2013 The Finals

Houston, L.A. And Dallas Post-Dwight

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The dust is settling and rosters emerging after the biggest free-agent move of the summer came down one week ago. Dwight Howard has positioned the Houston Rockets as Western Conference contenders while creating altered realities for the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.

Because of their high-priced payroll, the Lakers have limited flexibility to strengthen their roster for the 2013-14 season. To lessen some of its financial burden, L.A. made it official on Thursday that it will use the amnesty provision to cut loose Metta World Peace, a move that Kobe Bryant made clear he’s not thrilled with on Twitter:

Had Howard remained with the Lakers, Pau Gasol might have been on the wrong end of the amnesty, but now he’ll be the Lakers starting center. L.A. has added Nick Young, Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar to a roster that certainly has talent, but isn’t even expected to make the playoffs by some. 

The Mavs will scale a considerable mountain to not be lottery-bound in consecutive seasons. Dallas missed out on Deron Williams a year ago and watched Dwight pick their division rivals this time around. To make Mavs fans feel even worse, Andre Iguodala told the San Francisco Chronicle that he almost signed with Dallas an hour before committing to the Golden State Warriors. Dallas met with Andrew Bynum, but passed on making an offer.

Dallas was extremely high on Iguodala as an anchor for the future with Dirk Nowitzki in the case that Howard said no. The Mavs are in difficult spot now with a hodgepodge, guard-heavy roster that bears almost no resemblance to last season’s team that failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. It includes newcomers Jose Calderon, Devin Harris, Wayne Ellington and a couple of rookies in Shane Larkin and Israeli free-agent Gal Mekel.

At least Nowitzki kept a sense of humor after missing out on the prime DH target and signing another one:

Meanwhile in Houston, with Howard joining All-Star guard James Harden and emerging sharpshooter Chandler Parsons, the front office went to work to add more shooters around their new center, bringing back Francisco Garcia and agreeing to a deal with Reggie Williams.

Here’s how the Rockets, Lakers and Mavericks have filled out their rosters and who else each might be looking at:

HOUSTON ROCKETS (14)

PG: Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Isaiah Canaan

SG: James Harden, Francisco Garcia, Reggie Williams, James Anderson

SF: Chandler Parsons, Omri Casspi

PF: Greg Smith, Terrance Jones

C: Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas

Possibilities: Trade Lin and/or Asik

LOS ANGELES LAKERS (12)

PG: Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar

SG: Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks

SF: Nick Young, Chris Douglas-Roberts

PF: Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

C: Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre

Possibles: Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic

DALLAS MAVERICKS (11)

PG: Jose Calderon, Gal Mekel, Shane Larkin

SG: Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Wayne Ellington, Ricky Ledo

SF: Shawn Marion, Jae Crowder

PF: Dirk Nowitzki

C: Bernard James

Possibles: C Samuel Dalembert; C Greg Oden; C/F Brandan Wright; F/C Elton Brand

How Long Does The Heat Big 3 Last?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – They haven’t even had the parade yet and all anybody wants to know is if the Miami Heat’s Big 3 is ready for an encore or the end of a fruitful three-year run together?

LeBron James isn’t going anywhere, Heat boss Pat Riley cannot let that happen. And Dwyane Wade is already the most decorated and beloved player in franchise history. He should be and probably will be allowed to leave on his own terms, whenever he gets to that point in his career.

That leaves Chris Bosh, the oft-maligned third member of the crew, the one who went scoreless in that deciding Game 7 of The Finals, the one who always seems to be at the center of trade rumors when the topic of what the next act is for this Heat outfit. If Bosh is the one member of the group that is expendable, the time to strike and make a move could be upon us this summer.

Free agency is around the corner, July 1, and if the ongoing escapades between the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics have shown us anything, it’s that there are teams out there ready to risk franchise and limb to either remain or make themselves relevant in the championship picture.

Only Riley knows how long the Heat’s Big 3 lasts. It’s going to be his call, no matter what anyone else says about it. And in the immediate aftermath of the Heat clinching their second straight title, he didn’t seem inclined to touch a hair on the head of his masterpiece:

“I just want this thing to keep going,” the 68-year-old Riley told ESPN.com after the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 of an epic Finals. “I’m at an age now where I’m ready to just fly off somewhere. But I’m not going to because the Good Lord has blessed me with a team that’s allowed me to grab onto its coattails for as long as they want to be together.”

But it’s obvious that the gap between the Heat and the rest of the pack is closing. We saw that in the playoffs, when Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert and then Tim Duncan took turns exposing the Heat’s tender underbelly inside.

A “stretch 4 or 5″ like Bosh is a luxury for a team that is head and shoulders above the competition, a team with a healthy James and Wade to lean on night after night. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has often referred to Bosh as his team’s most important player, though I’m still not sure how much of that is honesty and how much of it is posturing to keep Bosh’s fragile confidence intact. But this three-year grind the Heat have been on has taken its toll on Wade (knees), and even LeBron looked mortal dealing with the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the Eastern Conference finals and The Finals, respectively.

There’s a reason Bosh, an eight-time All-Star and self-professed future Hall of Famer, was reduced to pedestrian numbers this postseason. As the quality of the competition increased, Bosh’s performances didn’t increase along with it. Sure, he mustered a couple inspiring performances along the way and played a huge role at the end of the Heat’s pivotal Game 6 overtime comeback win.

But Bosh’s critics, and there are plenty of them, would point to the fact that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had Duncan on the bench when Bosh grabbed that critical offensive rebound and found Ray Allen for the game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation.

In theory, that is work that a younger and perhaps much cheaper big man (names like DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love have been floated for months now) can do.

The company line, however, tends to favor at least one more year of this holy hoops trinity. James, Wade and Bosh all have opt-outs in their contracts that come up after the 2013-14 season, giving any one of the three the option of bolting from this championship experiment for the fruits of free agency. And James and Bosh are young enough and healthy enough to command the full max-salary available from any team capable of paying that price.

Wade, who has spent his entire career with the Heat, believes in the future of the Big 3, as my main man Mike Wallace of ESPN.com explains:

“Our first year together, we tried to make it work,” Wade said. “But we weren’t the team that we needed to be to gut out a Game 6, to win a game like that. Everybody can’t get to the Finals and win six [championships] in a row — and not lose one like Michael Jordan. But we are excited about the future of this organization. We are still a good team, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we stay competitive.”

But in some ways, they remain a work in progress. While Riley said before the playoffs that he envisioned the Heat being like the Spurs, who kept Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili together for a decade, Wade said he, Bosh, and James haven’t spoken as a group yet about how they’ll approach their contract options after next season.

“This organization doesn’t rest on trying to make sure we can put ourselves in a position to have a trophy like this,” Wade said as he sat next to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. “So we’ll be back next year again, looking to do it again. We’re living in this moment right here, and it’s a sweet moment. It’ll be sweet to be able to have a long run like the Spurs, but we’ll get to that when we get to that.”

Three years, three straight trips to The Finals and two straight titles … is it just the beginning or is this the beginning of the end?


Shane Battier Stakes His Claim In Game 7

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MIAMI – “Reports of my demise were premature. That’s my opening statement.”

Coming into the 2013 NBA Finals, if you had to choose a member of the Heat most likely to reference Mark Twain to lead off a postgame press conference, brainy Duke alum Shane Battier probably would have been the choice.

But if you were looking for the Heat player to shatter the NBA Finals record for most 3-pointers made in a Game 7, at least after his Eastern Conference finals showing, it almost surely wouldn’t have been Shane Battier.

Battier’s value to the Heat throughout the regular season was found mostly in his defense, particularly drawing charges, and in stretching defenses by draining 3s. He shot 316 treys in the regular season and knocked them in at a 43 percent clip, good for sixth in the NBA among qualifiers. But during the first two rounds of the playoffs, as Miami dispatched Milwaukee and Chicago, Battier went 12-for-46 (26 percent). In the Eastern Conference finals against the Pacers, Battier’s minutes shrank as he fell out of the rotation, and he made just two 3s in the entire series.

At the time, Battier handled questions about his reduced role with a somewhat poetic turn of phrase, noting, “Sometimes you’ve got to eat a turd sandwich. Makes the ribeye taste better next time.”

But as the NBA Finals progressed against the Spurs, Battier’s role increased almost game by game. In Game 5, he notched a then-series high 17 minutes, making two 3-pointers. In Game 6, with the Heat fighting to stay alive, Battier had his biggest game yet, hitting three treys in a dozen minutes, including one that banked in off the glass.

“I believe in basketball gods,” Battier explained. “I felt that they owed me big time. I had a bunch of shots in San Antonio that went in and out. So when that banker went in, I said, ‘You know what? They owe me.’ But it was the start of a pretty good streak there.”

Was it ever. Battier came off the bench early in Game 7 and ended up scoring 18 points in 28 minutes, hitting 6-for-8 from three-point land and setting an NBA record for most triples made in an NBA Finals Game 7.

“Honestly, I felt good the last couple of games. And I made a couple of threes last game, and so I felt really confident tonight. I think that our starters were going to be pretty tired after Game 6 — it was an emotionally and physically draining game. I only played 12 minutes. So I felt great.”

If his offensive contributions weren’t enough, with just under a minute to play and the Heat up only two, Battier got caught defending Tim Duncan in transition, and had to guard him solo in the post. Duncan went to a running hook that missed, and then got his hands on the rebound but couldn’t convert, with Battier battling him the entire time.

“I’m 215 pounds, 6’8”,” Battier noted. “I’m obviously giving up major weight and height to Duncan. So I was just praying that he missed it. To be honest with you, I don’t think I affected the shot that much. I was just trying to make his shoot over the top. And that’s a shot Tim Duncan usually makes eight out of 10 times. For whatever reason, that shot didn’t drop right then. I’m very thankful. It wasn’t because of my defense. Just missed it.”

Battier may have tried to downplay his contributions, at least defensively, but his Heat teammates weren’t having it. Dwyane Wade called Battier “one of my favorite teammates of all time,” and Wade couldn’t minimize Battier’s offensive show.

“Shane ain’t hit a shot since … I don’t know when,” said Wade. “But tonight, he was unconscious. And he’s just a big-time player. You want that for Shane so bad. You wanted to see those shots go in for him because of everything he stands for.”

Most of the Heat’s important long-range marksmen couldn’t find the range Thursday night — Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers were a combined 1-for-13 on 3-pointers. But in the end it didn’t matter, as Battier seemed like he couldn’t miss. And now, with his second NBA title in hand, he’s ready to trade in that sandwich for a steak.

“Tomorrow I hope my wife cooks me a nice ribeye,” Battier said. “I’m looking forward to my ribeye tomorrow.”

24-Second Thoughts On Game 7

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24 – Not sure who I’m going to miss more this summer, Julia Dale or Jesse Williams (who needs to stay out of Dwyane Wade‘s closet. #NBAStyle). Excellent work you two, but onto the game now … finally!

23 – So much for the Spurs’ Game 6 hangover. Just as I suspected, they’ve got the adrenaline pumping, starting with Tim Duncan, who converted his first coast-to-coast, one-man break with a dunk since he was at Wake Forest. I love Game 7s, love the drama, energy and the competitive fire it brings out of great players. Spurs up 11-4, by the way, bringing it to the Heat without so much as a care about Game 6. Better step it up Heat, because the Spurs plan on leaving the building with Larry O’Brien.

22 – These officials (whose names shall not be written here, don’t want to jinx it) are allowing a staggering amount of physical contact on both sides early on here. I have to admit that I love it. I’d rather they blow fewer whistles in a game like this. They’ve probably missed a few fouls (like this one) but you have to give up something to get a game like this called the right way. They are setting a tone right now and making sure both sides realize that they are going to have to decide this thing and not rely on selling calls to gain an advantage. This is how it should be done.

21 – As TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal would say, “Birdman … Birdman!” Chris Andersen making his presence felt with pure energy on both ends. Two big 3-pointers from Shane Battier help spark the Heat’s 8-0 run late in the first quarter. First 12 minutes a bit sloppy on both sides but so what, “both teams played hard my man.” #RasheedWallace 

20 – Battier’s revenge! Knocks down his third 3-pointer of the night and making his case for extended minutes tonight. You had to figure he was going to resurface at some point after going underground earlier in this series.

19 – Spurs battle right back with a mini-run of their own, fueled by the turnovers they are causing as the Heat rush toward the basket time after time and get balls stripped or tapped out from behind. This is the pace Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talks about all the time.  The “old and crusty” Spurs look like the much more effective team in transition right now, just as they have to me for much of this series.

18 – Six quick points for LeBron with the small-ball lineup of Mario Chalmers, Birdman, Mike Miller and Ray Allen. First bucket was a coast-to-coast drive and the foul, one of those moves only LeBron makes. And then the Spurs dare him to shoot a long jumper and he dribbles it out and steps back and drops a 3-pointer over Danny Green to stretch the Heat lead to six, 33-27. This is the same group that went on that 33-5 tear in Game 2, the group that went wild with Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench.

17 – I don’t care what Kawhi Leonard‘s driver’s license or birth certificate says, he’s a man beyond his years. He’s got 10 rebounds already and is going at LeBron on both ends. His work in this series has been a revelation, even for the folks who watch the Spurs on the regular. Surely, no one expected this young cat to play like this on this stage. A young star has been born folks.

16 – Wade matches his Game 6 output before halftime, scoring 14 points in 18 minutes by going back to Flash mode. Heat lead 46-44 at the break on Wade’s third pull-up wing jumper. The Spurs are sagging off of both Wade and James, daring them to beat them with anything but plays at the rim. They’ve picked their spots to attack and when to step back and knocked down shots. They scored 20 of the Heat’s final 21 points of the half, a sloppy but beautifully chaotic first half that has featured all of the energy we could have asked for from both sides in a Game 7. Wade is shutting up his critics by gutting it out and playing like the future Hall of Famer he is on the biggest stage.

15 – The Game 7 crucible is costing us some aesthetics in this game, but honestly that’s what I expected. Lakers and Celtics did this same thing in 2010, when the action was scattered all night and the Lakers needed a late-game rescue from of all people my main man  Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace). I’m wondering what non-megastar in this game is waiting in the wings to play hero tonight?

14 – Leonard is seriously in danger of stealing The Finals MVP award for the Spurs if they find a way to win this game. as good he was in the first half he’s been even better since then, attacking offensively and scoring in a variety of ways. He gets basically whatever he wants with those umbrellas for hands. He does it all without ever so much as single change in expression … he might be a suitable heir to the no-nonsense throne Duncan has occupied for years in San Antonio.

13 – Party is over for DDG. He’s 0-for-7 and appears to have lost all confidence in the past six quarters of this series. Never saw a guy shoot the lights out the way he did in the first five games of this series. Never seen that spark disappear as quickly as it has for a guy who made it look so easy for so long.

12 – Right on queue, DDG snaps his 0-for-8 streak and drains the corner 3-pointer for a 57-56 lead with 5:08 to play in the third. Good thing Pop coaches the Spurs and not me, because I’d have taken DDG out long before that shot.

11 –Another 3-pointer for LeBron, that’s four tonight. Phil Jackson told me on Episode 122 of the Hang Time Podcast that this is exactly the way you have to defend LeBron. But he just measured up another one and nailed it for a 62-57 lead. Not sure if this plan is going to work if he shoots 5-for-7 on his next seven attempts from deep.

10 – Spurs come right back with a run of their own. Boris Diaw makes you wonder what might have been if he was in just decent (not necessarily superior) shape. Could you keep him out there on LeBron for an extended stretch and let Leonard eat someone else alive on the offensive end? Great game either way and anyone who assumed we wouldn’t get an epic Game 7 out of these two outfits (and all of the competitive warriors on both rosters) better sit back and enjoy the rest of the last and best game of the season.

9 – Manu with the cold-blooded driving layup with 5.2 seconds to play in the third gives the Spurs a 71-69 lead. And Chalmers answers with a running 3-point heave at the buzzer that kisses off the glass and goes in for a 72-71 Heat lead with what should be the 12 best minutes of the season left to play. Drop the mic Game 7. #InstantClassic!

8 –  Battier is 5-for-5, nails another corner 3 on the sweet pass from LeBron. Shades of Artest 2010, folks.

7 – Ginobili giveth and then he taketh away with his driving layup sandwiched between two costly turnovers. If looks could kill, Pop would be in the Dade County lock up already. Meanwhile the Spurs keep daring Wade and LeBron to beat them with jumpers and you guessed it, they keep beating them with jumpers. The Spurs won’t abandon the plan and it could end up costing them this game and title No. 5.

6 – Manu giveth … again!

5 – Battier with another 3 on a feed from LeBron and the 88-82 lead. He’s playing redemption’s song for the awful stretch of basketball he played earlier in this series. He’s kept Miller and Allen on the bench for the duration here. But Duncan comes right back with a layup and foul (a horrible call on Bosh for his fifth), sinks the free throw and makes it an 88-85 game with just over three minutes left in a game that should make you forget about the instant classic that was Game 6.

4 – Leonard has yet another answer for you LeBron with the wing 3-pointer. This kid has played the game of his life on the global stage. Unreal effort.

3– If you can’t tie the game with the greatest power forward to play the game being guarded by a completely overmatched Battier at the rim, then maybe it’s just not your night. The Spurs couldn’t have asked for a better set up and Timmy just missed the bunny.

2 – Just 39 seconds and two points separating the Heat from a repeat title. And LeBron gives us another swished jumper for his 34th and 35th points of the night. A four-point lead in this game and this series means nothing with 28 seconds left. Remember Game 6?  But it helps when you make the steal on the Spurs’ next play, get fouled and sink both free throws for the 94-88 lead with 23 seconds to play. Get the confetti ready Miami, it’s party time.

1 – Not one, Not two … LeBron and Wade silence their critics with masterful performances. Two titles in three years together and to do it in dramatic fashion this time. The stars come out in Game 7 and the Heat’s biggest stars showed up. Battier was spectacular and the Spurs will be haunted by the final 28 seconds of Games 6 and 7, when their execution failed them.  Great game, great series and a deserved champion has been crowned. Props to the Spurs and Heat for treating us to a series for the ages and finishing the 2012-13 season in style. LeBron’s second straight title and second straight Finals MVP is well deserved.

jh

Legacies Truly On The Line In Game 7





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A champion will be crowned after the dust has settled on tonight’s winner-take-all Game 7 of The Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Legacies also are on the line for the coaches and main players on both sides. Heat star and four-time MVP LeBron James might have the most riding on the outcome of this game, but he’s certainly not the only one with a reputation to continue building.

The basics:
Game 7 tips off Thursday night at 9 ET on ABC.

The Heat have plenty of numbers on their side, courtesy of home-court advantage. The home team is 14-3 in Games 7s in Finals history, the last road team to win was Washington over Seattle in 1978. They need whatever they can get after coming within seconds of not even making it to a Game 7, trailing by five points with 28 seconds to play in regulation of Game 6 before Ray Allen forced overtime with a clutch 3-pointer from the corner. The Heat are trying to repeat as champions, becoming the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers did it in 2009 and 2010. That 2010 title was secured with a Game 7 win over Allen and the Boston Celtics at Staples Center.

The Spurs are attempting to become just the fourth team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road. And they’ll have to shake off the stench of blowing their chance to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy in Game 6. The trophy was being wheeled out to the court for the championship ceremony as the Spurs fumbled away their lead in the final seconds. The Spurs are chasing title No. 5, for Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, No. 4 for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. So they are playing the legacy game, too.

The Heat haven’t won back-to-back games since the end of the conference semifinals and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, while the Spurs haven’t lost back-to-back games with their Big 3 in the lineup since December. Something has to give tonight.

The narrative:
James, headband free, had to dig down in his deep reserves to find the energy to change the tempo in Game 6 and the put the Heat in a position to even have a chance to come back. So what does he have left for Game 7 with so much at stake? It needs to be a lot, because Dwyane Wade is operating on two busted knees and could be limited in Game 7 the way he was in Game 6. Chris Bosh came through with some clutch rebounds and a block at the end of Game 6, but he also has to play much better. The Heat need their Big 3 to show up again the way they did in Game 4, when they combined for 85 points, 30 rebounds, 10 steals, nine assists and five blocks.

Role players from each side have stepped up tremendously throughout the first six games of this series, but Game 7 is about the superstars showing up and assuming their designed roles. If the Spurs get another 30-point, 17-rebound effort out of Duncan and Parker shoots it better than he did in Game 6 and Ginobili cuts his turnovers in half and produces like he did in Game 5, the Spurs’ Big 3 will have done their part.

And that leaves the always important wild card position open for Allen or Mike Miller for the Heat and for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for the Spurs. If any one of those guys goes off the grid and plays out of his mind in this setting, he could swing the momentum of this game in his team’s favor.

The subplots:
Popovich took a beating for his late-game rotations that did not include, for at least a stretch of the fourth quarter, Duncan and Parker on the floor with the Spurs trying to hold a lead. He didn’t take a timeout with seconds to play, allowing Ginobili to dribble the ball up the court at a critical time while Parker sat on the bench. And when the Spurs needed to rebound the ball in those final 28 seconds, Duncan was not on the floor as the Heat scrambled to tie the game. Not that he cares, but all eyes will be on him if things are tight down the stretch.

So much has been made about the Spurs’ mental and emotional recovery from Game 6, which was aided by a late-night,  clear-the-air team dinner and the realization that they have one more chance to finish what they started in Game 6. But what about the emotional recovery for a Heat team that was floored by the reality that they were seconds away from watching a team celebrate a championship on their home floor for the second time in three years? They have to come back to earth after that game as well.

Finally, and perhaps most important, is what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra decides to do if Wade clearly doesn’t have the bounce and energy needed to impact the game in the way we’ve seen him do it earlier in this series? The Heat’s fourth-quarter rally in Game 6 came with James attacking the rim with sharpshooters Allen and Miller spreading the floor and the Spurs’ defense out. With Wade on the floor James doesn’t have the same room to operate and the Spurs can pack the lane. Spoelstra might have to make a choice between benching Wade and trying to do the impossible with him on the floor.

Xs and Os:
There will be plenty of opportunities for both coaches to tweak their teams in this game, but only once the action starts. After six games against each other, there are no surprises left. All of the punching and counterpunching we’ve seen — from the altered starting lineups and the insertion of certain role players at ideal times in the series — Game 7 should not come down to a modification from either Popovich or Spoelstra.

This is a game that the players will decide with their energy, effort and execution of the same game plans that have been in place since the start of Game 1.

The Spurs want to play at their pace, keep the Heat off-balance in transition and impose their will inside with Duncan and make sure Parker is attacking and his shooters are in place to take advantage of the inside-out game when the Spurs pick-and-roll game is in a groove.

The Heat want to play at their breakneck pace, with James and Wade in attack mode and the floor spread just enough to keep those driving lanes open and keep the Spurs guessing about where the next strike is coming from. And if Spoelstra is determined to stick with Wade and James on the floor together, one of them has to be prepared to play in the post to keep the floor spaced properly.

Who’s hot?
Allen scored just nine points in Game 6, but all nine of them came in the fourth quarter and overtime, the most critical times in the game for the Heat. Experienced in the clutch, he has more Game 7 minutes on his resume, by far, than anyone else in this game.

He’s been in the Spurs’ shoes before, trying to win a Game 7 on the road, and that experience will serve him and the Heat well in an environment that should be as wild as anything we’ve seen in the NBA this season.

“As a competitor you love it, because you know you have an opportunity and it’s up to you,” Allen said. “We have a chance in our building to make something great. All of our legacies are tied to this moment, this game. It’s something our kids will be able to talk about that they were a part of. Forever will remember these moments, so we want to not live and have any regrets.”

Whatever happened to…
Green went from the favorite to win Finals MVP before Game 6 to a complete non-factor by the end of Game 6. He shot just 1-for-7 from the floor and managed just three points in a game where, as Bosh promised, he did not see as many open looks as he had previously.

If the Spurs are moving the ball well to make space for their shooters, Green’s opportunities should increase dramatically in Game 7. And that should allow him to add to his already impressive Finals record for 3-pointers made.

Bottom line:

Throw out the trends of this series and the teams alternating wins and neither one of them being able to come up with back-to-back exemplary performances, and strap yourself in for what should be a wild 48-minute (or more) ride with two heavyweight contenders swinging until one of them drops.

“You know what, it’s all about just winning the title. It’s not about situation or what has led up to it,” Duncan said. “It’s a great story for everybody else, but we’re here for one reason, one reason only: It’s to try to win this game. We have had a very good season thus far, and I think we just want to get to the game more than anything. We just want to see what happens and be able to leave everything out there.”

Rating Ray Allen’s Big 3-Pointer





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Ray Allen‘s clutch corner 3-pointer that sent Game 6 of The Finals to overtime didn’t even rank among the top three impact plays in the final analysis of that epic contest.

My main man and NBA.com’s analytics expert John Schuhmann said something about the shot only increasing the Heat’s win probability by 10.8 percent, from 22.0 percent to 32.7 percent, or something like that.

But if the measurement was “Most Memorable 3-pointers Made in The Finals,” Allen’s shot that saved the Heat’s season (for at least 48, or more, minutes) has to rank among the best clutch shots from long distance anyone has made.

Win Game 7 Thursday night and, years from now, Allen’s shot will be the one that sticks out. It’ll rank right along some of the greatest clutch 3-pointers in the history of The Finals … shots like these:

Big Shot Bob (aka Robert Horry)’s dagger for the San Antonio Spurs in 2005 …


John Paxson’s crunch-time strike for the Chicago Bulls in 1993 …


TNT’s Kenny Smith’s money shot for the Houston Rockets in 1995 …


Dirk Nowitzki’s long-range shredder for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 …

Jerry West’s 60-footer (it was only worth two points then) for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970 …

And finally, Ron Artest’s (now Metta World Peace) game-saver for the Lakers in 2010 …

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 122): Game 7 Preview Featuring Phil Jackson

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Are we in store for an epic finish to an epic series? 

If Game 6 of The Finals is any indication, you have to believe the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have saved some of their best drama for the final 48 minutes of what has been a wildly entertaining roller coaster of a series that could literally go either way once they hit the floor at AmericanAirlines Arena Thursday night.

With four guys — Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for the Spurs and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James for the Heat — as well as fellow future Hall of Famers Manu Ginobili of the Spurs and Ray Allen of the Heat, there is bound to be a few legacies on the line in a winner-take-all contest like Game 7.

Few people on the planet understand the inside of what goes on for all of the players and coaches involved in this game the way Hall of Fame Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson does. He’s got the 13 rings (11 as a coach and two from his playing days with the New York Knicks) to prove it, in case you didn’t already know.

How would he defend LeBron in Game 7? What does he think of the current coaching carousel going on around the league? Why doesn’t Brian Shaw have a head coaching job yet? Is he interested in getting back to where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra are right now? And is it true that Rick Fox ranks ahead of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant on his all-time favorite players list?

The Zen Master joins us on Episode 122 of the Hang Time Podcast: The Finals Game 7 Preview … 

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

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Spurs Feast On Game 7 Opportunity

 

MIAMI – You can make a rather convincing argument that if any team could not only rebound from a heartbreaking loss in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, but also be the first team in 35 years to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road, the San Antonio Spurs might be the perfect team for the task.

Already known for their utilitarian nature, the culture that has helped the Spurs win four titles over the last decade and a half also allows them to compartmentalize losses and poor individual performances and move on. Even when the most recent loss is as memorable as Game 6’s 103-100 overtime loss, when the Spurs somehow allowed a five-point lead with 28 seconds left to play to evaporate.

At practice on Wednesday at the AmericanAirlines Arena, barely 12 hours after the end of Game 6, several Spurs said a late night team dinner was useful in turning the page and looking ahead to Game 7.

“It helped, it did,” Tim Duncan said. “The other option is a bunch of us go back to our rooms and sit there by ourselves and beat yourself up. So it’s always good to be around teammates and kind of get some stuff out in the open. We did exactly that. As I said, we’ll be ready to rock.”

“It was a great dinner,” Tony Parker agreed. “We shared histories and what happened in different games, and sharing stuff like when I was with the (French) national team, when we were up 7 and lost in 35 seconds, the European Championship. You just share those moments and try to see what you can do better and prepare for Game 7.”

If there’s anything we’ve learned about the Spurs, preparation isn’t a problem. The Spurs say they will continue to do what they always do, which is to continue to do what they always do. According to coach Gregg Popovich, fatigue — either mental or physical — won’t be an issue. “That was a tough loss,” Popovich allowed. “But as long as we didn’t play the game at midnight last night or 8 this morning, we ought to have time to recover and be fine.”

Game 6 behind, Game 7 ahead. The Spurs focus on process and await the results that history has shown their methods should provide. While history says they shouldn’t be favored to win Game 7, history simultaneously says the Spurs couldn’t be better positioned.

“We have a lot of guys who’ve been there,” Boris Diaw said. “Timmy, Tony and Manu, they played Game 7s. And even if you were heartbroken after the game yesterday, we know now that the whole season is going to be played in one game, in 48 minutes.”

“We know what we have to do,” Duncan noted. “We know the opportunity we let slip through our fingers. And we’re not going to hang our head and dwell on that.

“We’ve got one more game to win, and that’s all that matters.”

Spurs Aim to Forget Game 6 loss to Heat, Look Ahead To Decisive Game 7


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MIAMI — The headband. The one-shoed 3-pointer. The Ray Allen corner jumper. However you want to remember the Miami Heat’s 103-100 overtime Game 6 win, for the San Antonio Spurs it might be best known as the game they want to forget.

Consider: The Spurs led by 10 points going into the fourth quarter, were up five with 28.2 seconds to play, and were up again by three with 2:42 to play in OT. But the Heat consistently found ways to make plays and finish on top. Which left the Spurs, in the words of Manu Ginobili, “devastated.”

“It was a hell of a game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “ It was an overtime game. It was a game of mistakes. And they ended up on the winning side.”

Several Spurs posted major performances with the chance to deliver Miami a knockout punch, such as Kawhi Leonard, who finished with 22 points and 11 boards (and early on had a monster dunk over Mike Miller). But it was Leonard’s missed free throw with 19.4 seconds remaining in regulation that left the door open for Miami and caused “Nick Anderson” to become a trending topic on Twitter.

For all of Manu Ginobili’s brilliance in Game 5 — he finished with 24 points, 10 assists and three turnovers — the Heat confounded him at nearly every turn throughout Game 6. Ginobili finished with nine points and eight turnovers in just over 34 minutes of play, including a turnover with the Spurs down by two and 2.4 seconds left in overtime.

“I had a very good game last game, and I just couldn’t maintain it,” Ginobili said. “I was very insecure — well, I had a career high in turnovers in a really bad moment. It really helps to make me feel terrible.

“Even with all that, we were so close of winning it. So, it’s one of the many things I’ll be thinking tonight.”

Throughout the Spurs’ dynasty, we’ve grown used to seeing them finish games with poise, and time and again finish off opponents. Yet, for whatever reason, in Tuesday’s Game 6 the Spurs couldn’t find that resolve.

“We didn’t exhale at all,” said Tim Duncan, who had a monster first half (25 points and eight boards) before finishing with 30 and 17. “We continued to make some plays. We missed some free throws down the stretch that could have clinched it for us. As I said, we get a stop, we get a bad bounce and right out to Ray [Allen] for a 3. We get stops before that and get rebounds, push them out, we put ourselves in a great situation. It was just unfortunate the bounces that we get, but that’s how basketball goes. They’re a very good team over there and they continue to play right down to the wire.”

Now the Spurs have less than 48 hours to forget this game and what might have been, and instead focus squarely on a decisive Game 7. Popovich said in order to get the Spurs prepared after such a heartbreaking loss, he will take a pragmatic approach: “Get them on the bus, it arrives at the ramp over here, we get off the bus, we get on the court and we play. That’s how we get ready.”

“I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized,” Ginobili said. “I’m devastated. But we have to. There’s no Game 8 afterwards. We’re going to have to play our best game, even better than today. Shoot better, better defense, less turnovers in my case. But yeah, there’s no secret recipe for bouncing back.”

“We have no choice,” said Tony Parker, who finished with 19 points and 8 assists and no turnovers, but admitted he was battling cramps down the stretch. “We have to bounce back. We have to realize we have another great opportunity. It’s going to be another great game.”

“It is what it is,” said Duncan. “It’s a one-game series now.”

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24-Second Thoughts On Game 6

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24 – So, LeBron James hit the court two hours early to get his pregame work in, huh? That says the man recognizes the magnitude of this moment and has prepared himself properly to man up to it. As ridiculous as it sounds to criticize the four-time MVP and the world’s best player, LeBron knows he has not left his mark on this series. If the Heat go down tonight, it won’t be without a desperate fight from LeBron, which is exactly the way it has to be when you are the best player in the game. Season on the line, you have to show up and set the tone from the start on both ends.

23 – I love that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stuck with Mike Miller in his starting lineup. As much as you need a defender in the game to slow down “Dancin’ “ Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and the Spurs’ other shooters, you need shot-makers on the floor in an elimination games. Miller is aggressive early, which exactly what the Heat need him to be in this situation.

22 – Kawhi Leonard is absolutely fearless. Goes at LeBron on the break, ‘bows him out of the way and finishes with the hoop and the foul. Drains a corner 3-pointer two possessions later. The Spurs are aggressive early, Leonard and Tim Duncan in particular, showing absolutely no hesitation.

21 – Dwyane Wade bangs knees with Ginobili with 7:42 to play and you could see it was a Ginobili’s knee cap smashing the inside of Wade’s left knee. We have to see how bad it was for Wade, who clearly took the worst of the collision. If they win tonight and force a Game 7, how does that blow impact Wade for the finale?

20 – Kawhi “Captain Corn Rows” Leonard just posterized Miller on a sweet feed from Tony Parker. I’m not sure what’s more impressive: Leonard’s eight early points or the fact that he’s the last man in the league still rocking corn rows (and doing it without any fancy designs or anything special; just straight ol’ school, straight-to-the-back corn rows). The 70s are proud of you, young fella! BTW, the Spurs are up two and DDG hasn’t even taken a shot yet.

19 – Duncan is working on a perfect night right now (6-for-6, 12 points and 3 rebounds). I wonder how history will remember Duncan? It certainly seems like we all take him for granted in the present. We don’t appreciate the greatness of his game and fact that he’s more than just the most fundamentally sound power forward to play this game, perhaps ever. He won’t have the flashiest highlight video to look back on in 20 years. But there aren’t but a handful of players who will be able to say they played at an elite level for as long as he did during his Hall of Fame career.

18 – Heat pulling out all the stops tonight; Chris “Birdman” AndersenMario Chalmers and even Shane Battier‘s 3-point bankshot to tie the game. It’s going to be that kind of night, I can feel it. ‘Rio already has 10 points in the first quarter and is 4-for-5 from the floor. If he’s aggressive like this all night, the Spurs are going to have to figure out a way to keep him from duplicating the work he did in Game 2.

17 – Chris Bosh was wrong … DDG is still getting open looks from deep. Still knocking ‘em down, too.

16 – Duncan has 25 before halftime with a hand in his face on every possession. The Spurs are 14-2 in closeout game since 2003 for a reason.  His nickname is The Big Fundamental! He’s 11-for-13 and dominating the Heat in every facet of the game right now. He’s putting on an absolute showcase right now, outscoring Miami’s Big 3 by his lonesome, 25-21. The rest of the Spurs matched his 25 first half points and they lead by six at the break.

15 – The Spurs’ 17-4 run to finish the second quarter might very well be the most impressive stretch by either team in this entire series. Duncan, Boris Diaw, Leonard … unreal effort, unbelievable mettle and just a complete demolition of the Heat on both ends during the run. The Spurs own the Heat inside with a 32-12 scoring edge in the paint in the first half.

14 – Where you at LeBron? Nine points (on 3-for-9 shooting) is not going to get your team to a Game 7.

13 – Third quarter starts without Wade. Ray Allen is out there for him. It has to be that knee. No word from the Heat PR staff until after the game, per Doris Burke’s sideline report.

12 – The Heat’s night in a nutshell to this point: LeBron has Parker guarding him in the low post, Heat swing the ball all around the floor until Bosh gets it on the opposite baseline bricks a jumper off of the far side of the rim. The Heat are completely out of sorts on offense right now. The only thing saving them right now is that they are turning the Spurs over (courtesy of Ginobili, whose Game 5 magic has worn off completely).

11 – Leonard is having the sort of bully-ball game you expected LeBron to have. The Spurs’ 11-0 run here late in the third quarter is one of those backbreaking stretches in a game like this. The Heat’s inability to slow them down is startling. Credit the Spurs for sticking to what they do best, and that’s unleashing all of the weapons in their arsenal to take away what you do best. The Heat are being overwhelmed on their home floor the same way they were in 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks in a Game 6.

10 – Wade is on the bench changing his shoes with 10.3 seconds to play in the third. Maybe he has an extra pair for LeBron, because if they Heat don’t come up with something to change the momentum in this games in the next six minutes, the Spurs are going to break them down the stretch with their execution and claim title No. 5.

9 – “Shoeless” Mike Miller with the 3-point dagger to cut the lead 77-73. Spoelstra imploring his team to “trust each other” at this stage of the season sounds a bit strange. But the message seems to be working. The comeback is officially on, with the Heat’s rally lineup (LeBron, Miller, Allen, Birdman and Chalmers) on the floor. Granted, the Heat’s rush has come with both Duncan and Parker resting on that Spurs bench.

8 –  Bully LeBron has finally come alive and he’s ridiculous force of nature when he plays like this. He’s overpowering Leonard, Duncan, Ginobili and whoever else gets in his way around the rim. Desperate times call for desperate measures, apparently. A block on Duncan under the basket triggers a break the other way and LeBron ties the game at 82-82 with a layup at the 6:37 mark. Allen gives the Heat the lead on a reverse layup with 6:03 to play. Crazy turnaround for the Heat and it’s all been fueled by the man without the headband, who is in full blow attack the rim mode right down the stretch. Heat on a 22-7 run right now and LeBron has 11 points during the run.

7 – Wade comes back for Miller with 3:48 to play, taking away the other long distance shooter (along with Allen) who caused the Spurs so much trouble during the comeback. Those shooters forced the Spurs to cover the perimeter and leave lanes for LeBron to drive to the rim and change the entire flow of the game for both teams. We’ll see if that substitution comes back to bite the Heat in these final minutes.

6 – Duncan and Parker are scoreless in the fourth quarter inside the final dos minutos of the biggest game, so far, of the Spurs’ season. How they are within three points is beyond me. It’s a testament to the system and all of the cold-blooded role players on that roster.

5 – Parker with the step-back 3-pointer over LeBron to tie the game with 1:27 to play erases all doubts. He’s going to snag his second Finals MVP trophy if the Spurs win this thing. Huge turnover by Chalmers and Parker converts on the other end, shades of Game 1 dancing through the building, Spurs up 91-89 with 58 seconds left. This is nuts.

4 – LeBron turnover under the basket, Spurs on the break and Ginobili is fouled with 37.2 left. Sinks both free throws and a 93-89 Spurs lead. Unreal. Another LeBron turnover and Ginobili is fouled again and drains the second of two free throws. 94-89 with 28.2 left. LeBron goes from the goat to the hero and now back to the goat in the final seconds. I say that Wade-for-Miller substitution changed the flow for the Heat. Could very well cost them this game.

3 – LeBron bricks a 3-pointer and gets the ball back after a wild scramble and drains the 3-pointer that cuts the lead to 94-92 with 20.1 to play. Money time for both teams here and Duncan is not on the floor (gotta have your best rebounder on the floor, Pop! I don’t care what is going on …). Leonard misses the first of two free throws but sinks the second with 19.4 to play. Oooohhhhhh!!!!!!! Allen drains the corner 3 to tie it up with 5.2 to play. Winning time, with LeBron on Parker and TP air balls the  last shot of regulation. Unreal finish to the first 48 minutes. Allen might not have the Finals 3-point record anymore, but it was his shot that keep this game alive. Five more minutes of what has turned out to be the best game of the entire season. I’ll take it.

2 – Overtime is like a mini-movie of the entire series in five minutes, complete with turnovers, big shots, clutch rebounds, timely blocks, stunning mistakes, star turns from everyone from Duncan, Parker and Leonard to James, Wade and Bosh, whose work rebounding and on defense help propel the Heat to a Game 7.

1 – Fitting end to a fantastic game. Allen knocks down two free throws for the winning margin and Bosh comes up with the clutch block on DDG at the buzzer. All those Heat fans booing Bosh earlier in this game can thank their lucky stars they had him tonight because he did the dirty work (rebound and kick to Allen was as clutch as the block at the end) down the stretch to help deliver the Heat. Allen with nine points in the fourth quarter and overtime, doing exactly what a future Hall of Famer is supposed to do, helps save the Heat, as well. But if LeBron hadn’t come alive in the fourth the Spurs would be popping bottles in their locker room right now. Game 7 here we come!

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