LeBron, Lakers turn Game 6 into a coronation, rout Heat to win 17th title

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For five games these NBA Finals had been a grind, exactly the way the gritty Heat wanted it. Miami contested every inch of the court against a more talented Lakers team.

Sunday, that talent overwhelmed Miami.

The 2020 Lakers played like Showtime Lakers — defensive stops becoming fast break points and shots at the rim (but now with a few more threes sprinkled in). LeBron James cemented a place in Laker lore by looking like Magic Johnson for a game, getting teammates involved, and still scoring (plus LeBron had some James Worthy-level finishes).

What started as an NBA Finals game became a coronation — of the Lakers as champions, and of LeBron James, who becomes the first player ever to win titles as the best player on three different franchises. He now has a serious case to be considered the G.O.A.T.

For the fourth time, LeBron was named Finals MVP. Sunday he had his 11th Finals triple-double with 28 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. He was brilliant.

Behind LeBron, the Lakers won 106-93 to lock down the 2020 NBA championship, beating the Heat 4-2.

“I will bring back the trophy to Los Angeles, where it belongs,” Laker governor Jeanie Buss said when presented the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

It is the 17th championship for Los Angeles, tying Boston for the most in league history. It was LeBron’s fourth ring with his third different team.

This game was the culmination of the strangest of NBA seasons, one interrupted by the coronavirus and ending in a bubble in Orlando. Maybe the most amazing thing about all of this is that the NBA pulled it off — not one player, team staff member, or media member tested positive in the bubble (some of the Disney employees who helped support the bubble, people who went to their homes at night, did get the disease). It was a model of how wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and testing can help limit the disease’s spread.

Somehow it’s fitting that this season ended in a game that didn’t feel like any other game this series.

Los Angeles came out playing intense, focused defense. LeBron and Danny Green were getting into the body of Jimmy Butler, forcing him left (he prefers to drive right) and trapping him when Butler did go right. LeBron took it upon himself to make sure Butler — who was sensational in the Heat’s two wins in this series — would not beat the Lakers again.

Butler also looked like his legs were dead, having never fully recovered from his 47-minutes all-out effort in Game 5. He finished with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

Without Butler creating shots the Heat offense stalled, plus they missed some shots right at the rim and a couple of wide-open threes early.

The Lakers took those shots and ran, and even in the half-court LeBron was playing downhill and attacking the rim — 18 of the Lakers first 28 points came in the paint. The Lakers started the game 11-of-11 in shots at the rim. Los Angeles has thrived all season by getting into the paint, and they finished with 52 in this game. When that happens, Los Angeles is almost impossible to beat.

The Lakers led 28-20 after one quarter but turned the game into a rout in the second quarter, taking the quarter 36-16. The Lakers held the Heat to 30.7% shooting, including 1-of-7 from three, in the quarter.

The Lakers led by 30 at one point in the second, by 28 at halftime, and the second half felt like an obligation to get through.

Anthony Davis finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo came off the bench and shot 8-of-11 to finish with 19 points. Every move coach Frank Vogel made — such as starting Alex Caruso over Dwight Howard — worked.

Miami showed some fight and cut the lead down to 21 at one point, and they made the score respectable in garbage time, but the outcome of this game was never in doubt.

Bam Adebayo had a strong game with 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting for Miami. Jae Crowder and Butler each had a dozen points.

In the end, Miami just didn’t have the energy to match the Lakers’ talent once again — and when LeBron is playing like a legend, it may not have mattered anyway. The good people of Miami have seen him do that before.

What will Rockets do at trade deadline? Send out Gordon? Bring in Collins?

Minnesota Timberwolves v Houston Rockets
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There’s a sense in league circles that this is the final season Houston will be okay with having one of the worst — as of today, the worst — record in the NBA. The Rockets hope to grab one of the big names at the top of the draft board this season, but they already have drafted Jalen Green at No. 2 (2021) and Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 (2022), plus made a draft night trade for Alperen Şengün (who is playing well). With cap space to spend and extensions coming up, the tanking days will be over.

How will that impact the Rockets at this trade deadline? Here are a few names to watch.

Kelly Iko at The Athletic reports the Rockets have interest in the Hawks’ John Collins and the sides have talked, but there is no real traction yet.

There has been nothing concrete from the Rockets — merely ideas floated by the Hawks to Houston among other teams — but the interest is real.

The Rockets could also be part of a larger, three-team trade to move Collins.

Eric Gordon remains on the trade block, as he has been for more than a year. Gordon has been frustrated waiting, but the Rockets have held out for what they thought was fair — a first-round pick — to no avail. That price likely comes down, and according to Iko at The Athletic, the front office is “more inclined to trade him now” than in the past, but the proof will be in a deal.

• Teams also are calling about K.J. Martin, according to Iko.

K.J. Martin, there continues to be interest in the 22-year-old combo forward who has been quite productive as a starter — averaging 14 points and seven rebounds on 35 percent shooting from 3 — but nothing concrete at this juncture in terms of offers on the table.

The Rockets like Martin, it’s going to take a serious offer to get them to consider it.

Knicks reportedly offered multiple first-round picks for OG Anunoby, got nowhere

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
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What are the Toronto Raptors going to do at the trade deadline?

It’s less than two weeks before the trade deadline and the entire NBA is still asking that question, the Raptors are the one team that could turn this trade deadline from a dud to epic if they decide to pivot toward a rebuild. Are they willing to trade players like OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam, or will they look to add a more traditional big man such as the Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl, who has been linked to the Raptors in rumors? Everything seems to be on the table.

Anunoby is a player a lot of teams covet, including New York. The Knicks reached out to the Raptors, reports Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

“And Anunoby with Toronto, I mean, that would cost you a lot. That would cost you significant draft compensation. Maybe the Knicks are there, maybe they’re feeling like they could make the playoffs and make a big push if you added in Anunoby. I know that we reported they contacted Toronto on Anunoby and I was told in that conversation they offered multiple firsts. But this was a while back… Toronto has done a lot since then. But I don’t think the league is crystal clear on what [the Raptors] want to do on Anunoby.”

Anunoby is an elite on-ball wing defender who can be a finisher, averaging 17.3 points and 5.6 rebounds a game at age 25 — the asking price will start at two unprotected first-round picks in this market. The Knicks may have thrown some of their protected picks in the conversation, but Toronto’s asking price is reportedly sky-high because they’re not eager to get rid of him.

Anunoby is making $17.4 million this season and is under contract for $18.2 million next season, a fair price for what he brings to the court (he has a player option at $19.9 million in 2024-25). What the Raptors do with him may signal their direction.

At the deadline, most people around the league expect Toronto to trade Gary Trent Jr., but that’s it. Any other big moves are likely this offseason. If ever.

Reprots: Luka Doncic day-to-day with “mild” ankle sprain

Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks
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While there are grades of ankle sprains, ask anyone trying to walk around on one if there is a “mild” version.

Yet that’s what Mavericks sources say about Luka Doncic’s ankle sprain suffered against the Suns on Thursday night. He is “day-to-day” with the injury, a story first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (and since confirmed by others).

Doncic has been playing through ankle soreness in recent weeks and it’s fair to expect the Mavericks to give him a few games off. However, it can’t be too many for a team fighting for a playoff spot, the Mavs are 0-5 in games Doncic has rested this season and have been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions this season when he sits (although they did beat the Suns largely without him Thursday). Doncic is an All-Star starter averaging 33.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game.

Dallas plays next on Saturday against the Jazz. It would be a surprise to see Doncic suit up for that game.

https://twitter.com/CallieCaplan/status/1619016699289956353

Boban? Crowder? Holmgren? Exploring player votes for All-Star starters

CrawsOver Pro-Am
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Four NBA players — not one as a joke, but four… as a joke — voted for injured Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren to start the NBA All-Star Game.

The NBA All-Star Game starters were announced Thursday, chosen from a weighted vote of fans (50%), media (25%) and current players (25%).

While most NBA players may take their All-Star Game starter votes seriously, some do not — they vote for friends, college teammates, guys with the same agent, or just whoever they feel like.

Which is comedy gold once we comb through the public vote (Note: names are not attached to who cast a vote, but we do see who got votes). This season, that list of players getting at least one vote to be an All-Star starter include:

Bol Bol (Orlando Magic, he got six votes)
Willy Hernangomez (New Orleans Pelicans, he got five votes)
Juancho Hernangomez (Toronto Raptors, he got three votes)
Omer Yurtseven (Miami Heat, he got three votes)
Georges Niang (Philadelphia 76ers, he got five votes)
Ochai Agbaji (Utah Jazz, he got four votes)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Oklahoma City Thunder, he got three votes)
Bismack Biyombo (Phoenix Suns, he got three votes)
Jae Crowder (Phoenix Suns, he got two votes)
Udonis Haslem (Miami Heat, he got two votes)
Blake Griffin (Boston Celtics)
Boban Marjanovic (Houston Rockets)
Kemba Walker (Dallas Mavericks)
Kendrick Nunn (Los Angeles Lakers)
Ish Smith (Denver Nuggets)
Torrey Craig (Phoenix Suns)
Luka Garza (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings)
Furkan Korkmaz (Philadelphia 76ers)
R.J. Hampton (Orlando Magic)
Johnny Davis (Washington Wizards)
Cedi Osman (Cleveland Cavaliers)
MarJon Beauchamp (Milwaukee Bucks)
Paul Reed (Philadelphia 76ers)

That is just a fraction of the entire list.