Active, ball moving, relentless Spurs thrash Heat in first half, lead by 19 at break

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MIAMI — We all expected a team to come out in Game 4 playing desperate, knowing the series could be on the line, playing like this game meant everything.

We didn’t expect that team to be the Spurs.

San Antonio moved the ball, played smart and energetic defense, knocked down their shots (they shot 55.6 percent in the first half) and just outplayed a flat Miami Heat squad, leading 55-36 at the half.

Miami started out the game trying to get Chris Bosh touches, but their offense quickly devolved into a lot of pick-and-rolls or isolations with almost no weakside movement. The Spurs play smart, hard working defense seemed to contest everything — they were much sharper on defense than they were in Game 3 — but the Heat made it easy on them.

Miami shot 35.3 percent in the first half. Dwyane Wade looked old and like a guy with bad knees — he was getting in close but was 1-of-6 shooting inside 8 feet.

Miami’s lack of energy showed on both ends. They tried their usual trapping defense but when it’s done without real energy and intent the Spurs just shred it with passes. Defensively the Heat were not disrupting passing lanes, allowing Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw to get ball inside (or Tony Parker to drive it there) and pass out to shooters. The Heat close outs were those of a Tuesday night in February in Milwaukee, not the NBA Finals.

Parker had 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting, Danny Green was 3-of-4 from three, and Patty Mills was 3-of-5.

The Spurs have owned the last six quarters of this series.

Erik Spoelstra got so desperate he went with Toney Douglas for a while to try and spark the team. It’s a sign he has no more answers.

Rumor: Bulls’ belief in Zach LaVine waning

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Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.

But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.

LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.

This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.

The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.

Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.

LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.

PBT Extra: Grading the top of the NBA Draft

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The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.

But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?

How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?

In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).

 

Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at pbtmailbag@gmail.com.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.