SAN ANTONIO — You had to know the two-time defending champion Miami Heat had too much pride to just roll over. They were going to come out ready to defend their title down 3-1 and needing a win just to force a Game 6.
And they did — Miami played the best, most energized and aggressive defense they have played all playoffs, LeBron James came out on fire with 17 first quarter points and the Heat raced out to a 19-5 lead, the biggest lead the Heat have had all Finals.
But Miami has had spurts of great execution all season and through these Finals, the issue has been sustaining it against a relentless Spurs team.
They couldn’t. San Antonio climbed back, slowly at first behind Manu Ginobili (a 6-0 personal run at one point, a poster dunk on Chris Bosh later) and later with a 17-2 run sparked by Kawhi Leonard (15 first half points).
The Spurs lead 47-40 at the half and are 24 minutes from an NBA title.
This feels like a game San Antonio could just blow open in the third.
Miami has 20 points from LeBron on 6-of-12 shooting, they have 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting from everyone else. Numbers reminiscent of Game 4.
Ginobili had 14 for the Spurs, who shot 50 percent in the second quarter as they moved the ball and got good looks (the Heat sharp rotations from the opening six minutes were gone). The Heat shot 26.7 percent in the second.
San Antonio got 22 points from its bench in the first half, the Heat got 2. Not enough depth to sustain the energy levels Miami needs, but they need to find some way in the second half or this could get ugly.
For most of the first three quarters of Game 6, the Milwaukee Bucks were in control of the game and looked to be on the way to forcing a Game 7.
But Kawhi Leonard sparked a 10-0 run for Toronto to end the third, scoring eight and assisting on a Serge Ibaka bucket.
That run carried over into the fourth and became a 26-3 run that was highlighted by this insane dunk by Leonard over Giannis Antetokounmpo.
I’d say that’s Leonard’s best shot as a Raptor if not for the series winner against Philadelphia.
The Bucks responded with a 7-0 run and this game is going to go down to the wire.
If you think a 15-point lead is safe, go talk to a Portland Trail Blazers fan and get back to me.
The Bucks will still take it. Milwaukee has come out with a sense of desperation, but more importantly got to play with some pace and couldn’t miss early from three — they started 4-of-6 and were 7-of-13 from three as of this writing — and what we saw were play after play from the Bucks, the kinds of things we haven’t seen the last three games. They led by 13 after one, and the lead got as high as 15.
Can the Bucks sustain this, or will they cool down as the Raptors heat up? It’s going to be a wild rest of the game in Toronto.
The Raptors are up 3-2 in the series and playing for their first ever franchise trip to the Finals. The Bucks are playing to force a Game 7 Monday back in Milwaukee.
Honesty from your spouse is a bedrock of any good relationship.
But come on Gabrielle Union, show your man a little love.
Dwyane Wade got one second-team All-NBA vote, and he took to an Instagram story to thank that voter (even if he wouldn’t have voted for himself). His wife would not have voted for her man.
Just a few notes:
• That is a funny video.
• We do not know who cast that vote for Wade, yet. The NBA’s end of season awards are voted on by 100 media members who cover the league (the NBA selects those voters). There is transparency, the full votes will be released after the NBA’s award show next month.
• Third team All-NBA guard was probably the toughest choice on the entire ballot. Because the NBA forces voters to select only two guards for each of the teams (six guards total), rather than allowing voters to just chose the 15 best players for the honor, deserving guys get left off every year. In this case, Stephen Curry and James Harden were first-team locks. Damian Lillard was a clear second-team choice, and a majority of voters had Kyrie Irving joining him on the second team. Russell Westbrook was not far behind Irving and was clear-and-away the fifth choice for voters. That left one guard spot between Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, or anyone else considered worthy (Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, etc.). There is no wrong choice in that group. If players were not locked into positions for All-NBA more guards would have made the cut in an increasingly backcourt dominated league. (For transparency purposes, I did vote Walker in on my ballot barely over Thompson.)
• No media members I know are comfortable with these votes having an impact on player salaries. It makes us all uneasy, even as voters study and try to make the best choices. The NBA and players’ union need to come up with a better system in the next CBA. I’ve got a crazy idea, how about letting the teams decide who is worthy of being paid that much?
Kyrie Irving is a popular guy. He has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant and rumors of them pairing up on the Knicks next season have been rampant all over the league this season. Irving also is hanging out with LeBron James in Los Angeles, and LBJ is reportedly up for the idea of getting the band back together (minus Kevin Love, and in Los Angeles this time). Boston has every intention of keeping Irving, and ideally pairing him with Anthony Davis who they would acquire via trade.
The Brooklyn Nets will be free agent players this summer and think they would be an excellent fit for Irving. The goal would be to pair him with All-Star D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt, reports Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
How seriously is Irving considering the Nets? A lot, according to Anthony Puccio of SNY in New York.
Sources tell SNY that Kyrie Irving and his camp are strongly considering Brooklyn if he decides to leave Boston. Irving’s camp has kept a close eye on the Nets as the season progressed and the team got better, with the playoffs only helping their case.
SNY also learned recently that the Nets would not shy away from signing Irving even if they re-sign point guard D’Angelo Russell. The ideal scenario would be to pair two max free agents, such as Kevin Durant and Irving, but sources say the Nets would be open to pairing Irving and Russell in the backcourt together.
The Nets, just like the Clippers, could be major players in free agency this summer (the Clippers are more focused on Kawhi Leonard, but if he chooses to stay in Toronto the Clippers will be a potential force in trades and on the free agent market). This is a young team that surprised everyone and made the playoffs this season, they have a good culture and good role players, they just need a star or two to take them over the top.
Irving could be that guy, or at least one of those guys, in Brooklyn.
Irving will have options and you can bet his decision is not yet made. He may be leaning one way or another, but circumstances with other players and time to think things over may (likely will) change his mind. Maybe a few times.
Where his mind is July 1 matters. It could be in Brooklyn then, but it could be a lot of places.