Associated Press

In Game 7 Rockets go frigid from three, massive Warriors third quarter sends them to Finals. Again.

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In the regular season, the Houston Rockets made an NBA-record 1,256 threes on a record 3,470 attempts — that’s 15.3 threes per game on 36.2 percent shooting. It was the lifeblood of their offense.

In Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Rockets missed 27 threes in a row at one point.

For the game the Rockets were 7-of-44 from three (15.9 percent). With a trip to the Finals on the line, that’s not good enough.

“It’s like they say, it’s a make or miss league. They made them and we missed them,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.

For the second straight game the Rockets gave a heroic effort in the first half on both ends to lead the Warriors by double digits, only to look tired and miss shots in the second half, miss defensive rotations, and just wear down.

And once again, as it has been all series, the third quarter is when the Warriors come alive — they outscored the Rockets 33-15 in the quarter, led by Stephen Curry’s 14 points. He was doing Curry-like things.

The result was a 101-92 Warriors victory on the road in Houston.

With the win, Golden State advances to its fourth straight NBA Finals. Those Finals start Thursday in Oakland, where the Warriors will be heavy favorites in the fourth straight matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For the second straight game, the Rockets showed amazing grit in the first half, playing physical defense and attacking the rim — the Rockets had 56 points in the paint on the night. They played like a contender. They forced the Warriors into mistakes, and they made a lot of them — 10 turnovers and 11 offensive rebounds given up in the first 24 minutes.

“I was thinking of resigning,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his reaction to the first half. “I walked in at halftime and said I didn’t recognize this team.”

He did in the second half. The Warriors found another gear while the Rockets showed how much they missed Chris Paul. They missed CP3s defense, and they missed his stabilizing presence on the offensive end.

Not that the Rockets gave up, they make a 7-0 fourth-quarter run to keep it close, but it’s hard to make up ground when Kevin Duran is making contested shots like this.

Like most Game 7s, it wasn’t pretty.

It was a first quarter neither team could particularly like — Steve Kerr called it the “one of the worst quarters of basketball we’ve ever played” in his TV interview — the Rockets were up five and it felt like it should have been more. Neither team shot well, it felt like a Game 7 with guys intense but it’s sloppy.

The Rockets really brought that energy on defense. In the first quarter, with Thompson sidelined with foul trouble for 10 minutes, it put another non-shooter on the floor (Jordan Bell, Shaun Livingston, Draymond Green) that the Rockets could help off of. With that, the Rockets defense looked much sharper

In the second, that energy led to the Rockets being up by 15 thanks to turnovers and offensive rebounds. Houston grabbed the offensive rebound on 38 percent of their missed shots in the first half, and the Warriors turned the ball over on 21.7 percent of their of their possessions — that led to 11 more shot attempts. Not coincidentally the Rockets were up by 11, 54-43 at the half. The Rockets got 30 points on 27 shots combined from James Harden and Eric Gordon in the first half. They were making it work.

Then came the onslaught in the third. While Golden State played well, Houston shot 0-of-14 from three in the third.

At that point, it was just too much ground to make up.

Report: FBI investigating Big Baller Brand co-founder Gregory Alan Foster

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It’s sad that people take advantage of athletes. A lot of people do it when these guys are very young and clearly talented, and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball is no stranger to that.

Ball cut ties with his Big Baller Brand earlier this year, even covering up his “BBB” tattoo with a bad-looking pair of dice. This was because Gregory Alan Foster, one of his confidants and business partners, allegedly stole money from the company to the tune of several million dollars.

Now the FBI is reportedly investigating Foster for his involvement in bilking money from Ball.

Via LA Times:

The FBI is now investigating whether Foster defrauded the Ball family out of millions of dollars, according to two law enforcement sources. While it’s unclear when exactly the official investigation began, one of those sources said it is at least two months old.

Lonzo Ball and the family’s shoe and clothing business recently accused Foster in a lawsuit of taking more than $1.5 million out of the company’s bank accounts and accepting “substantial undisclosed referral fees” from at least eight loans he arranged on behalf of the company.

“[Foster is] like my second dad,” Lonzo replied. “So when he came to me, I just talked to him and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. He just gave me his story. Now, looking back at it, obviously I wish we would have jumped at it back in October.”

According to the Times, Foster’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Hopefully Ball will be able to recover some kind of financial damages from all of this.

Spurs’ smart defense, veterans force Game 7 with 120-103 win over Nuggets

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Nikola Jokic had a career night — 43 points, a personal and franchise playoff best, plus 12 rebounds and nine assists. Once again the two-man game, the pick-and-roll with him and Jamal Murray got into the lane and carved up San Antonio.

The Spurs lived with that. What they did, however, was not collapse off Denver’s shooters to help in the paint — to try to contest twos but give up good-look threes. Denver got its buckets inside — they won the points in the paint battle 72-36 — but shot just 8-of-31 outside the paint on the night.

The Nuggets stars took the shots they were given — Jokic and Murray combined to take 51 percent of Denver’s shots, up from 34.6 percent and 40.5 percent in the previous two wins — but the ball movement and transition buckets that characterize the Nuggets were missing. The Spurs took that away.

Combine that with veterans LaMarcus Aldridge (26 points on 10-of-18 shooting), DeMar DeRozan (25 points on 12-of-16 shooting), and Rudy Gay (19 points on 7-of-11 shooting) stepping up and you end up with the Spurs pulling away for a 120-103 Game 6 win on their home court.

It forces Game 7 Saturday in Denver. The winner advances to take on Portland in the second round.

“We didn’t defend tonight, from the jump ball,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “They came out and scored 34 points in the first quarter, shot 70 percent or close to it [66.7 percent in first], and to give up 120 points in a potential elimination game, 57 [percent shooting]. It just wasn’t good enough.”

The game was decided by a 22-4 San Antonio run that spanned the end of the third and into the start of the fourth quarter, when the Nuggets pulled away.

“It was turnovers for us, it was offensive rebounds for them, and just no defense,” Malone said of the run.

The other difference in the game was the three-point shooting, an area where the Nuggets have dominated through the first five games. Thursday both teams took 24 shots from three, but the Spurs made 10 and the Nuggets six. That’s a dozen points to San Antonio in an area Denver needs to win.

It was like that all night.

San Antonio came out playing like the desperate team on the brink of elimination, playing with energy and staring out 7-of-10 from the floor. The Spurs built up a 10-point point first-quarter lead behind Aldridge, who had 13 points in the first quarter, 6-of-9 from the floor, plus the team shot 65.4 percent for the quarter.

Denver was not phased (this was the fifth time in six games they lost the first quarter), and after shooting 0-of-7 in the first quarter hit 4-of-5 to start the second. The Nuggets got back to playing the kind of ball-movement hoops — with a lot of Murray and Jokic playing off each other and scoring — and the Nuggets grabbed the lead back in the quarter. However, after a DeRozan putback bucket off his own missed free throw at the buzzer gave the Spurs a 64-60 lead at the half. That hustle play seemed to signify the Spurs night.

The game was close through much of the third, but the trends favored San Antonio.

Then the late-quarter run started, and Denver faded. Now they need to find their mojo on the plane home, because Saturday is win-or-go-home for everybody.

Chris Paul doesn’t like anyone touching the top of his head (VIDEO)

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Chris Paul is listed at six feet tall, and he’s definitely not any shorter than that. Nope, no sir. To even suggest as much would be ridiculous!

In any case, Paul is shorter than most of his teammates because he plays in the NBA. As such, Paul has probably had a lifetime of everyone towering over him despite his obvious incredible talent surpassing those of his compatriots.

So maybe being touched on the top of the head is a weird “thing” for him? At least, that’s what it appeared to be from this video.

Via Twitter:

You know somebody has a trigger when they are ready to turn around and fight you after a playoff series win, especially when they’re your own teammate.

Note to everybody: don’t touch the top of Chris Paul’s head.

Hall of Famer and Celtics hero John Havlicek dies at 79

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Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics Legend John Havlicek has died.

According to the team, the 13-time All-Star passed away peacefully in his home in Jupiter, Fla. The Celtics released an announcement on their website marking Havlicek contribution to the team.

Via Boston Celtics:

John Havlicek is one of the most accomplished players in Boston Celtics history, and the face of many of the franchise’s signature moments. He was a great champion both on the court and in the community, winning 8 NBA championships and an NBA Finals MVP, while holding Celtics career records for points scored and games played. Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, he is enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame and his retired #17 hangs in the Garden rafters. His defining traits as a player were his relentless hustle and wholehearted commitment to team over self. He was extraordinarily thoughtful and generous, both on a personal level and for those in need, as illustrated by his commitment to raising money for The Genesis Foundation for Children for over three decades through his fishing tournament. John was kind and considerate, humble and gracious. He was a champion in every sense, and as we join his family, friends, and fans in mourning his loss, we are thankful for all the joy and inspiration he brought to us.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released this statement:

“John Havlicek was a wonderful friend who represented the best of the NBA.  He described himself as a man of routine and discipline – a humble approach that produced extraordinary results, including eight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, 13 All-Star selections and some of the most iconic moments in league history.  A trusted teammate who prioritized winning, John’s passion and energy endeared him to basketball fans and made him a model for generations of NBA players.  We send our deepest sympathies to John’s wife, Beth, his son, Chris, and his daughter, Jill, as well as the entire Celtics organization.”

No matter what kind of basketball fan you are, if you know anything about the history of the game you at least have the phrase “Havlicek stole the ball!” burned into the folds of your brain.

That famous steal came in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals to seal a Game 7 win against Wilt Chamberlain and the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston would go on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Finals that season.

Thoughts are with Havlicek family and Celtics fans, who of course will remember him in their own special way today.