PBT Live Blog: Heat overwhelm Pacers 99-76, advance to NBA finals

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END OF GAME: Miami wins 99-76, they advance to take on the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. Game 1 Thursday night in Miami.

Indiana had a fantastic season, they are a young and growing team that will learn a lot from this. Paul George and Roy Hibbert had coming out parties on the national stage. Hopefully people will realize how good this team is now.

For Miami it is on to the next step and a different but equally big test to repeat as champs. Their aggressive style will get a real test from the veterans and great ball movement of the Spurs.

Fourth quarter, 2:17: Flo Rida’s manager also was ejected by the refs for talking. Seriously. He was courtside and got tossed for chirping at the refs. Classic

Fourth quarter, 2:17: Jeff Pendergraph and Norris Cole have both been ejected after a little altercation. Pendergraph set a moving screen, Cole ran into him but nothing out of the ordinary, but then Pendergraph just shoved Cole. Both were tossed but all Cole really did was make a stance like he wanted to fight but didn’t do anything. Maybe he said something.

Fourth quarter, 2:35: The question we are asking, “Can the Spurs really match the Pacers blueprint?” Which was a variation of the Bulls blueprint.

Fourth quarter, 5:01: Dwyane Wade comes out to a standing O also. 92-68 Heat.

Fourth quarter, 5:01: LeBron comes out to a standing ovation.

Fourth quarter, 5:30: LeBron has scored or assisted on 14 of the Heat’s last 19 points. He is not taking his foot off the gas. 

Fourth quarter, 5:43: Norris Cole hits a three off a LeBron kickout. Miami 6-14 from deep. When LeBron gets help….

Fourth quarter, 7:43: Paul George fouled out. The guy had a monster season (won Most Improved Player) and then for five of the first six games this series he played Lebron James as well as can be expected. He gave them a chance. This guy is growing into an elite player before our eyes and it is fun to watch.

Fourth quarter, 10:52: Heat 79-61. At this point it’s just a march to the end. We can start talking about the amazing ugly hat Justin Bieber had on (1984 Nets looking thing that said Heat).

Fourth quarter, 10:52: Gerald Green is in the game for the Pacers. Not quite the white flag, but close to it.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Free throws Heat 23-of-24, Pacers 11-of-17. That is not the refs, that is one team being more aggressive going to the rim. Aggressors get the calls in the NBA.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: LeBron drives with two seconds left, draws foul number five on Paul George and hits his free throws. Pacers end quarter 0-9 shooting. It’s 76-55 Miami at the break.

Third quarter, 1:48: I’d said on NBC Radio today I thought this could be a Heat blowout (but that if it was close the Pacers pull those out). They were at home, with the best player, and an ability to find another gear. The Pacers are a young, learning team that will come back better next year. 72-53 still.

Third quarter, 2:09: Offensive foul on Roy Hibbert, his fifth, and he sits. He essentially pinned Haslem down with his arm. Miami comes down and attacks the paint, Wade bucket makes it 72-53 Miami.

Third quarter, 3:10: Steve Kerr makes a good point — like you say about why playoff hockey is different than regular season, the Heat couldn’t play with this kind of energy for 82 games. But when they turn up the defensive intensity like this they are very hard to beat and they can do it for a game or three.

Third quarter, 4:09: Problem for Pacers is they are a grinding team, not a team built to run off a quick 12 points and jump back in a game like this. They need to start their run soon.

Third quarter, 4:47: Dwyane Wade has 5 offensive boards, the entire Pacers team 3. That’s not good for Indy.

Third quarter, 4:47: Another aggressive Miami backcourt trap forced George Hill to call a timeout. 66-49 Miami, they are just running away with it.

Third quarter, 5:34: Apparently David Beckham and Justin Bieber can afford courtside seats for this game.

Third quarter, 6:04: Miami defense still looks sharp and active. 61-49 Heat.

Third quarter, 7:50: Chris Bosh with 8 rebounds, Roy Hibbert 5. And Bosh just blocked a West shot.

Third quarter, 8:21: High screen and roll, both defenders go with roll man Udonis Haslem and leaves LeBron James open for three. Not a sound defensive strategy. 59-45 Miami.

Third quarter, 10:40: Pacers look more settled to start second half. Question is can they get enough stops — and stop turning the ball over — to get back in it… and as I type that they turn it over. 56-44 Miami.

HALFTIME: Scoring leaders at the half: Miami has LeBron James at 18, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen with 10 each; Indiana has more balance with David West at 10, Lance Stephenson at 8 and Roy Hibbert just 4. Pacers shooting 43.3 percent, Heat just 40 percent. Pacers with 15 turnovers, two offensive rebounds. Miami with 5 turnovers, 9 offensive boards.

HALFTIME: Coming into this series the question was “can the Pacers score enough on Miami to stay in games?” For five of the first six games, they blew that theory out of the water — offensive rebounds and free throws helped fuel a much better than expected offense. They got the ball inside and worked inside out. In Game 7 Miami got back to being aggressive, they doubled the post (Hibbert and West) and the Pacers offense has come apart.

HALFTIME: Miami wins the second quarter 33-16 and leads 52-37. Pacers shot 43.3 percent and had 15 turnovers. Bad, bad combination, but credit a very aggressive Heat defense for some of that.

Second quarter, 1:12: Hibbert picks up his third foul and goes to the bench. Miami much more aggressive going at him this game.

Second quarter, 1:27: Pacers with 2 offensive rebounds on 15 missed shots, 13.3 percent. When they have won this series they have been close to 40 percent and gotten a lot of easy putback dunks.

Second quarter, 2:56: Ray Allen hits another three, he starts 3-3 from beyond the arc. That’s huge for the Heat. He hits another and you can count on a shot of his mom in the crowd (they always do that, and she will have on some serious bling).

Second quarter, 3:31: David West with an And-1 bucket and when the Pacers starters get back on the court they play better — the starting five has been good, it’s the bench that hurts them. 44-34 Heat, with LeBron going to the line.

Second quarter, 4:11: Note to Paul George, you may want to stick with LeBron James when he cuts to the run. Just an idea. 41-32 Heat.

Second quarter, 5:15: Heat on 11-2 run with Hibbert and George on the bench. Coincidence? I think not.

Second quarter, 5:53: Chris Bosh three point shot makes it 39-29 Miami. Heat are doing it with aggressive defense and the Pacers look tight now.

Second quarter, 7:05: It’s now 13 turnovers for Pacers, for those of you scoring at home.

Second quarter, 8:22: Ray Allen 3, missed airball by Indy, then a LeBron alley-oop. Crowd into it now. 33-27 Heat. Hibbert and George on the bench for Indy.

Second quarter, 10:07: Now up to 11 Pacers turnovers. Problem is that has created cross-match problems that the Heat are able to exploit at the other end. Pacers are shooting 50 percent… when they hold on to the ball.

Second quarter, 10:07: Ray Allen hits three, next trip down Mike Miller does. That is huge, when the Heat can space the floor they are impossible to defend. 28-25 Heat.

Second quarter, 12:00: Heat leading points in the paint 12-6. Pacers 3-6 from three to balance that out.

Second quarter, 12:00: Chris Andersen missed a tip in at the end of the first quarter. Birdman’s streak of made shots ends at 18. And there was much weeping.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: 21-19 Indiana. Miami is shooting just 28.6 percent but they have taken 13 more shots than the Pacers due to 9 Indy turnovers and some offensive rebounds.

First quarter, 0:24: Another turnover, 9 now. Heat are shooting terribly but in it thanks to turnovers.

First quarter, 1:00: Standing ovation for Chris Andersen from the crowd.

First quarter, 1:00: The Heat aggressive defense and the careless Pacers lead to turnovers and Heat buckets. Eight first quarter Indy turnovers, 20-19 Indy.

First quarter, 2:22: Chris Bosh started 1-6 shooting. Pacers up 19-15.

First quarter, 3:43: All season long the Heat overwhelmed teams with their athleticism on traps and cutting off passing and driving lanes. They struggled to do that to the Pacers all series, but doing it tonight. LeBron on Paul George.

First quarter, 4:16: LeBron James putback dunk puts Heat up 15-14. Miami being aggressive on the glass, which is key. Indy must win the game in the paint to win the game. Also, stop the turnovers.

First quarter, 5:21: 14-11 Indiana. Heat doubling the post hard and force a Hibbert turnover. That is 4 early turnovers for Pacers.

First quarter, 6:55: LeBron draws foul on Roy Hibbert when he attacks. Heat need more of that.

First quarter, 7:07: Heat open shooting 3-11, Pacers go on 7-0 run to take 12-6 lead. Usually at the start of games sevens guys are tight, Miami is for sure. Pacers get their buckets closer to the basket, impacts them less.

First quarter, 8:00: Wade and Bosh miss their first two but each hit their second shot. Hill three a good sign for Pacers. Heat had pulled back on pick and roll coverage last two games, being aggressive tonight.

First quarter, 8:30 left: Sorry folks, after some technical issues we are going to the live blog format. Join in the comments. We are live from Casa de Kurt tonight in the LBC (watching on TV like you).

Celtics’ draftee Robert Williams overslept introductory conference call

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For a guy who slid way down the draft board due to serious concerns about his motor and work ethic, this is not the start Robert Williams wanted with the Celtics.

The Texas A&M center was selected 27th by Boston, but he chose not to go to New York for the draft itself and stayed home in Louisiana to watch it with family. They apparently had a good time, because his introductory conference call with the media started an hour late on Friday, and Williams admitted he overslept.

From Chris Forsberg at ESPN:

“Right after the draft, I actually ran to my aunt’s house and went to sleep because I was so tired from everything,” Williams said Friday afternoon in a call that took place an hour later than originally scheduled. “When I woke up, my sister woke me up, she said, ‘You have a conference call.'”

Williams later noted that it was, “a good night’s sleep after a busy two days.”

The Celtics blamed this on a miscommunication and the one-hour time difference between Boston and Louisiana. They let it slide.

Williams could be the steal of the draft. Could be — if those he can prove all those concerns about his motor and effort level to be false.

Williams has the skills to be an elite NBA defender, and despite his up-and-down efforts in college he was a defensive and rebounding force. His NBA game is going to be as a rim and paint protector on one end and a rim runner finishing alley-oops on the other. Think DeAndre Jordan style of big. The difference: thanks to a lot of work by Jordan (and some smart coaching by Doc Rivers to restore his confidence) Jordan fulfilled his potential. Can Boston get that out of Williams? Will Williams himself to work?

If they do, this is a steal for the Celtics.

If not, well, missing on the No. 27 pick in the draft is not going to set back their contender arc.

Cavaliers GM on LeBron James: ‘We want to respect his space’ during contract decision

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — With one deadline looming on his future in Cleveland, LeBron James has been in contact with the Cavaliers through his representatives.

Following the NBA draft on Thursday night, Cavs general manager Koby Altman said he has had positive discussions with the three-time champion’s group. James has until June 29 to tell the team if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or become a free agent.

“We continue to have good dialogue with his management team,” Altman said. “I think LeBron has more than earned the right to approach his contracts the way he does. He’s done that before, so this is nothing new for us. We want to respect his space during this process and I continue to have really good dialogue with his management team as he goes through that process.

“That’s probably all I can say at this point regarding him, but we don’t take him for granted. We love him, this city loves him. He means the world to us and this franchise.”

James led the Cavs to their fourth straight NBA Finals this season, carrying a team that endured injuries and a roster overhaul at the trading deadline. Cleveland was swept by the Golden State Warriors, and following Game 4 the 33-year-old said he would weight family concerns and his desire to win more titles into his decision.

James has signed several short-term contracts since returning to the Cavs in 2014 after spending four seasons with Miami. After the Cavs won the championship in 2016, James signed a two-year contract with an option for this season.

The Cavs can offer him a five-year, $209 million deal this time. It’s possible James could choose to sign a one-year deal again with a player option and go through the free-agency dance again next summer.

To look more appealing to James, the Cavs need to upgrade their roster and they took a significant step by selecting Alabama point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick. Sexton averaged 19.2 points as a freshman and he addresses the club’s biggest need – a playmaker to fill the void left when the Cavs traded All-Star Kyrie Irving last summer.

Altman hopes Sexton’s arrival will make the Cavs more attractive to James.

The 19-year-old lacks professional experience, but Altman pointed out that James dealt with that issue this season.

“He went through it this year a little bit with some of our young guys, especially in the playoffs,” Altman said. “What’s amazing, he talks about this all the time – the best teacher is experience. And our young guys got some really good experience this year. And while it wasn’t consistent throughout the playoffs, each guy had their moments. And we went through two Game 7s and got to a Finals, and that experience is a huge teacher for those guys.

“So that experience is amazing for them and their confidence level as they approach next year. And then Collin, we got to get there with experience as well. But like he (James) says, experience is the best teacher, and we gave those guys a great experience over 30 games and into the playoffs and into the Finals, and what does that mean for us moving forward, I think it’s all really positive.”

Report: Lakers tell LiAngelo Ball he will not be invited to Summer League team

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LiAngelo Ball was never going to get drafted Thursday night. He simply is not that good (something I heard from every scout I talked to that saw him play).

He did get invited to work out for some teams before the draft (including the Warriors and Lakers). Impress there and the next step is an invite to play on a Summer League team. I don’t know if the middle Ball son impressed enough in workouts to earn an invite, but I do know he had an extra hurdle to climb — and a big one to most teams — because organizations do not want to deal with LaVar Ball and that circus.

That includes the Lakers, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

It will be interesting to see if another team is willing to give LiAngelo Ball a roster spot in Las Vegas. I would be shocked if a G-League team or two does not make him an offer for next season — for them, the marketing and publicity would be worth the hassle. How well he plays is secondary.

If a player is as talented and has the potential of Lonzo Ball, teams will put up with a lot. The Lakers organization has its frustrations with LaVar (to put it kindly), but they like Lonzo and what he could become (the team just played better with him on the court last season). Yes, Lonzo has trade value, too, but they’re not opposed to keeping him, depending upon how this summer shakes out. They can ignore the dad for him.

LiAngelo simply isn’t the level of talent where teams will tolerate the circus around him.

The big question for me is LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers, who was considered a top prospect for colleges a couple of years ago (and had committed to UCLA). How has being pulled out of his high school and playing low-level European competition in exhibitions in Lithuania impacted his standing? Something to watch over the next few years.

Just know LaVar Ball is never giving up the dream.

In surprise to nobody, Carmelo Anthony reportedly will not opt out of $27.9 million

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Carmelo Anthony is going to take the money. Who could have seen that coming?

Not that we should blame the man — anybody else in his shoes (including you, dear reader) would do the same thing. Anthony is contractually owed $27.9 million next seasons, and while he can opt out he knows if he did the open market would not pay near that much. So the man is going to take the cash, which was expected but Marc Stein of the New York Times is making it official.

Carmelo Anthony does not intend to opt out of his current contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to a person familiar with Anthony’s decision.

Anthony has until Saturday at midnight (Eastern) to exercise the option that would make him a free agent July 1 — provided he were willing to walk away from the $27.9 million he is owed next season. But he is planning to let the deadline pass quietly and keep his current contract in effect, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

The Thunder are in a bind.

It became clear in the playoffs that at this point in his career, Anthony’s defense and ball-stopping offense are just not a fit with this Oklahoma City roster. He played 194 playoff minutes with the Thunder and had two assists. Last regular season, 32.5 percent of Anthony’s offense came from isolations or post ups, and he scored less than 0.9 points per possessions on those — his numbers aren’t awful, but they’re not good enough to  make up for his poor defense. (Stats via Synergy Sports.)

That’s why Anthony saw his minutes and role shrink in the postseason — but he said after the Thunder were eliminated (in the first round) he did not want to accept that role and fewer touches next season. He said he wants to get back to playing his way. (Stop laughing, Knicks’ fans, it’s not polite.)

The Thunder may try to trade him. Good luck with that. There is going to be limited to no market. With that salary they are going to have to throw in a serious sweetener to get other teams to bite (and/or take on a worse, longer contract in return).

Anthony is not likely to take less in a buyout to get out of town.

Nobody should blame Anthony here — he is taking the money is is contractually owed. The Knicks gave him this contract, the Thunder traded for it. But OKC is backed into a corner with this move and has few options.