advantage to give up.

Second, the Pacers just cannot turn the ball over 20 times again. Which will not be easy — Indiana was second in the NBA in turnovers per possession during the regular season and the Heat’s defense is designed to force turnovers. The Pacers allowed too many live-ball turnovers (13) and if that happens again they will not be able to stop the 12-0 kind of runs the Heat bury you with. (Indy got away with it because the Heat were turning the ball over at the same rate.)

George Hill and Lance Stephenson had rough games and they are going to have to play better in Game 2. Another 4-for-19 performance, 0-of-7 from three, will not cut it.

The Pacers know those two can play better, they know as a team there is room for improvement.

They are going to have to have it, because the Heat are going to get better as well.

Stephen Curry explains trash talk with LeBron James at end of 2018 Finals Game 1

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LeBron James had been a dominant force in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but he was a frustrated man at the end after the legendary J.R. Smith blunder at the end of regulation, and the fact the Cavaliers still had a timeout at that point. Rarely does an NBA Finals feel over after one game, but LeBron had been brilliant and pushed that Cavaliers team as far as he could, and they still lost in overtime. It was crushing.

LeBron showed his frustration at the end of OT (the video is above). With the Warriors up double digits and just :30 seconds left in the extra period, Stephen Curry went in for a layup at the end of the shot clock and LeBron slid over and skied blocked it. Then the trash talk ensued — between Curry and LeBron, then with Klay Thompson stepping in and jawing at LeBron.

What went down? Curry talked about it on The Bill Simmons Podcast (as transcribed by Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area).

“It was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.

“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan (Thompson) and Draymond (Green) thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’

“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”

There was nothing wrong with what LeBron did — the clock was running, the game was still on, and he made a play. Doesn’t matter if the game was decided, Curry decided to take a shot and LeBron stopped it. And LeBron was frustrated, so he talked a little.

Now, LeBron’s in the West with the Lakers. Last season Steve Kerr talked more than once about the challenge of keeping the Warriors focused, motivated, and building good habits during the grind of the regular season. You think LeBron in the Warriors’ division might help with that a little this season?

Dwyane Wade warns Jimmy Butler to stop commenting like that on photo of his wife, Gabrielle Union

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Jimmy Butler stays having no chill.

Not when his teammates don’t match his level of competitiveness. Not when his coach eases up. Not when a fan gets too demanding.

And not when Gabrielle Union posts this photo to Instagram:

💧

A post shared by Gabrielle Union-Wade (@gabunion) on

Butler commented:

Then Butler posted an unrelated video to his Instagram captioned “The good, the bad, and the ugly,” on which Wade replied:

Wade and Butler – who both played at Marquette then were teammates with the Bulls – are friends.

At least, they were.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer: ‘We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water’

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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The Lakers and Clippers share an arena in Los Angeles, which – as everyone understands it – means the Clippers play in the Lakers’ arena.

That doesn’t sit well with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. So, he wants to get a new arena built just for the Clippers in Inglewood.

And cost, legal red tape and lawsuits aren’t going to stop him.

Helene Elliot of The Los Angeles Times:

“We’re moving to Inglewood come hell or high water,” he said of a proposed arena near the site of the stadium being constructed for the Rams and Chargers. “We gotta have a house. So we’re working on a plan to get our own house. We want to get our own house. It turns out the way this works in L.A., which is much beloved to me, that if you start now you might be done in six years.”

Ballmer is probably used to getting what he wants. I doubt he backs down here. It should be noted some of the legal and public relations push back on the plans comes from funding via the Madison Square Garden group (owned by Knicks’ owner James Dolan), which five years ago sank $100 million into the Lakers’ old home the Forum to refurbish it into a major concert venue. The new Clippers building would be just a couple blocks away from the Forum.

This also at least partially explains why the Clippers insist on remaining competitive. Local politicians are less likely to greenlight a new arena for a tanking team.

Juan Carlos Navarro retires

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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It took Juan Carlos Navarro a long time to try the NBA.

It didn’t take him nearly as long to determine the league wasn’t for him.

The No. 40 pick in the 2002 draft, he finally signed with the Grizzlies in 2007. But after only one season as a backup guard in Memphis, he returned to Europe.

Now, his standout career in Spain is ending.

Barcelona release:

The club hereby announces that Juan Carlos Navarro shall be forming part of its basketball structure from the 2018/19 season, as established in the contract signed in September 2017, now that he has retired from active sporting duty.

Most NBA fans will never realize how talented Navarro was. He was a good score-first point guard at a time many teams still wanted a more-traditional point guard. Unhappy on a losing team in a foreign country, he didn’t try to find a workable solution.

Instead, he starred in Spain, out of sight of American fans – except international competitions, where he reminded everyone how good he was.

We should appreciate Navarro’s impressive career. We can also wonder about the “what if?” surrounding him and the NBA.