2013 NBA Playoffs

Game 4: The Morning After


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By NBA.com staff reports

The Big Three combined for 85 points as the Heat evened the series 2-2 with a crucial 109-93 Game 4 win on Thursday night in San Antonio. Here’s a quick recap of NBA.com’s complete Game 4 coverage.

Game Coverage

NBA Finals

Analysis

Video Highlights

Postgame News Conferences

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Flash Is Back, And So Are Heat’s Big Three

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SAN ANTONIO – This is what greatness looks like.

Its eyes are cold and deadly. Its arms are long and larcenous. It hangs above the floor like a cloud and it bangs under the basket like a pile driver.

It has a prickly disposition, an inexorable heart. It scores in smothering waves, sudden shuddering tsunamis.

Greatness looks like LeBron James rumbling down the court with the speed and destructive power of a runaway tractor-trailer to score on one possession and pulling up to stab in a 3-pointer on another.

Dwyane Wade's Game 4 shot chart

Dwyane Wade’s Game 4 shot chart

Greatness is the beauty of Dwyane Wade striking like a cobra on the defensive end and then spinning, whirling and making the ball seem to be a yo-yo on the end of a string as he shows off an assortment of his offensive tricks.

Greatness is the mercurial Chris Bosh rebounding with a purpose, snarling and guarding the rim like a Doberman.

On any night when Miami’s Big Three remember who they were supposed to be, the game and opposition are almost secondary to the performance. The only thing lacking is a soundtrack.

This was the Heat the way they were bought and assembled nearly three years ago, cocky, confident and, OK, a little bit irritated, playing with a combination of swagger and defensiveness. Between them they piled up 85 points, 30 rebounds, 10 steals and five blocked shots.

Here is Miami in The Finals for the third straight season and yet the Heat were being asked to show their credentials because they were having trouble putting together back-to-back victories lately in these playoffs.

After failing to score 20 points in any of the first three games of the series, James alone was back to being poked, prodded and suspected of having enough emotional loose change to feed every vending machine in the Institute of Pop Psychology.

Bosh was again the guy whose mood and production seemed to glide on the breeze like dandelion spores.

But if anyone needed to bounce back to reclaim his reputation as something more than 31-year-old with a bum knee on the down side of his career, it was Wade. (more…)

Spurs’ Joseph Prepared For His Close-up

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SAN ANTONIO — If a strained hamstring keeps Tony Parker out of the lineup for Game 4, Cory Joseph won’t be thrown into a totally new experience.

When Parker sprained his ankle and missed eight games in March, Joseph moved into the starting lineup and the Spurs won six times.

“I’ve got confidence from that other time when Tony was out and confidence from all the work I’ve put in to get to here,” said the second-year point guard. “At this point, I haven’t heard anything. But no matter how much time I get, I’m just gonna go out there and play hard and try to bring my team energy, because that’s what I do.

Joseph had volunteered several times early in the season to go down to NBA D League Austin Toros to get playing time and work on his game.

“I could have just sat here and worked in practice,” he said. “But playing 1-on-1 and 3-on-3 is not the same as real playing time. You can’t simulate game action. So I have nothing but high praise for everything about the D-League that helped me improve and put myself in this situation.”

In those eight games that Joseph started for Parker in March, he averaged more than 20 minutes, 6.9 points and 3.3 assists per game.

“I can’t tell you how much or how little he’s going to play (in Game 4),” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “I can always count on him being a competitor in every way, shape and form every night. That’s what we like about him.”

Spurs Go Deep To Bury The Heat

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SAN ANTONIO – The avalanche started the way they often do, with a groaning and a rumbling and a sense of foreboding from somewhere deep within.

Then comes the time to outrun it and that rarely works.

When the Spurs were finished rolling down the mountainside, it would have taken an emergency beacon to find the Heat after a 113-77 thumping that gives San Antonio a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Well, the consensus opinion was that the Spurs would need their Big Three to show up in order to regain their equilibrium.

Gary Neal

Gary Neal hit six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points in the Spurs’ Game 3 rout.

What they got instead were big 3s, 16 of them, in fact, which set a new Finals record.

Rather than get carried by the veteran strength and experience of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, they rode a wave of 3-pointers by Danny Green and Gary Neal.

This is the way the Spurs play these days, no longer the pound-it-down-low to Duncan team that throttled a younger LeBron James in their last trip to The Finals in 2007. It’s been a total transformation, like waking up one day to find a Kardashian studying quantum physics.

Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined for 25 points. Green hit 7-for-9 from behind the arc for 27 points and Neal popped in 6 of 10 deep for 24.

When the Spurs are at their best, they move the ball like it’s ticking, searching, seeking, finding the open man. They were the fourth-best team in the league this season in shooting 3s, connecting on 37.6 percent.

“It makes the game a lot easier for us,” Green said. “When we’re moving the ball like that, trusting each other to knock down shots, make plays, it makes the defense work. It makes them move, rotate. The more you make a defense move, the more they’re liable to make mistakes. So we just continue to move it and trust each other.”

That the trust in a critical Game 3 with a championship on the line was placed in the hands of Green and Neal is typical of the Spurs’ organizational philosophy: You’re wearing the uniform, so we expect you to be able to play.

The barrage started out in the second quarter when Neal, undrafted and playing in Europe when the Spurs asked him to re-schedule his honeymoon in order to take part in a summer tryout in 2010, hit Miami with three treys in the quarter, including one that just beat the halftime horn.

“Honestly, I was comfortable with the financial situation in Italy,” Neal said. “With me getting married and wanting to start a family, I kind of wanted to be in the States. I never had a crack at the NBA. I never played summer league, never did a mini-camp or anything.

“So when the opportunity came knocking, I said, you know, I’ll try.”

Green had been cut twice by the Spurs before finally sticking the third time after an offseason double-teaming by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and his old college coach Roy Williams of North Carolina.

“(Confidence) was the missing piece the last couple of years,” Popovich said. “Believing that he belonged. Not getting down if things didn’t go well, to continue to push and work.”

The Spurs pushed the ball quickly all around the court all night to stay ahead of Miami’s defensive rotations. For the first time in the series, the San Antonio offense was as relentless as lava flow and had the Heat chasing. After compiling just 16 assists in the first two games, combined, the Spurs dished out 29 in Game 3.

So much for the talk of momentum shifts after Miami used a 33-5 second-half tsunami to whip the Spurs in Game 2. So much for the talk that after picking his way carefully against the San Antonio defense to open the series that James would be ready to bust out and assert himself.

Now the talk will be about a hamstring injury suffered by Parker that will undergo an MRI on Wednesday and has him listed as uncertain for Game 4.

The Heat have an off-day to figure out the uncertainty of James’ game. He started out a horrid 2-for-12 shooting, finished a miserable 7-for-21 and seems to be treating the paint as if it were infested by alligators.

James took the responsibility and put the burden on himself, while Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his team reaped precisely what it had sown in allowing the Spurs to convert 16 of 32 from long range. It’s one thing to make them. It’s another to make so many uncontested and the Heat’s perimeter defense has been lacking since the series began.

“I mean, they’re great shooters,” Spoelstra said. “We have great shooters. If you’re not doing your job and doing it early with great discipline, guys get open. And that’s what happened.

“They got all the easy ones they wanted first…When you get easy ones, the basket starts to look bigger and bigger. And they got them in every single way they needed to — little drives, offensive rebounds, transition. We got what we deserved tonight.”

Buried beneath an avalanche of 3s.

Will Spurs’ Big Three Bounce Back In Game 3?

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SAN ANTONIO – It was business as usual at the San Antonio Spurs’ practice facility on the morning of Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich enlightened the assembled media for all of 57 seconds after shootaround and spouted about half as many words.

Turnovers, Pop, how much of an emphasis have you put on keeping them closer to four as in Game 1 as opposed to 17 as in Game 2?

“We didn’t talk about turnovers at shootaround,” Popovich said.

How about ball movement, Pop, how do you keep your precision passing game sharp to create open looks for your shooters? “You pass the ball,” Popovich said, “expeditiously.

“Any other questions?”

One giant one is how San Antonio’s Big Three will bounce back from an awful Game 2. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to go 10-for-33 from the floor with nine turnovers.

“I expect them to play better than they did last game, obviously,” said Spurs sharpshooter Danny Green, who is 9-for-14 from beyond the arc in the first two games. “A big bounce back? Yeah, I’m hoping for it. … Timmy wasn’t too happy with himself, he’s coming in and getting extra shots, Tony as well, coming in and getting extra shots. Manu, they all have pride in themselves. There’s a reason why they’ve won in the past, they’re competitors, they compete and they’re perfectionists, so they’re going to continue to work until they get things right and get them perfect.”

One issue is creating more space for Parker to operate. The Heat threw different looks at him in Game 2, crowding him and taking away lanes. Green said the Spurs have to set better screens and re-screen to help pop Parker free and allow him to better challenge Miami’s big men inside.

Parker smiled and said he’s not worried.

“I’ll figure it out,” Parker said. “That’s what players do, you have to figure it out and that’s my intention, to play better and figure it out. I can play better, I can make quicker decisions. As a team we can all help each other out.”

Defensively, the Spurs — primarily Kawhi Leonard and Green — have done a good job guarding LeBron James, limiting him to 18 and 17 points in the first two games, respectively, after he averaged 29.0 ppg in the East finals. Still, the MVP is averaging close to a triple-double (17.5 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 8.5 apg) and was key in the pick-and-roll with Mario Chalmers (team-high 19 points) during Miami’s massive 33-5 surge to run away with Game 2.

“You’re not going to limit a guy’s impact like that,” Green said. “A guy like Lebron James is the best player in the world for a reason. He impacts the game in so many different ways — defense, rebounding, passing, blocking shots. So far we’ve done a decent job on him. Yes, we’ve limited him from not scoring 30, 40 points, but he’s still impacted the game many different ways. We want to continue to do that, but also try to limit the role players from putting big numbers on us.”

Dancing Danny Green Another Spurs’ Find



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The San Antonio Spurs are in The Finals right now because of veteran stars like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as much as they are because of emerging, young role players like Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Green, in particular, serves as a shining example of the perseverance it takes to not only make it in the NBA, but to carve out a space as a specialist where championship-level franchises covet players of that ilk.

Parker was the hero in Game 1 with his game-clinching shot, but in Game 2 it was Green who set The Finals record by making all five of his 3-point field goals. He scored the Spurs’ first nine (and his team-high 17) points in the first four minutes of that Game 2 loss, proving that he’s come a long way from his days as the dancing partner during pregame warmups for one LeBron James when they both were Cavs.

Green played sparingly, if at all, back then, but things have changed dramatically for the former North Carolina star. Green will be on center stage in Game 3 tonight (9 ET, ABC), as he has been through the first two games of The Finals.

James has a 35-29 Finals scoring edge on Green, a much tighter gap than there was during their 2009-10 season together in Cleveland, when James outscored Green 2,258 to 40. Green is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 67 percent in this series and is 9-for-14 from 3-point range.

Green talked about his transformation from anonymous end-of-the-bench dancer to starting shooting guard for the Spurs and battling LeBron on both ends on the big stage:

NBA.com: How do you go from being just another guy on a team to being an integral part of a championship-caliber team? How does that transition get started?

Danny Green: It’s a long process, a long road. A lot of hours in the gym and a lot of dedication, time maturing and building trust in different systems and coaches and different teammates and players. That took some time. Obviously, it happened faster for me than I expected. Faster than anyone probably expected. But sometimes it happens that way in this business.

NBA.com: This almost seems like it happened by accident. An injury occurs and [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] is searching for the right fit and did it feel like he stumbled upon you?

DG: That’s exactly how it happened for me. There are so many injuries that take place throughout the course of a season. He tried different guys and I was on the end of the bench. I was just thinking about trying to play good defense and staying in the rotation and it worked out. But there was nothing magical about it. Just keeping your head down and sticking to the plan.

NBA.com: It’s understood for all college players, even the biggest stars, that there will have to be some adjustments made to your game to thrive at this level. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make from college to this level and then from your time as a reserve to now?

DG: They are two totally different games, the NBA and the college game. Just knowing personnel and how to guard different people is the main thing. Reading the scouting report and studying the players you have to guard every night. And knowing that you’re not going to stop everybody, you’re not going to block every shot, you’re not going to get every rebound. You have to be smart and efficient in what you do and how you play. You have to make the energy plays. Try to give as much energy as possible throughout the course of a game. It’s understanding that there are 48 minutes to be played and being mature as a player and realizing that whether you are making shots or not, you have to continue to take the open ones.

NBA.com: That atmosphere in Cleveland, the dancing and all the fun stuff, from the outside it looked to some people like you guys were maybe having too much fun, if that’s possible. This Spurs atmosphere is obviously toned down a bit from that. Is that something that worked for you in terms of making the leap from where you were to where you are now in your career?

DG: Definitely. Guys here are a lot more focused and carry themselves in a much more quiet and humble manner. It’s about Professionalism to the T, here. That’s not to say Cleveland wasn’t about that. But we had a much younger group. Guys liked to have fun and dance around a clown around a lot. It’s a lot more experienced and veteran group here. The leadership here is just different, the entire tone of how we do things. It’s great to be a part of it after seeing it from the outside. You get an understanding for why it has worked [for the Spurs] all of these years.

NBA.com: It’s clearly worked for you. What do you think it says on that scouting report about Danny Green now?

DG: Great question [laughing]. I have no idea. I think it helps that there a lot of other guys people have to worry about other than me. I’m an afterthought. And that gives me an opportunity to get open shots, open looks and be able to sneak in there and get some easy money.

Instant Replay Here To Stay — And Seems Likely To Grow, As Well

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SAN ANTONIO – No game in The Finals has been decided or even tilted dramatically in the final seconds by the use of the NBA’s replay rule. But some day that will happen, at which point we know these things will happen:

  • The officiating crew will huddle, then move as one to the sideline. The crew chief will don a headset to put him in communication with the broadcast truck outside the arena, and all three refs will watch and re-watch a series of slow- and regular-motion video clips, sometimes zoomed to the brink of graininess.
  • Fans, players and coaches will simultaneously focus their gazes on the video screens in house.
  • Players will gulp water, towel off and catch their breath while coaches pounce on the moment to call out a play, offer some advice and do otherwise timeout-ly things.
  • If the replays support the home team’s side of the disputed play, home fans will amp up their noise in hopes of influencing the refs down below. If the video evidence looks to support the visitors, the joint gets quieter.
  • ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy will sneer at the whole process, saying that the correct call was obvious from the start. He’ll do this whether he’s working the game for ABC/Disney or whether he’s on a weekend getaway in the Alps.
  • Folks at home, remote in hand, feet raised, will glance at the time and realize how soon that morning alarm clock is going to go off. They too will get antsy.
  • The people at NBA HQ in New York’s Olympic Tower will smile, satisfied that the game will be adjudicated correctly and that there will be less work waiting in the morning in terms of appeals, error reports and cranky feedback.

That last item, you should know, carries enough weight to trump everything else on that list when it comes to current and future usage of “instant relay review triggers,” as Rule No. 13 of the official NBA rulebook calls them.

Just the other day in Miami, as the 2013 Finals started, NBA commissioner David Stern reaffirmed his support of the rule and talked of broadening it. It’s one of the agenda items for the league’s competition committee when it meets this week in San Antonio.

“Everyone with a smart phone can see it, everyone at home can see it, and everyone who is sitting with the scoreboards that are going to be the new toy of our arenas that give a great view [can see it].” Stern said. “But the poor officials don’t really see it that way. It’s discordant to us. The idea is to have the game decided on its merits.”

Players, coaches, referees and NBA sages contacted for this story also landed overwhelmingly on the side of getting calls correct. Many suggested tweaks, but the bottom line for all was accuracy over elapsed time or any other objection.

“You’re stopping the flow of the game and you’re lengthening the game,” coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown said. “Pretty soon it’s going to be like baseball, where it never ends. But coaches and players do not want to have a game lost because somebody blew a call, either on an out-of-bounds play or a bad call.”

The last two minutes of games, in which plays such as Brown mentioned bring action to a halt, turn the spotlight on replay in a way that’s not always enjoyable. There is a delay. There is what sometimes appears to be indecision being played out in front of the world. But the alternative seems unthinkable to many. (more…)

Right And Wrong: When A Triple-Double In The Finals Isn’t Good Enough

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Rare is the moment when a triple-double of 18 points, 10 assists and 18 rebounds in the NBA Finals can be deemed not good enough.

Welcome to the upside-down world of LeBron James.

The King left his Cleveland throne three years ago for the company of more noble servants, not more clown jesters. Yet here is, fresh off a grueling, seven-game series just to get back to The Finals and he and his favored Miami Heat — The Big Three a vanishing contrail of past conquests — have fallen behind the magnificent Tony Parker and his humming band of San Antonio Spurs, 1-0.

Right: James had just eight points on seven shots in the second half and he took just four shots in nine minutes of the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh, dared by San Antonio to shoot long-range jumpers, took five shots and missed four. Credit young Spurs defender Kawhi Leonard for his quiet, determined one-on-one defense against James (7-for-16 shooting) all game. Leonard made a huge steal on a James pass attempt with six minutes to go that extended a 79-78 Spurs lead to 81-78 and ignited a 6-1 surge. The Spurs never lost the lead. Fact is the Spurs will live with an 18-10-18 triple-double from James every game. It’s the 32-10-10 ones that’ll get them killed.

Wrong: With 1:08 to go and the Heat down 90-86, Bosh received the ball behind the arc on the right wing. Not a defender stood between him and Miami Beach. Although he was 0-for-3 from 3-point range, Bosh unleashed a wide-open 3 … and he still missed it. Bosh needed to put is head down and drive to the basket, at least hope to get to the free throw line where was 1-for-2 in 35 minutes.

Right:Parker is a magician with the basketball and if his Curly Neal impersonation as the shot clock ticked down on the Spurs’ final possession isn’t convincing, nothing will be. The Heat don’t have an answer for Parker and that’s going to be a big problem. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were helpless and when Miami matched LeBron on him, the Spurs’ screens created switches. Parker scored 10 points in the fourth quarter while the Heat managed just 16. He finished with 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting, six assists and — this is amazing — no turnovers in darn near 40 minutes of orchestrating the offense.

Wrong: The Heat have now lost one of the first two games at home in three consecutive series. It hasn’t proven fatal yet, but in the 2-3-2 Finals format, it’s more difficult to recover (as the Heat remember well from 2011). When Cole busted a 3-pointer for a 38-29 lead early in the second quarter, Miami appeared to have that winning look in their eye, but never could put their foot down. Only two minutes later it was 38-36. It would be the theme of the night with the Spurs continually reeling itself back within a bucket or so until finally pulling ahead in the fourth quarter for its first lead since the first quarter. That nine-point bulge Miami briefly enjoyed was its largest.

Right: Any suggestion that 37-year-old Tim Duncan wouldn’t victimize Miami’s thin interior in the same manner as the Pacers’ young and rugged Roy Hibbert seemed asinine — and indeed were. Duncan opened the game 0-for-5 from the floor, but the quickly heated up and tormented the Heat the rest of the way for a do-it-all 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.

Wrong: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra‘s rotation went haywire. By the end of the first half he and already used six players off the bench with five logging six-plus minutes (Rashard Lewis — DNP-CD again — must really feel awful). In Game 7 against the Pacers, Spoelstra went nine-deep with Shane Battier playing fewer than nine minutes. Sure, maybe Spoelstra felt his guys were a little worn out after the Pacers series and wanted to spread some minutes, but look for him to tighten the rotation and seek more continuity.

24 Second Thoughts On Game 1

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24 – Few times are filled with more excitement and dripping with anticipation than moments before Game 1 of The Finals. First, we get the lovely 12-year-old Julia Dale belting out the national anthem for the 23rd straight postseason game. Then, the White Stripes’ anthem Seven Nation Army. Rip it off!

23 — Rust? What rust? Tony Parker comes out of the box wielding the pick and roll like Zorro’s sword and carves up the Heat early for a 9-2 lead.

22 — ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy sums up those Chris Bosh 3-point shots quite accurately. If he wants to take them for the next week or so, the Spurs will be quite happy.

21 – What does more than a decade and a half of throwing your body all over basketball courts around the globe do to you? If you’re 35-year-old Manu Ginobili, it means you can’t quite elevate to finish off that nice crossover drive with a dunk.

20 Tim Duncan (0-for-5) was having problems finding his offensive rhythm, but getting his second foul on LeBron James’ drive with 1:43 left in the first quarter sends him to the bench and presents problems for the Spurs defense.

19 – The Heat are getting the ball inside for the shots they want and hit three treys in the first quarter, while the Spurs are missing easy, open looks.

18 – First big disappointment of The Finals. Episode No. 1 of “The Pop Show” is a flop as Gregg Popovich fails to bite the head off sideline reporter Doris Burke and actually answers her questions civilly.

17 Ray Allen and Mike Miller might ask the Spurs’ perimeter defenders to pass the sunscreen and serve some cold drinks. This soft — or nonexistent — pressure at the 3-point line is making it look like a relaxing day at the beach for Miami shooters.

16 – By the way, I’m totally with Van Gundy. One of the first acts for new commissioner Adam Silver when he takes over next February should be changing The Finals format back to 2-2-1-1-1. The 2-3-2 setup is the NBA’s equivalent of penalty kicks in soccer and the DH in baseball — an idea that never was good.

15 – Get a good look at Gary Neal right now. If he doesn’t start knocking down those open jumpers, Pop will stuff him away in the luggage until the Spurs get back to Texas … or maybe even until next October.

14 – Give Erik Spoelstra credit for pushing all the right buttons in the first half. He’s already gone 11 deep and his bench has outscored the Spurs’ bench 19-10.

13 – When’s the last time Dwyane Wade looked as comfortable, as active, as good this spring? Never. His 13 points are his highest-scoring first half of the playoffs. But the Spurs can’t be totally unhappy, all things considered. They’re missing open shots, not getting back in transition, yet trail by just 52-49 at the half.

12 — What’s got the Heat feeling happiest at the half? They don’t have to spend the break icing down those bruises that were so often delivered by Roy Hibbert and the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals.

11 – Gotta like that Bosh has had the sense to move in from the 3-point line and work instead from 18-foot range for jumpers and drives. That mid-range shot that drives all of the stat geeks into screaming fits has a much undervalued place in today’s game.

10 – Floppers go home. Give the referees credit in this one. They stood by and watched Ginobili flop to the ground as Wade rose up and stuck the turnaround and they didn’t call anything. “Get up and play!” is the correct message.

9 – The kid is all right. The 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard is playing his first Finals game with the impossible task of guarding LeBron and he’s acquitted himself well, holding his own in the post.

8 – If the Heat are going to be able to outrebound the Spurs in every game, they’ll be getting fitted for another set of rings.

7 – 72-69 Heat after three quarters doesn’t quite feel right. Seems like Miami is in complete control and seems like the Spurs can’t get their act together at either end and yet it’s still a toss-up into the final period.

6 – Uh-oh. Look who takes their first lead since the first quarter. Parker’s free throws put Spurs in front 77-76 and this game is looking more and more like the wallet hanging out of a drunk man’s pocket, ready to be stolen.

5 – The facts, and your own eyes, will tell you what you already should know — Parker is the best point guard in the NBA right now and has been right there with LeBron as the top two performers in the 2013 playoffs.

4 – Big switch down the stretch as Spoelstra shifts LeBron over to guarding Parker. It’s what we all expected in the clutch.

3 – It’s a game of less than inches. It takes only about a zillion replays to finally show that Parker got off his desperate clutch shot a millisecond ahead of the shot clock.

2 — Go figure. LeBron rings up another triple-double, but it is outdone by Danny Green with a quad-triple. That’s four 3-pointers by the kid who finished last year’s Western Conference finals to OKC riding the bench.

1 – Parker’s 10-point fourth quarter and that amazing shot that just beat the buzzer were pretty. But the Spurs won this one with defense. Miami shot just 5-for-18 in the fourth quarter with five turnovers. LeBron and Wade combined for six points on 2-for-6 shooting and the Spurs win 92-88.

Stern Defends Small-Market Finals, Zings ‘Resting’ In Last State-Of-NBA Address

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MIAMI – He’s a short-timer now, with less than eight months remaining in what will be a 30-year run as NBA commissioner, but David Stern came on like anything but a lame duck Thursday night before Game 1 of the 2013 Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

In his last official Finals state-of-the-league address (part of an ongoing series of “lasts” that began Feb. 1, one year out from Stern’s official retirement date), the league’s chief executive was vibrant, engaged, enthused even. This wasn’t the man who came out of the rancorous lockout in 2011-12 tired and cranky. It wasn’t Stern unplugged, either, though more and more of his duties are shifting to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, his heir apparent.

This was Stern tackling topics big and small, ranging from anti-flopping rules to nuances of the current collective-bargaining agreement in both its financial and competitive impact. This was Stern looking and sounding as if he could re-up for another term but who, most likely, is into his finishing kick because he can see the end line now.

Stern’s opening comments were brief and not unlike the business-is-good things he has said now, twice annually (All-Star Game and Finals) across three decades. Questions followed, many focusing on issues in play in this championship series, such as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich‘s decision back in November to sit out star players on his team’s visit to Miami. And a suggestion that the Heat’s SuperFriends approach might be good for the league overall, despite the CBA’s new provisions to block such star-hogging roster maneuvers in the future.

Asked if San Antonio’s presence in The Finals vindicates Popovich’s decision a month into the season to “rest” Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as a way of staying fresh for the long NBA season and postseason — which earned a $250,000 fine from the league — Stern said: “He wasn’t resting Danny Green. It was a game that was being played. I know it, you know it and he knows it.

“I would never, never tell a coach that he shouldn’t rest a player that needs rest. We understand that completely. And that’s not what he did.” (more…)