Archive for the ‘ NBA Playoffs Blog ’ Category

Here’s the Miami Herald reporting on the LeBron James and the Heat, who tomorrow begin their first-round playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats, who are owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan:

James has two NBA championships. Jordan won six. James has four NBA MVPs. Jordan earned five. James is a better athlete. Jordan is a tough competitor. James likes to ride bikes in his free time. Jordan is a golfer. And it goes on from there.

Everyone has an opinion. Even the President of the United States has weighed in on the topic.

Sure, Barack Obama once said James held the world in the palm of his hand, but, given a choice, he probably would pick Jordan to strip that sphere in the open court and glide in for a tongue-wagging breakaway dunk.

“I’m a Chicago guy, and Mike will always be the guy for me,” Obama said in an interview with Charles Barkley in 2012.

Of course, Obama then added to that show of loyalty a mighty large caveat.

“LeBron has the chance to be as good as anybody,” he said.

Here’s ESPN Miami reporting on the Heat, who begin their first round playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday:

Having finished 54-28, the Heat endured their lowest winning percentage of any season since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together in 2010. They’ve survived a seven-month grind during which nagging injuries forced Wade out of the lineup for 28 games and coach Erik Spoelstra to sort through 21 different starting lineups to fill the voids.

Now, the two-time defending champions enter the playoffs older — six of their top nine players are in their 30s — and arguably more vulnerable than they’ve been at any point. In addition to those factors, Miami limped into the postseason having lost 14 of their final 25 regular-season games and failed to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, which proved to be essential last season.

Yet as defiant as they’ve ever been, the Heat insist none of those potential warning signs matter.

“On the outside, there’s more doubt,” said forward Udonis Haslem, who along with Wade are the lone players who have been with the Heat since their first championship season in 2006. “Within here, we’re still confident in one another. We still know what we can do. We still understand what needs to be done and we know how to get it done. From the outside looking in, people might have a different opinion.”

Rockets and Blazers set to battle

Here’s the Oregonian reporting on the Rockets vs Trail Blazers first round playoff series, which begins Sunday:

Bench play figures to be a wild card entering the first-round playoff series between the Trail Blazers and Rockets, if for no other reason than neither team leans that heavily on its reserves.

In the regular season, the Blazers used their reserves the fewest amount of minutes, while the Rockets ranked 25th out of 30 teams.

So when asked whether either team has an advantage, Portland coach Terry Stotts didn’t have an answer.

“I don’t know. It depends on how much either team plays the second unit,’’ Stotts said. “Ultimately, I don’t think either team is going to have five reserves in the game at one point. So the players who play, need to play well.’’

Point guards and big men figure to be the central players in both teams’ bench production. The Blazers’ Mo Williams and Houston’s Jeremy Lin will play the most, while Rockets big man Omer Asik figures to play an intricate role in how Houston defends.

Raptors GM sounds off against Brooklyn

Here’s the Toronto Sun with a fun update on the general manage of the Raptors:

The Raptors-Brooklyn Nets series was never going to be a quiet one.

Between the Maple Leafs missing the playoffs eight of nine seasons and the Raptors done by late April for five straight seasons, Toronto fans have been impatiently waiting years for another taste of post-season action.

The Air Canada Centre was bananas from the start Saturday, getting on the visiting Brooklyn Nets, the referees and even Nets coach Jason Kidd. And if that wasn’t enough, scores of people gathered outside at Maple Leaf Square were even more amped up after team president/general manager Masai Ujiri, throwing political correctness out the window, ended an address to the gathered fans in emphatic fashion.

“F— Brookyn,” yelled Ujiri, handing off the mic as he left the stage with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke, who dropped his head, perhaps thinking, ‘It’s on now.’

In the last two decades, all but three titles have been claimed by teams that had at least the fourth-best overall record in the league. So maybe the two-time defending champion Miami Heat have some reason to worry: They were No. 5 this season.

“For the most part,” Atlanta’s Kyle Korver said Friday, “the best team wins.”

The Hawks, therefore, have no chance. Not with the worst record (38-44) among the playoff qualifiers. Not in this league, which tends to weed out the sort of surprises you see in the one-and-done NCAA tournament — where a No. 7 seed (Connecticut) beats a No. 8 seed (Kentucky) for the championship. Or in the NFL, where a team getting hot at the right time can spring a major surprise on the right day.

Then NBA is best-of-seven through four grueling rounds; but, then again, so is the NHL, which also requires 16 playoff wins to take the championship. Baseball, for that matter, has the same format for its league championship series and World Series. Why, then, do those leagues produce far more surprise champions than the NBA?

– Associated Press

Here’s the New York Post reporting on the Brooklyn Nets, who begin their first-round NBA playoff series against the Toronto Raptors tomorrow:

Nets guard Shaun Livingston tries to heal up for playoffs

As the Nets rotated players in and out of the lineup over the final five games of the season in order to be rested and healthy for the playoffs, only one player sat out all five games.

That player was Shaun Livingston, who sprained his right big toe on a dunk attempt in the Nets’ win over the Heat on April 8 in Miami and needed the week off to be back in the starting lineup for Saturday’s matinee Game 1 against the Raptors.

“I definitely needed the time,” Livingston said after Friday’s practice. “But circumstances, I think I would have been able to play through it. I would have just pushed through it.

“I feel better. I got a chance to get on the court for the first time [Thursday], so I feel better. I’m shaking off the rust, trying to get my wind back. There’s going to be a lot of adrenaline … [so I’ll] just try to stay composed and stay in the moment.”

Quick intro to the 2014 NBA playoffs

Here’s the Philadelphia Daily News with some words on the 2014 NBA playoffs, which begin tomorrow:

This year’s playoffs is a mix between the usual contenders and a few surprises. The Eastern Conference is significantly weaker than the Western Conference, as has been the case all season.

For example, the Washington Wizards, who are the No. 5 seed in the East, won 10 fewer games than the Portland Trail Blazers, the No. 5 seed in the West. The Atlanta Hawks, who snuck in as the eighth seed, are six games below .500.

The Heat and Pacers are the class of the East, and seem to be on a collision course in the conference finals. Any one of the top four seeds in the West thinks it realistically has a shot at getting to the Finals. The combination of the two scenarios will make for an exciting 2 months of basketball.

And now, read this still-growing NBA playoff preview.

Here’s the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporting on the Dallas Mavericks, who are back in the playoffs. There is now just one playoff berth left, in the Western conference, and it will go to the Grizzlies or Suns. Anyway:

Champagne might as well have been flowing in the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room after what they were able to accomplish Saturday night.

Down 13 points in the third quarter and in a tense fight for their playoff lives, the Mavs clinched their 13th postseason berth in the past 14 years with a pulsating 101-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns at American Airlines Center.

The Mavericks (49-32) will seek to win 50 games for the first time since the 2010-11 season when they end the regular season Wednesday night in Memphis.

Using every ounce of energy they had, the Mavericks had to rally from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the Suns, who dropped to 47-33.

Monta Ellis tied his season high with 37 points and Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half as the Mavericks kept barking at each other on the court during tense moments, and it paid off in the end.

The Houston Rockets are heading to the playoffs for the second straight year and believe wins like the one they picked up Friday night will help them when they get there.

James Harden scored 39 points and the Rockets ended a three-game skid and clinched a playoff berth with a 111-107 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder

“It was a great win for us … just to give ourselves confidence, especially going into the playoffs,” Harden said. “We might see them. It was a big win for us. It shows the resilience we have.”

Kevin Durant scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 40th straight game with at least 25 points, the longest streak since Michael Jordan also did it 40 consecutive times in 1986-87. But he was in no mood to talk about matching the feat after the game.

“We lost the game that’s all I’m worried about,” he said. “I don’t care. We lost.”

– Associated Press

The NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved a change to the format of The Finals effective with the 2013-14 season, the league announced today.

Over the previous 29 seasons, The Finals featured a 2-3-2 setup in which the team with home-court advantage hosted Games 1, 2, 6 and 7, while the opponent hosted Games 3, 4 and 5. Beginning with The Finals 2014, the format will shift to a 2-2-1-1-1 schedule, where the team with home-court advantage will host Games 1, 2, 5 and 7, and the opponent will host Games 3, 4 and 6. The format change will include an extra day between Games 6 and 7.

The change, which was recommended by the NBA’s Competition Committee at its meeting on Sept. 17, aligns The Finals format with every other round of the NBA Playoffs. The NBA previously used the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule for The Finals from 1957 to 1984 (except 1978).

“The Competition Committee felt strongly that a consistent format should be used for each round of our playoffs,” said Rod Thorn, President, Basketball Operations. “With improvements in team air travel and technology, the reasons the 2-3-2 format made sense for us in the past largely do not exist anymore, so creating consistency became the priority.”

We at InsideHoops.com like this decision. Even better would be a 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format, but that would probably be too demanding on players, media, league employees, etc. travel-wise.

Lakers

For a brief moment, Magic Johnson didn’t appear in the mood to laugh or smile. That’s because the famed Laker couldn’t help but acknowledge the unsettling reality surrounding the purple and gold, including their championship aspirations and the rehab surrounding Kobe Bryant’s torn left Achilles tendon.

“It’s going to be a tough season especially with Kobe being out,” Johnson said in an interview with this newspaper before a recent brunch at the Skirball Cultural Center for his self-named foundation. “Kobe has to get back healthy. That’s the key. If Kobe is back healthy, are they a legitimate championship team? I don’t think so. Are they a playoff team? I think they can be a playoff team if he’s back healthy. It’s all up to Kobe and his health status.”

Bryant hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his injury, even traveling to Italy in recent weeks while fitting in his rehab work. But contrary to the recent optimism expressed from Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, Bryant isn’t expected to return during training camp. When Bryant suffered the injury April 12 against Golden State, the Lakers estimated he’d stay out at least for six to nine months. That timetable hasn’t changed. Bryant also has publicly circled November or December as his return, keeping the possibility he could play by or near the season opener.

Reported by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (Blog)

Will the Detroit Pistons make the NBA playoffs?

Based on the additions and subtractions in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

That year coach Michael Curry and the Pistons got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The five teams that are virtual locks to make the playoffs in the East are two-time defending champion Miami, Brooklyn, Chicago, New York and surging Indiana, which could challenge the Heat for supremacy in the conference finals.

Three teams that made the playoffs last season have been severely weakened. Boston traded away landmarks Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who are still grieving over leaving Beantown. Atlanta lost Josh Smith to the Pistons via free agency. Milwaukee lost Monta Ellis as general manager John Hammond is changing the roster.

Reported by Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press

Udonis Haslem savors his third championship with Heat

Mr. 305 can now boast of being a three-time champ.

In a locker room of cigar-toting, champagne-soaked Heat players late Thursday night, many of whom celebrated winning back-to-back rings, forward Udonis Haslem grinned as he reflected on his third title in his decade-long career.

The Miami native and Dwyane Wade are the only ones to have played on all three Heat championship teams, winning the franchise’s first together in 2006 and then the past two years as co-captains.

They’re two of just seven active NBA players with three or more championship rings — Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have five, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan has four and Spurs teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each have three.

It’s something Haslem, who turned 33 years old on the day the Heat won Game 2 against the Spurs, didn’t envision after he left the University of Florida and played a year in France.

“I would have never guessed it,” Haslem said after the Game 7 triumph. “Undrafted, going overseas, I worked, man. I gave it my heart, my soul, sacrificed. And it all just paid off. I’m thankful. I’m blessed. I’m very blessed.”

Reported by Steve Gorten of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

dwyane wade

Dwyane Wade had his left knee drained one day before Game 7 of the NBA Finals, then got about eight hours of game-day therapy just so he could play in the title-clinching win for the Miami Heat.

Wade tells The Associated Press that his left knee was swollen ”like a coconut” after a collision with San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili in Game 6 of the finals. It was drained the following day, then was swollen yet again when he woke up on the morning of Game 7.

Reported by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press

The Heat will have their championship parade Monday, and city officials say fans will not be allowed to carry backpacks.

An estimated 400,000 fans packed the route last season after the Heat won the 2012 title. The parade will be followed by an event for season-ticket holders at the team’s home arena, where the parade will end.

Several major events have not allowed fans to carry backpacks or bags of a certain size after the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year, including the Penn Relays and horse racing’s Triple Crown races.

Reported by the Associated Press

According to TiVo Research and Analytics, the top 5 most-watched moments of Heat vs Spurs NBA Finals Game 7 were:

1.     Game Clock 00:27:09 4th Quarter: On a crucial possession to put the game in reach, Manu Ginobili inbounds the ball to Tim Duncan. Duncan hands the ball back to Ginoboli who then streaks toward the baseline. Chris Bosh keeps Ginobili under the basket, forcing him to pass to Tim Duncan. LeBron James elevates and intercepts the pass, is fouled and is sent to the free throw line. LeBron makes both free throws increasing Miami’s lead by six.

2.     Game Clock 00:39 4th Quarter: Miami has a chance to make it a two possession game with nearly 30 seconds to go. LeBron James gets the inbounds pass and calmly lets a few seconds come off the clock. James makes his move inside the 3-point line and pulls up for an 18 foot jump shot. Everyone in the arena is on their feet. The shot goes in and the stadium erupts in a sea of white and celebratory arm raises. “The King” brings another trophy to Miami.

3.     Game Clock 00:23:05 4th Quarter: Following LeBron’s two free throws, Manu Ginobili receives the baseline pass and hurries down the court for a long three point attempt. Dwyane Wade recovers the rebound and is quickly fouled by Danny Green. Wade makes the first free throw, and misses the second off the back of the rim. Shane Battier tips the ball back to Mario Chalmers. The Heat run the clock out to win back to back NBA Championships.

4.     Game Clock 00:46 4th Quarter: With less than a minute left the Spurs have an outstanding opportunity to tie the game up. Tim Duncan has an extreme advantage on the mismatch between himself and Shane Battier. Duncan makes a move to his right hand and rises up in the paint. The shot that he has made in so many clutch situations over his career is off slightly to the right. He gets another opportunity when he reaches over Battier for the tip back but is too strong and air balls.

5.     Game Clock 3:19 4th Quarter: Following the quick transition basket, Tim Duncan has a chance to redeem himself for the unfortunate turnover, and delivers. After posting up on Chris Bosh in the paint, Duncan throws up an off-balance one handed floater, banks it in, and gets the foul (makes his free throw).

lebron james

Victory in Game 7 brought more than another crown for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. It validated the team and its leader, forever cementing their place among the NBA’s greats.

For the vanquished San Antonio Spurs, it simply compounded the misery of a championship that got away.

James led the Heat to their second straight title, scoring 37 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 95-88 victory Thursday night in a tense game that was tight until Miami pulled away in the final minute.

Capping their best season in franchise history - and perhaps the three-superstar system they used to build it - the Heat ran off with the second straight thriller in the NBA’s first championship series to go the distance since 2010.

Two nights after his Game 6 save when the Heat were almost eliminated, James continued his unparalleled run through the basketball world, with two titles and an Olympic gold medal in the last 12 months.

”I work on my game a lot throughout the offseason,” said James, who was MVP for the second straight finals. ”I put a lot of work into it and to be able to come out here and (have) the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. The ultimate. I’m at a loss for words.”

He made five 3-pointers, defended Tony Parker when he had to, and did everything else that could ever be expected from the best player in the game.

The Heat became the NBA’s first repeat champions since the Lakers in 2009-10, and the first team to beat the Spurs in the NBA Finals.

tim duncan

Duncan had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, but missed a shot and follow attempt right under the basket with about 50 seconds left and the Spurs trailing by two…

Wade had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who overcame a scoreless Chris Bosh by getting six 3-pointers and 18 points from Shane Battier…

Kawhi Leonard had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the Spurs, who had been 4 for 4 in the championship round. Ginobili had 18 points but Parker managed just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting…

Game 6 could have shaken the Spurs, who were so close to holding the trophy that officials were preparing the championship presentation before Miami’s rally. The Spurs held a team dinner late that night, figuring the company was better than having to dwell on the defeat alone in their rooms.

Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press

Game 7s do more than settle championships. They define legacies.

No matter what happens Thursday night, LeBron James and the Miami Heat, and Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs have already won NBA titles and secured a place in history. Now is their opportunity to elevate it.

The truly memorable teams won the hard way, and that will be the case for the one celebrating at center court this time. It’s either a Heat repeat, possible only after James led Miami back from what seemed certain elimination in the closing seconds of Game 6, or the Spurs shaking off as gut-wrenching a loss as a team can have to become just the fourth club to win a Game 7 of the NBA Finals on the road.

“I want to go down as one of the greatest. I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams. And we have an opportunity to do that,” James said.

Reported by the Associated Press

Tim Duncan is used to pressure

After 17 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), San Antonio Spurs evergreen power forward Tim Duncan has already seen it all.

The 37-year has scaled the heights of the NBA, winning four titles and two league Most Valuable Player awards, and nothing fazes him, not even the prospect of facing the top-seeded Miami Heat in a decisive seventh game of the championship series.

While many players, including Miami’s LeBron James, have confessed to feeling nervous about Thursday’s do-or-die encounter, Duncan was nonchalant about the enormity of the contest.

“I prepare for every game exactly the same,” he said. “That’s why I feel every game is exactly the same. Obviously the pressure is there, the stage is there, the energy is there but preparation doesn’t change.”

– Reported by Julian Linden of Reuters

This season has been the most vocal for Miami Heat center Chris Bosh in the media.

He got even louder during Wednesday’s interview session when the topic turned to fan behavior. Bosh voiced his displeasure with the fans who left Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA Finals with the Heat trailing by five with 28 seconds remaining.

Miami rallied to tie before winning in overtime to force a Game 7 Thursday at AmericanAirlines Arena.

“For all those guys who left, make sure they don’t come to game 7,” Bosh said. “We only want the guys that are going to stay in the building for the whole game. You never give up. People gave up on us. They can stay where they are and watch the game at home.”

Reported by Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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