Heat beat Spurs in epic Game 7 to win 2013 NBA title

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MIAMI — The Miami Heat are the 2013 NBA champions. And the Spurs made them earn every last bit of that second straight title.

In a game fitting of what we’ve come to expect from these two teams in this series, LeBron James put on a jump-shooting display that resulted in his scoring 37 points, and being named the Finals MVP in leading the Heat to the championship in a dramatic 95-88 Game 7 win over the Spurs.

“It was odd, all year he had been the best perimeter jump shooter in the league, even though he’s an attacker and got to the rim, to the free‑throw line,” Erik Spoelstra said of LeBron’s outside shooting. “By the numbers he was phenomenal from 15 to 22 feet, and even from three. But their game plan was to really keep him out of the paint at all costs, and that meant giving him wide‑open looks. That was the case, and it probably messed with us a little bit. It takes you a little bit out of your normal rhythm. But eventually he was able to figure it out.”

James opened the game hitting just one of his first five shots, but finished it 12-of-23 from the field. Only three of his makes came in the paint, while four came in the range Spoelstra mentioned, and the last five were good from three-point distance.

The game opened with both teams a little tight, and the play was uneven and sloppy for a bit, perhaps due to the magnitude of the contest. 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 over the first 12 minutes.

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. Battier finished with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from three-point distance, and this from a player that didn’t play due to a coach’s decision in his team’s last Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers.

“I believe in the basketball gods, and I felt that they owed me,” Battier said.

The Heat got 23 points and 10 rebounds from Dwyane Wade, who has been up and down this series due to dealing with a deep bone bruise in his knee. He was especially active in the first half with 14 and 6, and was especially thrilled at the postgame podium afterward.

“All the giddiness is the champagne talking,” Wade said. “This is sweet.  This is the sweetest one by far because of everything we’ve been through, everything I’ve been through individually and to get here to this moment, to have that kind of performance, that kind of game, help lead my team, it’s special, man. So special.”

The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the Spurs erasing Miami’s lead of five points and getting up by two before the period’s final possession. But Mario Chalmers banked home a three-pointer from about 30 feet out at the buzzer to send the Heat into the fourth with the lead, 12 minutes away from the title.

Twice in the fourth, jumpers from James pushed the Heat’s lead to six, and a three from Battier did the same with 3:19 to play. But Tim Duncan immediately answered with an and-1 play on the other end, and a three from Kawhi Leonard a couple of possessions later had the Spurs back within two with two minutes remaining.

It began to feel like the reverse of Game 6 was happening to the Heat, who came back so furiously and so quickly to prevent the Spurs from winning the championship 48 hours earlier. Mario Chalmers missed two free throws, and the Spurs had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead, the closest coming on a play where Duncan spun past Battier in the lane and missed a close one, before missing the chance at the put-back, as well.

Duncan was understandably crushed by the game’s result, and said afterward that missing this chance to tie the game in the final moments would be something he’d think about for quite some time.

“Missing a layup to tie the game,” Duncan said. “Probably for me, Game 7 is always going to haunt me.”

Then came the dagger from James, and fittingly, it was a midrange jumper that sealed it.

With the clock winding down to under 30 seconds remaining in the game, James dribbled at the top of the three-point arc. After a pseudo-screen from Chalmers briefly caused some defensive uncertainty between Tony Parker and Leonard, James found himself open from about 18 feet out on the right side. He collected himself, and just as he had done for the majority of the night, he buried the shot.

After it was all over, while flanked by both of the trophies he had just earned, James dissected his incredible shooting performance.

“I looked at all my regular season stats, all my playoff stats, and I was one of the best mid‑range shooters in the game,” he said. “I shot a career high from the three‑point line. I just told myself, don’t abandon what you’ve done all year. Don’t abandon now because they’re going under [on the screens]. Don’t force the paint. If it’s there, take it. If not, take the jumper. Just stay with everything you’ve worked on, the repetition, the practices, the off‑season training, no matter how big the stakes are, no matter what’s on the line, just go with it. And I was able to do that.”

James is the best player in the game, and he played like it in Game 7. Really, he did that for the majority of the series, in a Finals that was played at one of the highest levels that we’ve ever seen by both teams.

The accomplishment was made that much more special given all that the Heat had to overcome to repeat as champions.

“Last year when I was sitting up here with my first championship, I said it was the toughest thing I had ever done,” James said. “This year I’ll tell last year he’s absolutely wrong. This was the toughest championship right here, between the two.  I mean, everything that we’ve been throughout this postseason, especially in these Finals.

“We were down — we were scratching for our lives in Game 6 down five with 28 seconds to go. To be able to win that game and force a Game 7 is a true testament of our, I guess, perseverance, and us being able to handle adversity throughout everything. It meant a lot for us to be able to do that and force a Game 7 and be able to close out at home.”

Report: Allen Iverson had backpack containing $500K of jewelry stolen

Allen Iverson
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Allen Iverson, like the rest of us, has been dealing with the incredible shock of Kobe Bryant dying. Iverson released a statement that includes a story that truly captures both stars:

“Words cannot express how I’m feeling today. The only 2 words that ring in my head — devastated and heartbroken. I cannot seem to shake this feeling no matter what I’ve tried to do since hearing this yesterday.

“People will always remember how we competed against each other in the league, but it goes so much deeper than that for me. The story of us being drafted in arguably the deepest class of its kind ever in the NBA can be debated for many years to come. However, his generosity and respect for the game is something that I witnessed first-hand every time we stepped on the dance floor to compete.

“It’s one memory of him that I can’t stop thinking about. It was our rookie season and my first trip to LA for a game against the Lakers. He came to my hotel, picked me up and took me to a restaurant. When we returned before he left, he asked me, “What are you going to do tonight?” My reply was, “I’m going to the club, what are you going to do?” He said, “I’m going to the gym.” That is who he always was, a true student of the game of basketball and also the game of life. He prepared relentlessly. There is something we can all learn from the “Mamba” mentality and from the way my brother lived his life. He will always have my respect as a competitor, as a friend, as a brother.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Vanessa, their children and the families of all of the victims of yesterday’s tragedy. As a father, I cannot wrap my head around how they must feel.

“We are not okay. But we will find the strength to pull through this together because that’s what Kobe would want us to do.”

Amid his grief, Iverson now has another issue to deal with.

NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Police are searching for a man accused of stealing a half-million dollars’ worth of jewelry from Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson.

Police said the unidentified man entered the Sofitel Hotel at 120 S. 17th Street Monday around 10:30 a.m. and snatched a backpack containing jewelry valued at approximately $500,000. NBC10 later confirmed with sources that the jewelry belonged to Iverson.

I can’t imagine many people in Philadelphia helping someone get away with stealing from Iverson.

Gordon Hayward: I didn’t step into lane to help Kobe Bryant score 60

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Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA game – an incredible sendoff for a great career and, tragically, a moment with added significance considering its proximity to his death.

Bryant’s final point came on a free throw with 14.8 seconds remaining in the Lakers’ win over the Jazz in 2016. Before Bryant attempted his free throw, Utah forward Gordon Hayward stepped into the paint. A story swirled in the last day that Hayward deliberately committed the violation so Bryant, if necessary, would get an extra free throw to score 60.

Hayward – now with the Celtics – set the record straight:

Did the Jazz, who were already eliminated from the playoffs, play their absolute tightest defense on Bryant? No. Do players sometimes help opponents – especially a revered star like Bryant – reach milestones in otherwise-insignificant moments? Yes.

But unintentional lane violations happen somewhat frequently (and are often uncalled). There was just a big one last night. It’s not an area where players or referees stringently follow the rules.

It’s totally believable Hayward didn’t have some deeper meaning behind his step into the paint.

I’d take him at his word.

Report: No teams requested Sunday’s games be canceled after Kobe Bryant’s death

Kobe Bryant tribute at Spurs-Raptors
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Kobe Bryant’s death devastated the basketball world.

The NBA even postponed the Lakers-Clippers game originally scheduled for tonight. That led to the question: Why didn’t the league postpone games Sunday, the day Bryant died? Obviously there should be special consideration in Los Angeles, where Bryant spent his entire career. But nobody – from those involved to onlookers – had their hearts and heads in Sunday’s games.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

I wonder how many teams thought to request a cancellation. I bet many awaited guidance from the league office.

Likewise, I wonder how many players felt they could step away. Kyrie Irvingwho was quite close with Bryant – missed the Nets’ game for personal reasons.

Eight teams hosted games Sunday:

  • Nuggets (vs. Rockets)
  • Spurs (vs. Raptors)
  • Hawks (vs. Wizards)
  • Grizzlies (vs. Suns)
  • Pelicans (vs. Celtics)
  • Knicks (vs. Nets)
  • Clippers (vs. Magic)
  • Trail Blazers (vs. Pacers)

Postponing games (finding makeup dates, extra travel) or canceling games (refunding tickets, unbalanced schedules) would have created different headaches down the road. Maybe it would’ve been better to deal with those issues than playing. But playing also gave teams an opportunity to honor Bryant, find distraction amid grief and start the process of moving forward.

I wouldn’t get too hung up in the debate of whether the NBA should have canceled games Sunday. Whether or not games were played, Bryant was gone. There was no good solution here.

Three Things to Know: Tributes for Kobe Bryant keep pouring in

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The tributes for to Kobe Bryant continue to pour in from every corner of the NBA — and globe. The Shock of Kobe Bryant’s unexpected death on Sunday — in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others — is wearing off and sadness fills its place. Tributes to the future Hall of Famer kept on pouring in on Monday.

Every NBA game on Monday started with a 24-second violation by one team and an 8-second backcourt violation by the other — 24 and 8 celebrating Kobe’s numbers.

In Los Angeles, where Kobe played for 20 years and became part of the image and fabric of the city — the man even won an Oscar — the grief from the loss has been particularly acute. Monday night you could feel the city’s love when an impromptu crowd filled the area around Staples Center — where a memorial has sprung up — as well as the L.A. Live plaza across the street to watch an outdoor, big-screen replay of Kobe’s finale (shown outside the West Coast ESPN offices) — a 60-point game that was the perfect ending to his career. Laker fans showed up and chanted his name.

There will not be a Lakers’ game in Los Angeles for a few days, however. The Clippers/Lakers game for Tuesday was postponed (likely until April). The Lakers’ first game back will be home Friday against the Trail Blazers.

The tributes were not limited to Los Angeles. There was Madison Square Garden, home to some of Kobe’s biggest nights.

And there were arenas in Utah and Portland — two franchises Kobe particularly tortured on the court — where tributes were paid because of the respect the man had earned.

Kobe tributes poured in from around the globe, including in the Philippines.

Back in the NBA, Gregg Popovich summed up how Kobe seemed to impact everyone.

No player seemed hit harder by the tragedy than the man who took over the Lakers’ mantle, LeBron James.

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I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

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2) No James Harden. No Russell Westbrook. So Eric Gordon drops 50 on the Jazz. This was your upset of the night. Or, conversely, this is why you don’t want to bet NBA games.

The Jazz entered the night the hottest team in the NBA having won 14-of-15. The Rockets came in sitting guys who account for 62.1 points per game in Harden (thigh bruise) and Westbrook (rest), or 51.6 percent of their points.

So Eric Gordon — who has battled injury much of the season himself — just took over and dominated, dropping 50.

Houston won 126-117. Danuel House Jr. scored 21 with 11 rebounds, while Austin Rivers also had 21 points. Utah lost at home for the first time since Dec. 9.

3) Kings come from 27 down — 17 in the final three minutes — to beat the Timberwolves in overtime. Welcome to “the comeback of the year” or the “most painful of our 10 straight losses,” depending on how you want to look at this one.

Minnesota had this one. They were about to snap a nine-game losing streak, Andrew Wiggins had just nailed a three with 2:49 left to put the Timberwolves up 17. It’s empty the bench and ice the knees time… except the Kings close the game on a wild 21-4 run that is capped off by De’Aaron Fox, down 2 with 4.7 seconds left, intentionally missing a free throw off the front of the rim, getting his own rebound and tying the game.

Boxing out people. It’s not just a 1950s skill. (It will be interesting to see if the Last Two Minute Report says that should have been a lane violation on Fox; still you got to seal him off there.)

That sent the game to overtime and the Kings got the win.

Buddy Hield, who grew up idolizing Kobe (as many of his generation did), came off the bench to drop 42 — he has found a spark as a sixth man for the Kings.

Here is your Hield/Kobe stat of the night to tie everything together.