Sat May 25 12:00am EDT
The Indiana Pacers knew during Friday’s Game 2 that LeBron James would probably be the reason for any close defeat. What they probably didn’t guess is that LeBron James beating himself would end up being the reason for the change in tone and outlook of this Eastern Conference final.
For most of Game 2, there was absolutely nothing the Indiana Pacers could do about James. The team guarded him smartly, with tough and athletic All-Star Paul George ignoring foul trouble and an embarrassing end to Game 1 to stick with James throughout. Indiana’s league-best defense funneled him to uncomfortable spots on the wing and minded him expertly in transition. By the time the end of the fourth quarter hit, James (who finished with 36 points while hitting 70 percent of his shots) had dragged his Heat to what seemed like was going to be a 2-0 series lead.
Instead of the full drag, though, James played the goat. Two last minute passes were deflected by Pacer forward David West, giving Indiana the extra possessions it needed to pull out an inspired 97-93 win. The Pacers did not doubt themselves in the wake of what could have been a mood-altering overtime loss in Game 1, rallying behind coach Frank Vogel on the way to a tough win over a team that they now have downed in three out of five regular and postseason contests.
And although the headlines will center on some flashy dunks or James’ late game gaffes, the Pacers won because of the dominant play of big man Roy Hibbert. Yes, “dominant.”
Fri May 24 10:55pm EDT
With just under 14 seconds left in the third quarter of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, Indiana All-Star Paul George isolated up top against Heat star LeBron James. He then promptly left the reigning MVP in the dust with a slick hesitation and quick left-hand dribble, gained the paint, gathered, rose and viciously clipped the wings of "The Birdman," Chris Andersen:
Just one problem, Paul: You left a little too much time on the clock before the end of the quarter.
Fri May 24 10:35pm EDT
Miami Heat uber-star LeBron James is widely acknowledged as the best player in the NBA, but merely calling him such doesn't communicate just how amazing he is to watch on a daily basis. In seemingly every game, LeBron does something no other player in the league can do, turning a creative idea into an incredible play with astonishing regularity.
In Friday night's Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers, James had one of these moments right before halftime. With the Heat down 53-44 and mere seconds on the clock, LeBron attacked the basket and drew three defenders near him to challenge a likely shot attempt. However, James changed course in midair, switching the ball to his right hand and firing a shot to Mike Miller in the right corner for a buzzer-beating three. In real time, it looked like a smart, creative move by James to get his teammate an open look and cut the lead to six points.
Replays show much more. Because of the angle of his drive, LeBron could only get the ball to Miller by twisting his body, sliding the ball closer to his ring finger and pinky (theoretically the least powerful part of the hand), and throwing a high-speed pass to Miller before hitting the ground and with enough accuracy to allow him to get the shot off before the horn. It's goofy that someone could make this pass so well. Given what LeBron's shown us this year, it's probably what we should expect from him for the foreseeable future.
Fri May 24 10:15pm EDT
In his final two games against the Indiana Pacers as a member of the Boston Celtics, Ray Allen combined to shoot 10-27 from the field. In the 2012-13 regular season, against Indiana, Allen missed 13 of 16 shots, and made just one three-pointer in nine attempts. Allen, an 88 percent free throw shooter on the year, did make 4-5 from the line.
Over the first six quarters of Indiana’s pairing with Allen’s Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, the bad luck streak in dancing school has continued, with the sharpshooter hitting for just eight attempts in 10 tries off the Miami bench. Weirder, he’s missed three of his six free throw attempts, including the infamous clang that allowed the Pacers to tie Game 1 at the end of regulation, and a technical foul miss that led to a mention that we very much appreciated.
This could be the tipping off point. A post like this could serve as a lowest dip for Allen and the Heat, especially if they find away to stop what should be a lacking Pacers offense (scored 50 points in the second half in game one, and 53 in Friday evening’s first half) and dash into the open court. The long arms of Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill aren’t as effective when Allen is spotting up in the corner in transition, with LeBron whipping away pass after pass.
Fri May 24 09:50pm EDT
Early in the second quarter of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, Indy reserve Sam Young was called for a foul while guarding Heat star LeBron James. Young wasn't thrilled about the ticky-tack foul; the swingman swung his arm down in frustration and connected with the ball after the whistle. James was holding the basketball, and he didn't appreciate the swinging. The two briefly had words, and the referees assessed Young a technical foul.
Well, Pacers associate head coach Brian Shaw didn't much care for that call, and he let the officials know it while Ray Allen strode to the line to shoot the technical free throw. As Allen made the shot, Shaw was assessed a technical foul of his own, putting Allen back at the stripe — but this time, the vaunted sharpshooter missed. And when that happened, Shaw knew just what to say:
You know, I've always liked that Brian Shaw.
Fri May 24 09:30pm EDT
With small-ball lineups reigning the NBA these days, the third-string center has become something of a lost figure. On the rare occasions when these players do get off the bench, it's typically only to provide fouls or eat up a few minutes in the event of injury. They've always been role players, but now that job is becoming increasingly minor and perhaps surplus to requirements.
Some players persist, though, including Golden State Warriors big man Andris Biedrins. Despite averaging only 9.3 minutes in 53 games this season (with ostensible starter Andrew Bogut missing 50 games), Biedrins has an early termination option to opt out of his $9 million contract for the 2013-14 season, the last year of the six-year, $54 million extension he signed as a very promising player in July 2008. To the surprise of no one, Biedrins has chosen not to exercise that option. From Chris Haynes for CSNNW.com (via PBT):
Fri May 24 07:35pm EDT
In addition to recording his players' in-game conversations, New York Knicks owner James Dolan has been known to lay down some tracks in the studio as frontman of the "blues" band JD and the Straight Shot. While Dolan's band has only occasionally covered his work with the Knicks, it's safe to say that the majority of the band's fame comes from his off-stage associations. Nevertheless, when it comes to NBA owners with somewhat embarrassing musical careers, Dolan stands above all others.
However, it looks like a new challenger has emerged. After years as a budding amateur guitarist and benefactor of various music-oriented causes, billionaire Microsoft cofounder and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen will release his first album on August 6 via the Legacy Recordings imprint of Sony Music. From Randy Lewis for the Los Angeles Times (via Blazersedge):
Fri May 24 06:55pm EDT
While the Miami Heat might not have played their best game yet in these 2013 playoffs, the Indiana Pacers know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they didn't play their best game in Wednesday's Eastern Conference finals opener, either — and they still came up just one remarkable play by LeBron James (and one arguably unwise decision by Pacers coach Frank Vogel) from scoring an upset overtime win that stripped home-court advantage away from the No. 1 overall seed. They were right there, and they think — they know — they can get there again.
Still, they've got some stuff to clean up in Friday night's Game 2 if they want to close the deal and send the series back to Indiana tied up with a chance to take a commanding lead at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Here are three areas where the Pacers must improve to come away with a win:
1. Slow the march to the front of the rim. In our series preview, I noted that the Pacers had done an excellent job during the regular season of keeping the Heat from feasting on shots from their favorite, and the most valuable, spots on the floor — the restricted area (the semicircle directly in front of the basket) and the 3-point arc, especially the shorter corners.
That's the centerpiece of the philosophy that made the Pacers the league's best defensive team this year — play tight D outside, don't give shooters space to rise and fire, stay true to your one-on-one assignments and close out like demons when you have to step away, offer help without over-helping and force drivers/pick-and-roll ball-handlers to have to pull up from midrange rather than meet 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert at the basket. It figured to be a critical element in the Pacers' attempt to overcome the Heat, and Indiana didn't do the best possible job of it in Game 1.
Fri May 24 05:15pm EDT
Following the San Antonio Spurs' Game 2 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, our own Eric Freeman wondered whether Grizzlies guard Tony Allen — renowned throughout the league as one of the toughest, most physical, hardest-nosed players in the game — faked the severity of any injury he might have sustained when fouled on a layup attempt in the final minute of regulation by Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. In case you've forgotten what went down, watch it again:
After coughing up the ball for an Allen runout, Ginobili raced back, grabbed Allen's left forearm and pulled him down to the ground. It was a hard fall, but Allen appeared to get both of his hands down in front of him to break it; after impact, though, he grabbed his head with both hands and began writhing along the baseline in apparent pain. The referees on the scene called a flagrant foul, headed over to the replay monitor to review the incident and, despite widespread perception that Allen had embellished things, upheld the call, granting Allen two free throws (which he made) and the Grizzlies another offensive possession (with which they tied the game and forced overtime).
While the officials on the scene apparently saw nothing untoward in Allen's behavior, after a couple of days to review the play, the league office begged to differ. The NBA announced Friday afternoon that Allen has been fined $5,000 for violating the league's anti-flopping policy with his embellishment on the play.
Fri May 24 04:45pm EDT
There is never a good time for a relationship to end or divorce proceedings to be put into place, even if the move is necessary and agreed upon by both sides. Working through a divorce trial while working as an All-NBA member of a team two wins away from the NBA Finals, though, would be quite the mental task. It has not been completely confirmed by the player, team, or representatives, but the San Antonio-Express News is reporting that it’s more than likely that Tim Duncan and his wife have engaged in divorce proceedings, and that the San Antonio Spurs big man is attempting to delay the trial because of his postseason commitments with the team.
The Express-News’ Patrick Danner discovered the case’s paperwork this week, and deduced that the initials utilized in the paperwork (the case is listed as “A.S.D. vs. T.T.D,” Tim’s wife’s name is Amy and Duncan’s middle name is Theodore), some of the language regarding the timeliness, and (sadly), the ages of the couple’s two children to deduce that the Spurs legend is trying to put off the divorce proceedings in order to concentrate fully on the playoff run.
The case is playing out in Bexar County District Court. Court papers filed last week include a request that legal discovery in the case be postponed until after the Spurs' last playoff game.