Heat lead Spurs 46-44 at halftime of Game 7

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MIAMI — The Heat are out to a 46-44 lead over the Spurs at halftime of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

One of the things we planned on looking for heading into this one was the level of play, and whether due to the accumulation of a season’s worth of fatigue or the magnitude of playing a single game to try to win a championship, it was a rough start for both teams.

The first quarter featured just 34 total points and seven combined turnovers, while neither team was able to shoot better than 37 percent from the field.

Miami trailed 15-10 early, before Shane Battier hit three three-pointers to ignite an 11-1 run that seemed to get his team going. Dwyane Wade was active, scoring on post-ups and jumpers to finish with 14 first half points, to go along with six rebounds.

LeBron James was off to a slow 1-of-5 start from the field, but began to get rolling in the second period, where he scored 11 of his 15 points and knocked down a couple of three-pointers of his own.

Chris Bosh was limited to just 10 minutes due to picking up his third foul with just over seven and a half minutes remaining. That meant more minutes for Chris Andersen, who did a solid job defending Tim Duncan in the post.

The Spurs remained close thanks to attacking off the dribble and getting to the free throw line, where they knocked down 14 of 15 attempts to overcome their 14-of-40 shooting in the first half.

Battier’s shooting has been the wild card through the game’s first 24 minutes, along with Wade’s high level of production. But San Antonio is right there despite their shooting woes, and they’re more than capable of turning that around in time to push Miami for the final two periods.

With a championship hanging in the balance, no one team or player has yet to exert any real level of dominance. As we head to the second half, it’s literally anyone’s game.

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

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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.