May: Heat Look Like a Team Trying to Three-Peat

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Only three coaches in NBA history have done what Erik Spoelstra is attempting to do in Miami. Phil Jackson

One is dead. One is approaching 100 while in assisted living in Minnesota. The third is off the grid somewhere, presumably in Montana.

The Heat are trying to become only the fourth franchise in NBA history to win three consecutive titles. The Lakers were the last to turn the trick, winning three in a row from 2000-2002. They were coached by Phil Jackson, who also won three straight titles with Chicago on two other occasions.

Tweet of the Day: LeBron Does a Q&A

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LeBron After a double overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets, LeBron James took to Twitter and did a questions and answers session.

Becoming a regular of the Twitter Q&As, James was having trouble sleeping after his 5 a.m. arrival in Miami. That restlessness can likely be attributed to watching the last overtime on the bench in Brooklyn. James fouled out of a regular season game for the first time since 2008. Miami fell 104-95 to the Nets and were outscored 11-2 in double OT without its star.

As seemingly bitter as James was walking out of Barclays Center Friday night, he appeared just fine interacting with fans.

James answered dozens of questions, but here’s the best of the Q&A.

First, LBJ takes a common question: “toughest player to guard man to man.” Always superb at recognizing other talent, paid tribute to Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.

 

In recent years, his hairline has made headlines (pun intended). Many feel he’s insecure about his hair loss, but he ended that rumor.

 

James was asked if he would ever get in the way of one of Blake Griffin’s highlight reel dunks; his reply was expected.

 

Who wants to end up like this guy? Poor Kris Humphries.

My favorite part of the Q&A was James poking fun at himself. Now man enough to admit it, he takes a jab at his personal play during the 2011 NBA Finals. Miami lost to the Dallas Mavericks and King James was nowhere to be found. He averaged only 17.8 points per game and his shooting percentage was uncharacteristically low.

 

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Brett Poirier is a contributor to Sheridan Hoops.

Hubbard: Time to ditch to 2-3-2 Finals Format (From the Archives)

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bird-magic(Readers: This column originally ran during the NBA Finals. It is especially pertinent now that the NBA is switching back to 2-2-1-1-1.-CS)

The most important playoff series in NBA scheduling history — the one that changed the NBA Finals from a 2-2-1-1-1 format to the current 2-3-2 — began easily enough.

The leisurely pace of the first four games would get lost in the frenzy of the last three, but travel was not an issue the first 11 days of the 1984 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

That’s how long it took  – 11 days — to play four games.

Schayes: How Ray Allen Changed the World

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rayallenDwight Howard has retreated to a mountain somewhere to ponder his future. And that gives us a little time to sit back and appreciate the recent past — and how the NBA landscape might look a lot different (Chris Bosh trade rumors, anyone?) if not for Ray Allen.

There have been many plays in sports that have not only changed the momentum of a game, but of history itself. These plays change the outcome of a season or sometimes a career, starting a cascade of events that alter the landscape of an entire league. They mark pivotal moments in history.

Michael Jordan’s steal from Karl Malone keeps the Mailman and John Stockton as the two greatest players never to win a title.

The Utah Jazz had built a tremendous machine. Stockton to Malone paired statistically the Greatest Point Guard in history with the Greatest Power Forward in history for an incredible 18-year run. Both players dominated their position their entire careers, made the Hall of Fame, and won Olympic Gold Medals. They were finally poised to win the first championship in franchise history defeating the Jordan Bulls when Michael made an incredible steal, blindsiding Karl in the low post to grab momentum and win the series. They never did win one.

Other history-altering moments are plentiful.

nickanderson_ Nick Anderson misses four free throws in the closing seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Finals, ending Orlando’s Shaq/Penny Dynasty before it begins.

The Magic were building a dynasty with the most dominant big man in the game paired with a star young point guard. Both were in their early 20’s and got along great. They were young, hip, and the team was built for a long run at the top.

At home in Game 1 of their first Finals together, which they were picked to dominate, Nick Anderson gets fouled in the closing seconds with the Magic up 3. He misses both, gets his own rebound and gets fouled again. He misses both again, and the Rockets Kenny Smith makes a 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game, which the Rockets win in overtime. Houston seized momentum and the Magic never recovered, losing four straight. The next year Penny Hardaway hurts his knee and Shaq gets restless. Without the success of the Championship, Shaq finally gets disillusioned and bolts for the Lakers, winning 3 titles there. Penny never fully recovers, and after a few years of mediocrity, the team disbands.

This year I picked the Spurs in 6 over the defending champion Miami Heat. Even with the best player in the game, I thought the Heat were vulnerable inside where the Spurs were very strong. For 5 games, 47 minutes and 55 seconds I was right on. Then the earth shifted on its axis. With time winding down, LeBron missed a three, and Chris Bosh rebounded and kicked it out to Ray Allen, who drilled the game tying 3-pointer. The rest is history, as the Heat went on to win the series.

Lets take a spin in the magic time machine and examine the true impact of that shot, besides the obvious of the Heat winning their back-to-back title.

Remember, this is examining the alternative timeline that occurs by Ray Allen not making his game tying triple to end Game 6.

LeBron James1. LeBron is the goat (and I don’t mean the Greatest Of All Time).

As great as LeBron is (and he is great) he continues to get criticized for not being able to finish big games. In our alternative timeline, he just committed 2 awful turnovers, missed the game tying shot, and the Heat are upset by the Spurs. He gets bashed in the press and the fans start to turn on him. Players have left teams for less (the aforementioned Shaq out of Orlando, for instance).

Side note: I am a huge LeBron fan. I am constantly amazed at how far people have to go to find something critical to say about him. That they actually do is amazing to me. ‘Nough said

2. Chris Bosh takes a huge hit and gets traded.

Chris Bosh was exposed in the Indiana series and again in the San Antonio series. He isn’t physical enough to defend the post against big, skilled players and offensively doesn’t give them an inside presence. He is shooting perimeter shots that 7 guys on the roster can shoot better than him.

Pat Riley will do whatever it takes to improve, so he moves Bosh for a big. He goes from one of the Big 3 back to the Big Fish in the Small Pond.

3. Ray Allen’s career is possible over

The torch gets passed to Danny Green. He breaks (crushes) Ray’s record for the most 3’s in a series and ends on a high. Remember in this timeline his 1-for-12 Game 7 never happens and he is talked about as Finals MVP. He is the new shiny penny and his 3-point shooting barrage becomes legend. Ray’s season ends with a whimper as he barely plays and gives no heroics.

Chris_Bosh_crop4. Team gets dismantled

After an unexpected loss, roster changes tend to steamroll. Any trade for a big contract like Chris Bosh’s tends to involve lots of players for salary cap reasons. Some guys get thrown in to match salaries. Then new position issues come up, forcing other trades. Before you know it wholesale change happens and you don’t know if the mojo ever returns.

5. Dwayne Wade goes too

Aside from Game 4, the Big 3 became the Big 1. Wade struggles, his best days behind him. The knee is “a thing”. He doesn’t have that spring anymore. Maybe its time to trade him while he still has value. Losing hurts and causes front office folks to start thinking about things they might not otherwise have considered.

6. San Antonio is the Team of the Decade

With a 5-0 Finals record, the Spurs are the Best Team of the Decade and the Heat are a flash in the pan. LeBron gets his one, not 6 or 7. Tim Duncan dominates with 37/17 in the Final game and is cemented as the greatest Power Forward ever (even though he plays center). Tony Parker is the best Point Guard in the league and Popovich is the new Zen Master.

7. Nike loses millions

It was released during the Finals that Nike had already made the LeBron 2nd Championship shoe. With LeBron as the goat and the Heat losing, not only does this not happen but LeBron’s star does the natural fade that happens when you lose. The next big thing is the return of Derrick Rose, and the competition’s machine goes into high gear. Remember in this timeline LBJ didn’t dominate Game 7 or win the Title or the Playoff MVP!

As you can see a lot was riding on that shot going in. A lot of people are kissing their Ray Allen bobblehead dolls. It’s a good thing that Ray wasn’t thinking about all this at the time. He had enough going on as it was!

Side note #2. I’m happy for Ray, one of the All Time good guys.

Danny Schayes is a retired 18-year-veteran of the NBA, a professional broadcaster and aspiring author now penning NBA columns for SheridanHoops. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE FROM DANNY SCHAYES:

WHY THE CHAMPIONSHIP FORMULA ALWAYS WORKS (UNTIL IT DOESN’T)
HOW DO HEAT COMPARE TO GREATEST TEAMS EVER?
ON NBA COACH OF THE YEAR, AND COACHES IN GENERAL

Bauman: Five everlasting memories from 2013 NBA Finals

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Image.12NBA_Finals_LogosheetThe 2012-13 NBA Finals were a sight to behold.

Long.

Epic.

Utterly unpredictable from game to game, quarter to quarter.

The door was seemingly slammed shut by San Antonio… yet somehow reopened and slammed shut by Miami.

Here are five everlasting memories of the phenomenal basketball from one of the most inspirationally played championship series ever:

5. Game 6 and Game 7 won’t be forgotten / Spurs veteran trio not enough / Heat too hungry to contain: Game 6 won’t soon be forgotten. Neither will Game 7.

Tim Duncan played his heart and soul out but he, along with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the other pieces of the Spurs’ nucleus, all know: DespiteTim Duncan their all-out effort, they needed to execute even better than they did to come away with this series.

In spots, they all played well.

But as a whole they were consistently inconsistent when it mattered most.

Especially damaging were Ginobili’s frustrating 9-point, 8-turnover showing in Game 6 and Parker’s 9-for-35 shooting in Games 6 and 7 combined.

To overcome Miami’s desperate hunger and relentless drive, San Antonio needed a better performance from its star players.

And they didn’t get it.

It’s not as if they completely melted down — though a case can be made that two missed free throws, one by Ginobili and one by Kawhi Leonard, were the ultimate killers late in Game 6 –but the inability to slam the door shut combined with the Heat’s never-say-die attitude proved to be a recipe for disaster for San Antonio, and will be remembered as such.

(RELATED: Podcast: Blaming Gregg Popovich)
(RELATED: Podcast: Blaming Gregg Popovich, Part II)

4. Role players for both teams stepped up: Danny Green broke Ray Allen’s NBA Finals record for 3-pointers made by shooting 25-for-38 (65.7%) through the first 5 games of the series, while playing quality defense (especially in transition on James).

The fact that he was in the hunt – and favorite, after Game 5 – for NBA Finals MVP tells you all you need to know about Green’s shooting display. His numbers in Games 6 and 7 (1 for 7, then 1-for-12) showed what the pressure of a closeout game can do to a young player whose coach rode him too long.

Gary Neal had his moment in Game 3, as he poured in 24 points (9-for-17 FG, 6-for-10 3FG), helping San Antonio to a lopsided 38-point, 113-77 win.

In that same contest, Mike Miller barely grazed the rim during his 5-for-5 performance that went overlooked, due to Miami’s lack of effort and focus at both ends.

In Games 2, 6 and 7, Mario Chalmers poured in 19, 20 and 14 points, respectively, on a combined 19-for-38 (50%) from the field.

Think he complements his superstar teammates well?

And lastly, after struggling mightily (shooting nearly 20% in the playoffs from beyond the arc), Shane Battier stole the show in Game 7 with a Mike Miller-esque closeout to the series. Battier’s 6-for-8 performance, with a 5-for-5 start, was the perfect remedy to forget about his dreadful shooting stretch that earned him a string of DNP-CDs.

The role players in this series had their moments, but when it came down to it, the superstars claimed the day.

Dwyane Wade3. Dwyane Wade: “Three,” the nickname Dwyane Wade gave himself after earning his third championship, plays his best when the lights shine brightest.

Through injury or not.

Even through intense pain, one of the most unselfish superstars in NBA and team sports history just added to his storied lore in Miami.

“We know what he was dealing with,” said Spoelstra. “Really, he should be commended for being out there and doing whatever it takes, putting himself out there for criticism, possible criticism, because he wasn’t 100%. And he just helped us win. That was the bottom line. It was a selfless effort for two months. And some players probably wouldn’t have played.  He sat out the Milwaukee game (Game 4), and from that point on, he said, ‘I don’t care. It’s not going to get better. I’m just going to be here for you guys. I’ll play all the way through and I’ll take whatever happens from the media, but I’m going to be out there helping in any way I can.’”

Wade wasn’t only battling his own body; he met an intelligent and smothering defensive effort head on.

“They tried to bury Dwyane, but he kept pushing open that coffin door,” said Shane Battier after Game 7. “And that’s Dwyane Wade. You really can’t define him by stats. He’s a competitor, a fighter. And when it counts most, he’ll be there.”

Tim Duncan called Wade’s 23-point, 10 rebound Game 7 performance “Great… Just found a way to get it done.”

“He didn’t wait,” said LeBron James, referring to the decisive finale. “He had I think five or six one‑on‑one iso situations, jumpers. He was in attack mode all night. He had 10 rebounds. He had 23 points. He had two blocked shots. I think one of the most important plays of the game, that he didn’t even make, was his attack at the rim when he tried to dunk on Tim Duncan, and Tim Duncan got a piece of it. It just showed at that point you knew that this was the D‑Wade that we’ve all wanted to see. What can you say?  He’s a three‑time champion, gold medalist, Finals MVP. He’s one of the greatest two‑guards, one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen.

“He continues to add to his résumé.”

That, he’s most certainly done.

And rest, he most certainly will.

“I talked to my knees today,” said Wade. “We had a conversation and I told them, I said, ‘Listen, both of you guys, y’all can give me one great game, you’ll have a great summer.’  So I’m going to treat my knees very well this summer.”

After capturing his third championship, he – they – have earned it.

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