Heat stay alive, rally to top Cavaliers 124-121 in OT

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MIAMI (AP) — For the Miami Heat, the season is going down to the final night.

They need a win.

They need some help.

But they still have a chance.

Tyler Johnson scored 24 points, including the game’s final four from the foul line in overtime, and the Heat kept their postseason hopes alive by rallying past the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-121 on Monday night. The Heat (40-41) remained No. 9 in the Eastern Conference, a game behind No. 7 Indiana (41-40) and a tiebreaker behind No. 8 Chicago (40-41).

“We think it’s meant to be,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we have to take care of business.”

That, and get some assistance. For Miami to reach the postseason – a near-impossibility after its 11-30 start – either Indiana or Chicago must lose.

Here’s Wednesday’s slate: Miami hosts Washington (which is locked into the No. 4 spot), Chicago hosts NBA-worst Brooklyn, and Indiana hosts Atlanta.

“It’s win or go home,” Heat guard Josh Richardson said. “Win, and we still might go home.”

Hassan Whiteside scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds for Miami. Richardson scored 19 points, James Johnson had 16 and Goran Dragic added 15.

Deron Williams had a season-high 35 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the Cavaliers, who fell to 0-7 this season when LeBron James doesn’t play. The Cavs were also without Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and fell a game behind Boston for No. 1 in the East.

James sat with a right calf strain. Irving has a sore left knee.

“I thought the effort was great,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “It was unbelievable.”

Kevin Love scored 25 points, Channing Frye had 21 and Kyle Korver had 18 for Cleveland, which wasted a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead and lost in OT for the second straight day.

On Sunday, Cleveland was up 26 going into the fourth in Atlanta. This time, the lead going into the fourth was 11.

“I don’t think you take too much out of it,” Korver said.

Miami survived despite two Cleveland four-point plays in overtime, including one by Williams with 34 seconds left that put the Heat down one. But Miami rallied for its 29th win in the last 40 games.

“Even if we wouldn’t have started 11-30, to go to the last game and have an opportunity to be in the playoffs, you would take that,” Tyler Johnson said. “But I think it makes it that much more special knowing everybody was kicking dirt on us two months ago.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: If history holds, James won’t play Wednesday. He hasn’t appeared in a regular-season finale since 2007. … Thompson sat again with a sprained right thumb. … G Kay Felder (left lower leg) left the game in the third quarter. … Williams had a career-worst 10 turnovers.

Heat: Dion Waiters (ankle) missed his 12th consecutive game. … James Johnson had nine assists. … Miami had a 20-6 edge in second chance points and an 8-0 edge in fast break points.

BIRDMAN VISITS

Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who played for both Cleveland and Miami, was in a baseline seat opposite the Heat bench. Andersen won a title in Miami in 2013. He appeared in 12 games with the Cavs this season before being sidelined by a knee injury.

L2M FALLOUT

The league’s Last Two Minute Report of Sunday’s Cleveland-Atlanta game showed three calls late in regulation and overtime that negatively impacted the Cavs’ chances in what became a 126-125 loss. “It’s too late now. It’s over,” Lue said.

 

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.