Aggressive Heat defense, too much LeBron, Wade give Heat Game 7 win

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Miami simply has another gear no other team in the NBA can hit.

Like a top fuel dragster they cannot sustain it for long, but a couple times a series they can simply overwhelm you with their pressure, their athleticism, just take you out of your game and rhythm. They can just blow you out of the water for a quarter or a half, and teams just can’t recover.

That is what the Heat did in Game 7. After an ugly first quarter they outscored the Pacers 33-16 in the second quarter, the Heat’s pressure forcing a rash of Pacers’ turnovers, and the result was a 99-76 easy win for Miami.

The Miami Heat advance to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Game 1 is Thursday night in Miami.

Just a few numbers to give you an idea of how much the Heat dominated this game, particularly with their defense:

• Indiana turned the ball over on 23.1 percent of their possessions — one in 4.5 trips down the court. They had 21 total turnovers, 15 in the first half (they might have pulled away from the Heat early were it not for the turnovers).

• Roy Hibbert had 8 rebounds for Indiana, Dwyane Wade had 9.

• Wade had 6 offensive rebounds alone, the Pacers had 8.

• After having an offensive rating of 111.6 (points per 100 possessions) through 5 games of this series, they had 83.7 points per 100 in Game 7. Miami’s rating was 110.3 (which is close to their season average).

The defensive end is where the Heat’s energy and aggression really showed — they doubled in the post, they got hands in passing lanes, they crashed the boards and they took away any easy buckets for the Pacers. Then they converted the missed shots into transition points and turnovers. LeBron James guarded Paul George and put him in a straightjacket — 2-of-9 shooting for George. Miami got the pace they wanted, they forced the Pacers’ defense to cross-match and then the Heat exploited their advantages.

NBA Finals preview: Breaking down Spurs vs. Heat

“They taught us a lesson,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “They’ve been to the (Finals), they’ve won it all and they know how to ratchet up their defense to a level that just imposes their will on a basketball game.”

This was actually a close game through the first quarter, but with it a one-point game in the second quarter Frank Vogel say Roy Hibbert and Paul George at the same time, and the Heat went on an 11-2 run with those two sitting and once they got going it was over.

LeBron was LeBron — 32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists — but the key was he got help on offense. Dwyane Wade looked rejuvenated and had 21 points, he was attacking the paint and getting rebounds again. Ray Allen chipped in 10, including three three-pointers. Miami started knocking down outside shots on kick outs and when that happens they are impossible for even the best defense to stop.

This was a great season for the Pacers, and in the NBA players and teams need to learn how to win. These Heat had to lose in the Finals before they won. Heck, Michael Jordan had to learn hard lessons from the Pistons before he became an icon.

Heat rise to occasion in their biggest game of year

The Pacers got one of those lessons Monday night, and it’s not fun for them.

For the Heat, it’s just another step. They are going to need more out of Wade, they are going to need more out of Chris Bosh, they are going to need more defensive nights like this against a Spurs team that will not flinch under pressure.

But there still will be a game or two where the Heat can just overwhelm and impose their will. If you doubt that, ask the Pacers.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.