Feb 28, 2012, 8:45 AM EDT
So much for the little rest stop in Orlando. It was fun.
The breakneck pace of the NBA’s condensed post-lockout season picks up again Tuesday night. The pedal goes to the metal and we head for the playoffs.
Before the engines fully rev up again, we’re going to take stock. But rather than just give you some midseason awards, we’ll give you some thoughts on if these players and teams can keep it up.
MVP: LeBron James, Miami Heat
In the second half: LeBron should be able to keep up his pace because what he’s done — 27.1 points per game on 54.7 percent shooting with 8 rebounds and 6 assists per game — is not happening just because he’s simply on a hot streak. He’s matured his game, he’s getting better looks in transition with the Heat’s up-tempo offense and because he’s traded in some threes for shots in the post. If he does falter a little, Kevin Durant is there to scoop up the pieces, with Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose lurking.
Top Team in East: Miami Heat
In the second half: The East is a two team race, Miami and Chicago. The Bulls may have the better record right now but the Heat have been the better side of late. If both teams are fully healthy, I think the Heat are the better squad, but the gap is so narrow that nagging little injuries, a hot bench player, just about anything can swing that series. The Eastern Conference Finals are going to be epic.
Top Team in West: Oklahoma City Thunder
In the second half: The Thunder are one of the true elite teams, one of the NBA’s contenders. Yet, there are moments you wonder about OKC and their end-of-game execution, their play that seems to go a bit too isolation, there is a feeling among some scouts in the league they can be stopped. Except nobody has really done it. Who in the West can really best them? San Antonio? Dallas? The Lakers? None of them without making a trade. The Clippers may be the most likely, but they strike me as OKC a year ago, a team learning to win. The Thunder likely will come out of the West and they will push anyone in the East in the finals.
Most Disappointing Team: Boston Celtics
In the second half: You knew that the condensed schedule would be hard on the Celtics older legs (as we expected and have seen with the Lakers and for stretches the Mavericks and Spurs). But in Boston, it’s not just the losses (or 15-16 record), it’s how the losses are happening that gives you feeling they held on too long and there is no way to salvage this short term. Rajon Rondo seems more testy than normal (throwing the ball at the ref? Really?). The defense is still good but come the playoffs will that be enough? Danny Ainge may make a big move, if he can find one he likes.
Biggest surprise player: Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks
In the second half: Lin may not keep dropping 20 a night consistently, but he doesn’t have to — he has to learn to mesh with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire and now J.R. Smith. If he can, the Knicks could be the third best team in the NBA entering the playoffs (not by record, but by how they are playing). But Deron Williams said over the weekend that other point guards are seeing the hype around Lin and they are gearing up for him. It’s something to watch.
Coach of the year: Doug Collins, Philadelphia 76ers
In the second half: The Sixers started out playing fantastic team ball — good defense and a balanced offense. But that has fallen off since Spencer Hawes got hurt, he is the guy who made their offense work because he moved the ball side-to-side quickly. The ball gets stuck now and they are easier to defend. And Hawes is going to be out at least another couple of weeks. My guess is the Sixers slip and we can move Gregg Popovich into the coach of the year spot — he has the Spurs playing fantastic ball this season, as he did last year. He deserves it.
Jun 19, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT
As a series moves deeper ratings go up — and Game 6 lived up to that, with a huge jump in viewership for ABC. An estimated 16.8 million people — a 14.7 rating — tuned in to watch Game 6, ESPN announced. The previous high this series had been 11.4 million viewers for a game…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT
MIAMI — Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was the recipient of some rare criticism following his team’s collapse in the final moments of regulation in Game 6, and it surrounded his decision to bench Tim Duncan during some key defensive possessions. The end result, twice with under 30 seconds to play, was the Heat getting…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:18 PM EDT
MIAMI — For all intents and purposes, the game was over. Except that it wasn’t. The Heat trailed Game 6 of the Finals by five with under 30 seconds to play, and fans in Miami began streaming for the exits. Arena staffers in yellow shirts lined the baselines and the court across from the team…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:53 PM EDT
Now that the drama of Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett headed the Clippers trade talk has subsided, it’s time for everyone in Boston to act like adults and end this soap opera. To that end, Rivers and Celtics GM Danny Ainge are expected to sit down face-to-face Wednesday and talk, Ainge told the Boston Herald.…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT
PBT’s own Brett Pollakoff tweeted this out when the Heat were down 5 with: 28 seconds left and the Heat had called a timeout. “Fans in Miami heading for the exits.” Thousands of them. Not anywhere near a majority, but enough to reinforce the stereotype. Plenty (again, far from all) fans in Miami fit the…
Jun 19, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT
Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball right now. One of the best of all time. He has four rings and built a culture in San Antonio that has them in NBA Finals 14 years apart and with consistent 50+ win seasons in between. But he is not perfect. He made a couple decisions…
Jun 19, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT
That was an epic Game 6. There was great play from both sides, huge shots by Ray Allen and Tony Parker and LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard and… I could go on and on. The players knew it was a great game, too. These are some highlights from the postgame press conferences where they talk…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
With the Heat season on the brink LeBron James needed to change things up… He ditched the headband. Not exactly ditched, but late in the game LeBron’s headband was knocked off — and then he went off. LeBron played a key stretch of the fourth quarter then all of overtime without it. Couper Moorehead of…
Jun 19, 2013, 7:59 AM EDT
That was as great a fourth quarter, as great an NBA Finals fame as you are likely to see. Miami started the quarter down 10 but LeBron James goes on a tear after getting his headband knocked off. The Heat come all the way back to take the lead, then Tony Parker drains a three…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:35 AM EDT
You’ll have to excuses ESPN for not mentioning LeBron James achieving a triple-double during the Heat’s 103-100 win over the Spurs until Game 6 ended. LeBron grabbed his 10th rebound – capping a 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound, three-steal game – on Chris Bosh’s block of Tony Parker’s jumper with 31 seconds left, setting off a whirlwind…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:33 AM EDT
At shootaround on Tuesday before Game 6, Chris Bosh said that hot shooting Spur Danny Green wasn’t going to get clean looks at threes. Then, with the Spurs having one last shot in overtime to tie the game, Bosh made sure his words were good by blocking a Green desperation three to tie the game.…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:29 AM EDT
MIAMI — After suffering a brutal Game 6 loss that the Spurs had every reason to believe would turn out in their favor, one of the team’s key veterans wasn’t exactly optimistic that they’ll find a way to bounce back emotionally in time for Thursday’s Game 7. Manu Ginobili was the Game 5 hero for…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:24 AM EDT
For three quarters of Game 6, as it has been for much of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs execution was just too much for the Heat to handle — the Spurs shot 50 percent, they played smart defense, they moved the ball, Tim Duncan was playing like a man possessed with 30 points…
Ray Allen giving Heat exactly what they expected this season, including his clutch 3-pointer in Game 6
Jun 19, 2013, 2:06 AM EDT
Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings. Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title,…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:53 AM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:27 AM EDT
Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, was the Miami player who took the necessary step of declaring Danny Green was done getting open looks. When push came to shove, Bosh – the Heat’s center (!) – backed up his words, which really should have come from one of the perimeter players who kept leaving Green open.…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT
Ray Allen is amazingly, incredibly clutch. This is exactly why the Heat wanted him from Boston. What a huge shot. If the Heat win this series, that will go down as one of the greatest shots in Finals history. Allen and LeBron James will get credit for making 3-pointers to send Game 6 to overtime,…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT
Tony Parker, who made the defining play of the series, his twisting, shot-clock beating clincher in Game 1, is at it again. He stepped back to create space for a game-tying 3-pointer, got a steal on the other end and then drove into the paint for a short jumper to put San Antonio up by…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:29 PM EDT
The Spurs entered the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a 10-point lead, but the Heat are fighting back. Two shoes or one, they’re not quitting. I don’t know why the Spurs called timeout after Mike Miller made that 3-pointer without his shoe. I’d want to attack him on the other…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
That was a great game. And Game 7 sets up to be something special. For three quarters San Antonio’s execution was too much for Miami and the Spurs entered the fourth up 10 (75-65) and just 12 minutes away from a title. Tim Duncan had been a force, with countermoves spinning Chris Bosh around and…
- Popovich explains decision to sit Duncan late in regulation of Game 6 1
- Game 6 was not Gregg Popovich’s best night 33
- LeBron James gets another triple-double, now favorite for Finals MVP 15
- ‘Devastated’ Manu Ginobili says he has no clue how Spurs will re-energize for Game 7 36
- Spurs execution fails them when it matters most. Can they get it back for Game 7? 14
- NBA Finals Game 6: Heat comeback in fourth, win in overtime to force Game 7 (125)
- If Spurs win, it is LeBron’s legacy that will take biggest hit (85)
- Lakers unlikely to sign and trade Dwight Howard to the Clippers, Rockets, or anyone else (81)
- LeBron James: “I just have to play better” (78)
- Chris Bosh blocks Spurs’ Game 6 comeback attempt (video) (75)
- Heat rally to beat Spurs in Game 6
- PBT: After blowing lead, can Spurs rebound in Game 7?
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- PST: On-fire Altidore lifts USA over Honduras in WCQ
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- CSN: Celtics-Clippers KG, Rivers trade talks dead
- Play Video: Bosh: 'We'll see who hits first'
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- Play Video: Clippers, Celtics discussions 'can't be wrong'
- Play Video: Elliot looks ahead to Game 6
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- Play Video: If Heat lose, 'all hell will break loose'