NBA Finals Game 5 Heat vs. Spurs preview: Which Heat team shows up?

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SAN ANTONIO — Which Miami Heat team will be on the bus to the AT&T Center for Sunday night’s key Game 5?

We know what names will be there — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc. — but the Heat have looked like a different team game to game in this series (and the last one, for that matter). There was the passive, jump shooting team that played Game 3 and got blown out. There was the small ball, aggressive team from Game 4 that played much better defense, forced turnovers, blocked shots and took control of the game in the fourth quarter.

The Spurs are going to be the Spurs — they are a model of consistency. They are going to come out in this game and defend, move the ball and for the most part play smart. The quality varies a little night to night, but you pretty much know what you are going to get — if Miami makes mistakes San Antonio will exploit them and win.

The question is will Miami make those mistakes or come out more like late in Game 4 and impose their will on the contest?

“So I think this team we’ve always responded to a challenge, and right now this is our challenge,” Wade said. “Our challenge now as a team is to see if we can put complete games together, back to back. So that’s got to be our challenge that we have to look forward to.”

As for Xs and Os, the Heat will come out starting Mike Miller again and going small.

“Against this team, we need to create space,” Miami’s Shane Battier said. “And just the threat of having three point shooters does that a little more. I think LeBron and Dwyane had a little bit more room to operate last game. And that’s what we’ve done all year, that’s why we’ve been a very good offense the entire year, league leading, is our ability to create space and make the other team make some tough decisions about their spacing.”

The Spurs will have to adjust, and that likely means a lot more Gary Neal and a lot less Tiago Splitter, possibly even in the starting lineup. But either way they Spurs need more out of Splitter, who had his shot blocked three times and turned it over a few other times in Game 4.

The other key is Tony Parker’s hamstring. It didn’t seem to bother him at all in the first half of Game 4, he was getting in the paint and putting on spin moves, and the game was tied at half. But in the second half a combination of more Heat defensive attention and his hamstring clearly bothering him, that penetration went away. And then the Heat and their defense took over. He says he’s fine, but…

There are no real secrets at this point in a series — these teams know each other well, it’s just a matter of execution. I think we know we will get that from the Spurs. The Heat were a confident bunch on Saturday, but we will see who gets off their team bus Sunday night.

As fans, I just hope we finally get another close game at the end, one that is entertaining to the final minutes (like Game 1).

Scottie Pippen on LeBron James, Michael Jordan: “It’s not a fair comparison”

AP
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The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.

And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.

James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.

But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.

In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).

Via Twitter:

That sounds right to me.

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”

Associated Press
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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.