The San Antonio Spurs were the favorites heading into the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but lost four consecutive games to watch their season come to a disappointing end in Game 6 on Wednesday night. The Miami Heat are in the exact same situation heading into a Game 6 of their own. Have a look at what is going on around the league in regards to this pivotal game, along with other goodies:
- Erik Spoelstra is still looking for the best possible lineup, and according to Barry Jackson of Miami Herald, a combination of Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem in the starting lineup has yielded excellent results: The Heat is 7-2 with Bosh and Udonis Haslem starting together (including 5-1 in the playoffs), and Spoelstra said that pairing “could happen. That’s an option to go back to some things we were doing before.” But Bosh, asked about that lineup, said, “I don’t think it’s the right time to tinker with things a lot.”
- The Heat head into the TD Garden facing a lot of pressure, but no one faces bigger pressure than LeBron James, who understands what is at stake: “I know how much pain this team has given me over the years,” James said. “It’s only right we go up there in an elimination game. I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to come through.”
- Doc Rivers has clearly out-coached Spoelstra over the last three contests, and Steve Buckley of Boston Herald expressed as much: To borrow an old political buzzword that gets tossed around once every four years, beginning with the New Hampshire primary and extending all the way to election day, one of these coaches comes across as presidential. And one of them does not.
- Steve Bulpett listed the five things to watch for in Game 6, if you are a Celtics fan. Here is one of them: We know that Kevin Garnett needs to have a big game inside and that Rajon Rondo needs to be, well, Rajon Rondo. But don’t you just have the feeling this is going to come down to Paul Pierce with the ball in his hands for major possessions in the fourth quarter?
- Rondo needs five assists to pass John Havlicek (825) for third on Boston’s all-time postseason list. Larry Bird (1,062) ranks first on that list followed by Bob Cousy (937).
- Miami’s LeBron James has four 30-point games against Boston this series. Prior to the current series, Boston did not give up a single 30-point game this postseason. Additionally, James has a streak of seven games of at least 25 points against the Celtics, which ties for the longest postseason streak against Boston since Dwyane Wade also accomplished the feat in seven consecutive games from (April 17, 2010-May 3, 2011). The last player to have a streak of eight such games against the Celtics during the postseason was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (April 28, 1974 ? May 27, 1984). Also, James has scored at least 30 points against the Celtics 12 times during his playoff career, the most against any team he has faced.
- Oklahoma City advanced to The Finals by overcoming a 15-point halftime deficit. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Thunder is the fourth team in NBA history and the first in a conference finals game to come back from a halftime deficit of at least 15 points in a playoff series-clinching win. The other teams to do that were Milwaukee against New Jersey in the first round in 1986 (trailed by 18 at the half), Phoenix vs. Denver in the first round in 1989 (trailed by 18) and Dallas vs. Utah in the first round in 2001 (trailed by 15).
- The 2012 NBA Draft Combine is underway in Chicago (June 6-10). Media Availability is scheduled for June 7-8 at the Marriott Magnificent Mile. The tentative times for availability are 11 a.m.-2:15 p.m. (CT) Thursday 11:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m. (CT) Friday. 2012 NBA Draft Combine Participant List.
- This has nothing to do with basketball, but it is pretty cool nonetheless. Check out David Beckham’s musical skills.
- The Spurs may be down and out, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a solid future to look forward to: Beyond next season, only Tony Parker and Matt Bonner are guaranteed any salary at all. The Spurs have no record of attracting star free agents, though they flirted with Jason Kidd early in Parker’s career. But the Spurs haven’t really needed any star-level free agents since Duncan’s arrival, and they have had little room for them since rookie deals tied to Parker and Ginobili expired long ago. Financial flexibility is useful regardless, and the Spurs will have it going forward.
- Some news in regards to a couple of Knicks players today: Carmelo Anthony says he is looking forward to playing for coach Mike D’Antoni again for the Olympics team, but it doesn’t mean things won’t be very awkward between the two. Meanwhile, J.R. Smith has a decision to make on whether he will return as a Knick next season, and being close to home will weigh in on his decision, according to Al Iannazzone: ”I’m getting kind of spoiled right now, going up and down the Turnpike,” Smith said. “My mom’s right there. She’s cooking. She’s coming up to New York and cleaning my place.
- Reports came out today that Dwight Howard, get this, may be considering another change of mind, again: A source close to Orlando Magic All-Star Dwight Howard said Wednesday that he still loves Orlando and isn’t seeking a trade.
- Kevin Durant has a movie coming out. Really. An actual movie, coming to a theater near you.
- Michael Jordan is looking for his team to make some moves, and it may include adding some free agents, according to Sam Amico: The target list could include the likes of forwards Antawn Jamison and Grant Hill, who spent the past few years with Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively. Both are former All-Stars with strong North Carolina connections – Jamison played his high school ball in Charlotte and collegiately at North Carolina, while Hill played just down the road at Duke
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James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.