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Some top 2014 NBA Finals storylines

RETURN TRIP: A Finals rematch is a rare treat. This will be the first time since 1997 and 1998 two teams will square off in consecutive years. Further adding to the anticipation, it’s the first time in 25 years that two teams played a seven-game Finals and repeated as conference champions the following season.

SUSTAINED EXCELLENCE: Six Finals appearances in 16 seasons and 15 consecutive 50+ win seasons have established the Spurs as the NBA’s model for long-term success. Is this the team’s last run for a championship? When you’re the Spurs, the answer to that question can never be yes.

COACHING UP: Only four coaches in the history of the NBA (Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and John Kundla) have won five or more titles. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich hopes to join this elite club in 2014. On the other sideline, Erik Spoelstra is aiming to become only the fourth coach (Auerbach, Kundla and Jackson) in NBA history to win three straight Finals.

DOING IT WITH DEPTH: The Spurs’ depth has been one of the largest reasons for their return to The Finals. San Antonio is the first team since the NBA/ABA merger (1976) to not have a single player average 30 minutes. The Spurs had nine players average at least 8.0 points this season — the first team to hold that distinction and make The Finals since the 1965-66 Celtics. San Antonio’s reserves finished the regular season with the highest scoring average in Spurs franchise history and in this season’s playoffs, the reserves have accounted for a league-high 42.2 points per game.

DIFFERENT PATH, SIMILAR RESULTS: The Spurs and Heat were built in different ways, with different types of players. After Tim Duncan, who was the top pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, the next highest Spurs draft pick is Kawhi Leonard (15th overall pick). Their roster boasts five second-rounders and one undrafted player. The Heat, on the other hand, features six top 10 picks on its star-studded roster.

– NBA News

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Heat backup guard Norris Cole:

Young Norris Cole living in NBA Finals with Heat

Norris Cole isn’t ready to assess his place in history, not at 25, not in just his third season in the league.

But he appreciates the uniqueness of his NBA reality, having now made it to the Finals in each of his first three seasons, with championships in each of his first two.

With this best-of-seven series against the San Antonio Spurs, the reserve point guard becomes the first player to appear in the NBA Finals in his first three seasons since Scott Williams did it with the Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 1993.

Beyond being the first player to do that in more than two decades, Cole entered these Finals having appeared in 55 playoff games, the fourth highest total over a player’s first three seasons.

Spurs get their Heat Finals rematch

Spurs get their Heat Finals rematch

Starting Thursday, the Spurs get a rematch in the NBA Finals against the only team to ever beat them in a championship series. San Antonio will be holding home-court advantage, so if another Game 7 awaits, the Spurs will have the decided edge this time around. If that wasn’t enough, the Spurs even got basically five full days between games to get healthy and prepare.

It is, without question, everything the Spurs could have wanted.

“We know what we’re going against,” said Spurs guard Tony Parker, who added that he has great respect for what the Heat have done in this four-year run. “It’s a great challenge.”

There are so many things that would seem like a distinct San Antonio advantage right now.

First, while everyone’s better at home, the Spurs dominate in San Antonio, winning 103 times in their last 123 games there. Over the past four seasons, the Spurs are also 25-5 when having three or more days between games.

– Associated Press

Enjoy video highlights of some of the hottest plays of the 2014 NBA Conference Finals, where the Spurs wound up eliminating the Thunder, while the Heat eliminated the Pacers:

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on veteran Spurs star Tim Duncan, who sure seems ready for an NBA Finals rematch with the Heat:

The normally bland Duncan offered some surprising thoughts on facing the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals for a second straight year. The best-of-7 series opens Thursday in San Antonio.

“We’re back here now and we want to get it done this time,” Duncan said.

The Spurs advanced after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. Last year they lost in seven games to the Heat despite holding a 3-2 lead in the series. The Heat won the last two at AmericanAirlines Arena, but this time the Spurs hold homecourt advantage.

“We were ready last year, too,” Duncan said. “People keep talking about it like we weren’t close to winning it. We were ready last year, and we just couldn’t get over that hump. We’re happy to be back here this year, we’re happy to have another opportunity at it.”

Duncan said the Spurs still have a “bad taste” in their mouths after last year. This season began with coach Gregg Popovich addressing the team about how close they were.

Heat must win on road in NBA Finals

Here’s the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on the upcoming NBA Finals series between the Heat and Spurs:

The season began with the Miami Heat hearing about how their biggest rival in the Eastern Conference wanted to earn homecourt.

Now, the Heat have to listen of how their latest challenge embraces being the home team.

For the Heat to win a third straight NBA title, they will have to defeat the San Antonio Spurs as the visiting team.

“Once the time came when the playoffs started, we knew whoever we were going to play there was a chance that we were going to have to win on the road,” guard Ray Allen said.

Last year homecourt proved valuable in the Heat defeating the Spurs in the Finals. They trailed 3-2 when the series returned to Miami. The Heat then won the last two games to capture a second consecutive championship.

Spurs beat Thunder in OT, advance to NBA Finals

San Antonio fought off Father Time, the league MVP and an injury to its best player to return to the NBA Finals.

The Spurs beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-107 in overtime Saturday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals to set up a rematch with the Miami Heat.

San Antonio will host Game 1 on Thursday night and will try to avenge last year’s heartbreaking loss. San Antonio led Miami 3-2 before losing Game 6 in overtime, then dropping Game 7…

San Antonio pulled this one out despite All-Star point guard Tony Parker missing the entire second half and overtime with left ankle soreness. Popovich said Parker had been struggling with the ankle since Game 4 of the series. The Spurs overcame it the way they have for more than a decade — with teamwork, passing and great performances by role players…

Russell Westbrook had 34 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals, and MVP Kevin Durant added 31 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder. But Oklahoma City committed 20 turnovers that led to 33 points for the Spurs. Westbrook and Durant each had seven turnovers.

– Associated Press

Here are video highlights of the top plays from Spurs vs Thunder Western Conference Finals Game 6. The Spurs won 112-107 in overtime to advance to the 2014 NBA Finals, where they will face the Miami Heat in a rematch of last year’s matchup.

The Spurs won Game 5 of their Western Conference Finals series against the Thunder, 117-89 Thursday. Here are video highlights of some of the game’s best plays:

Thursday in San Antonio the Spurs pounded the Oklahoma City Thunder 117-89 to take a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference Finals series. In the win, Tim Duncan shot 8-of-13 for 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Manu Ginobili nailed 7 of 9 shots for 19 points and six assists. Enjoy these Duncan and Ginobili-centered video highlights:

Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers have each been fined by the NBA in separate incidents for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Stephenson has been fined $10,000 for his second violation of the 2014 NBA Playoffs which occurred with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Pacers’ 93-90 win over the Miami Heat last night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Hibbert has been fined $5,000 for his first violation which occurred last night with 5:18 remaining in the fourth quarter.

To view the plays click on the following links:  Stephenson flop, and Hibbert flop.

Tiago Splitter fined for flopping

San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter has been fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The incident occurred with 7:30 remaining in the second quarter of Spurs’ 105-92 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

To view the play click on this link.

Paul George fined for public criticism of NBA referees

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of the officiating, it was announced today by Rod Thorn, President, Basketball Operations.

George made his comments in the postgame press conference following the Pacers’ 102-90 loss to the Miami Heat on May 26, at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Here are video highlights of the top plays from Spurs vs Thunder Game 3, which took place in OKC last night. The Thunder won, 106-97:

Video: The playoff return of Serge Ibaka

Sunday in Oklahoma City, the Thunder won Game 3 of their Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs. OKC got a lift from the unexpected return of power forward Serge Ibaka, who in 30 minutes shot 6-of-7 for 15 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and a steal. Here are some video highlights of Ibaka’s playoff return:

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka was supposed to be out for the rest of the 2014 NBA playoffs. Yet, he’s back, and played well in Game 3, helping OKC grab a win. After the game, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich cracked a good joke, which you can listen to here:

The Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs Sunday night in OKC. The Spurs still lead the Western Conference Finals 2-1, but the with the return of Serge Ibaka, a shakeup in the backcourt, and a much-needed win, the Thunder have to feel better about the series. Here’s the Oklahoman reporting on a change at the shooting guard spot:

reggie jackson

Serge Ibaka was back, which meant Serge Ibaka was starting. That was a no-brainer for Scott Brooks.

But there were two changes to Brooks’ starting lineup before Sunday night’s 106-97 momentum-shifting win for the Thunder — the second not as loud or heroic but nearly as impactful as Ibaka’s triumphant return.

For the first time in his career, Reggie Jackson started alongside Russell Westbrook. He replaced the previously ineffective Thabo Sefolosha and injected some needed offensive punch into the lineup, playing a game-high 37 minutes and scoring 15 points — six more than three OKC starters combined for in the first two games.

Here’s the Miami Heat arena, ready for Saturday’s Heat vs Indiana Pacers Eastern Conference Finals Game 3:

After concussion, Paul George cleared to play Pacers-Heat Game 3

Good news for the Indiana Pacers: they’ll have their best scorer Saturday as the team visits the Miami Heat for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The series is currently tied 1-1.

Under the care of the Pacers’ medical staff, Paul George has spent the past three days engaged in the NBA’s Return-to-Participation Exertion Protocol as part of the NBA’s Concussion Policy. George remained symptom free after each step of the process. The Pacers staff consulted with Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the NBA’s Director of Concussion Management, throughout George’s progress through the protocol and today cleared him to return to normal basketball activity.

George will participate in tomorrow’s shootaround and barring any unforeseen complications, he will play in Saturday’s game at the Miami Heat.

roy hibbert

Here’s what Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert said to media at practice in between games 2 and 3 of the Pacers vs. Miami Heat Eastern Conference Finals series. Game 3 is Saturday night in Miami. The series is currently tied 1-1.

Question: Roy, the mentality this year as compared to last year, how has this been different compared to last year?

Roy Hibbert: We’re going in with more experience. We’re getting ready for two hard-fought battles.

Question: Why do you think you guys have been so good on the road? You’ve won like five straight. You’ve actually played better on the road than at home.

Hibbert: Just focus. We’re a tough team. It is what it is. Trying to get as many wins as possible when we get on the road.

Question: Are you guys more comfortable on this stage this year? It just seems like you guys are more relaxed.

Hibbert: We’re good.

Question: How about Paul, whether he’s going to play or not? How does that look?

Hibbert: I haven’t heard anything.

Question: Are you all prepared, if you have to go without 24?

Hibbert: Yes. The next man will step up.

Question: Does that mean more of Roy Hibbert, more baskets, more post‑up?

Hibbert: We’re a team. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do.

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