1. Sixers to sit Noel, play for Andrew Wiggins

    ESPN broke news early this week that the Philadelphia 76ers expect to sit first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel for the entire 2013-14 season as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last year at the University of Kentucky. The announcement is in line with the popular sentiment the Sixers plan to tank the season for a better chance at a high draft pick.

    After Noel had surgery in March, the six-to-eight month timetable for his recovery figured to give him a chance to return at some point during the season.

    Noel, who was drafted sixth overall in the 2013 NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, was traded to Philadelphia on draft night along with a protected 2014 first-round pick. In return, the Pelicans received guard Jrue Holiday, a 2013 NBA All-Star, and the 42nd pick which they used to draft Pierre Jackson, a guard out of Baylor University.

    The move was in line with a clearly rebuilding Philadelphia franchise. Head Coach Doug Collins had resigned in April and was replaced in August when the team hired San Antonio Spurs Assistant coach Brett Brown to take the helm. Holiday, one of the few bright spots on a 2012-13 team which went 34-48, was dealt to facilitate a complete rebuild.

    The Sixers continue to feel the effects of the blockbuster trade most notable for sending Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers during the summer of 2012. The trade netted the Sixers Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, while they gave up Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, 2012 All-Star Andre Iguodala and a future first-round pick.

    Richardson had season-ending surgery in February. Knee issues which had plagued Bynum in L.A. came with him to Philadelphia, and though the team had hoped he’d return at some point during the season,  Bynum opted for season-ending knee surgery in March. This offseason, Bynum’s one-year deal expired and he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    With Noel out, this year’s Sixers squad will feature a pedestrian starting lineup.

    Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft, will get to suffer through growing pains at guard for a team with low expectations. At center, probably the team’s most solidified position, Spencer Hawes is serviceable. Evan Turner, the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft, has yet to come close to meeting the expectations which came with him from college. Some combination of Thaddeus Young, James Anderson, Royce White and a host of other role players will fill in the remaining minutes.

    If all goes well for the Sixers, the extended recovery period will give Noel time to develop his skills and return at 100 percent for the 2014-15 season. The Sixers hope players buy into Brown’s system, Carter-Williams can learn to be an NBA point guard and Turner finally plays to the potential he displayed during his years at Ohio State.

    Regardless, this season’s iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers will not be very good. They will be among the favorites to land Andrew Wiggins, who will make a cameo at the University of Kansas before entering the 2014 NBA Draft next summer as the consensus top pick. On the eve of the 2013-14 season, the Sixers’ decision to sit Noel makes clear the Wiggins sweepstakes are already well underway.

  2. Mariners in midst of historic offensive stretch

    The Seattle Mariners stayed hot and rode four more home runs, including the first two of Brad Miller’s career, to a 10-7 victory over the Houston Astros Friday night.

    The home run parade began in the second inning when Kyle Seager launched his 16th home run of the season, also extending his current hitting streak to a major league-best 15 games.

    Miller’s first bomb came in the sixth inning when he crushed a 2-0 pitch from Houston starter Bud Norris into the upper deck in right field. Miller also added a three-run blast in the eighth off reliever Josh Fields to give the Mariners a 9-3 edge.

    After Houston responded with three runs in the bottom half of the eighth, Justin Smoak added his ninth home run of the season, a solo shot which gave the Mariners a 10-6 lead.

    After Friday’s performance, the Mariners have now homered in 23 consecutive games. This stretch has shattered the Mariners’ record for consecutive games with a home run. The team is now just four games from tying the Major League record, 27 consecutive games with a home run, set by the 2002 Texas Rangers.

    From 2010 to 2012, the Mariners ranked 30th, 25th and 19th in home runs. This season, the Mariners have hit 119 home runs through 96 games, trailing only the Baltimore Orioles for the Major League lead.

    Seattle is on pace to hit 200 home runs in a season for the first time since cracking 244 home runs during the 1999 season. That year, five Mariners hit more than 20 home runs and two, Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey, Jr., hit more than 40.  

    The team has done it through a combination of developing its own young players and acquiring veteran sluggers to bolster its lineup. Four of the Mariners top five home runs hitters this season were not on the roster last season.

    At 41 years old, Raul Ibanez has provided unexpected pop and leads the team with 24 home runs. Kendrys Morales, acquired from the Los Angeles Angels in an offseason trade of Jason Vargas, has been a rock in the middle of the Mariners’ lineup all year, with 14 home runs and 54 RBI. Both Ibanez and Morales figure to be hot commodities around the trade deadline, especially if their production continues and the Mariners continue to hover below .500.

    Despite not playing every day, offseason acquisitions Jason Bay and Mike Morse have provided pop when in the lineup, each with 11 home runs on the season.

    Of course, many of the veterans are only temporary solutions. The most inspiring aspect of the Mariners’ offensive improvement is the emergence of promising young players who have come up through the team’s farm system.

    Seager is second on the team with 16 home runs, third with 46 RBI and leads the team with a .292 batting average. After a brief stint in AAA, Smoak appears to have made strides with his offensive approach and has raised his batting average to .271, prompting a renewed faith among fans that he will turn into the player the Mariners thought he’d be when they made him the centerpiece in a deal which dealt away Cliff Lee in 2010.

    Miller and Nick Franklin have experienced early successes, prompting hopes they can grow into the Mariners’ long-term infield core. Mike Zunino, the Mariners’ top pick in the 2012 draft, has all the tools to develop into an elite catcher after his brisk ascension through the minor leagues.

    The Mariners hope Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders, two young faces of the offensive struggles which have characterized the Mariners organization for nearly a decade, can flourish without the pressure of carrying the team offensively.

    With Felix Hernandez locked up longterm and a stable of minor league pitching prospects close to major league-ready, the question for the Mariners in recent years has always been offense.

    A month of strong offensive play cannot undo a decade of offensive struggles, but it has given hope to a success-starved Seattle fanbase.




  3. Looking Back on Danny Green’s historic postseason run

    Since its inception during the 1979-80 season, the three-point arc has revolutionized gameplay in the NBA. An inability to space the floor with the threat of a three-point shot can be a team’s undoing, while a team capable of spreading the floor sees its offense open up.

    The meteoric postseason rise of Danny Green is a testament to the value of three-point shooting in the NBA.

    Green was cut from NBA teams three times before fitting into his role as a three-point specialist for the San Antonio Spurs. He now holds the NBA record for three-pointers made during a single championship series after pouring in 27 during the 2013 NBA Finals. Green’s skillset and the Spurs’ offensive system came together culminating in a record-setting performance which brought the Spurs within seconds of an NBA title. His performance also bucked a prominent postseason trend.

    Generally, as defenses gear up to stop opponents’ strengths, three-point specialists struggle to put up regular-season level numbers against more active postseason defenses. In Green’s case, when defensive intensity ramped up during the postseason, an already high three-point percentage went up.

    A sample of other elite three-point shooters and comparisons between their regular season and postseason performances highlight how extraordinary Green’s postseason was.

    Jose Calderon led the league in three-point percentage during the regular season but played for two teams who missed the playoffs, the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons. Because Calderon has no 2012-13 playoff statistics, his numbers are excluded from the following sample of shooters for sake of comparison.

    The qualifying shooters who ranked two through 10 in three-point percentage during the regular season shot an average of just under 44 percent from the field, according to espn.com. This number dropped to just less than 39 percent during the postseason.

    Among these men, Golden State’s Steph Curry led the way with 600 three-point attempts during the regular season or about eight attempts per game. During a season in which he played only 50 games, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Steve Nash had just 130 attempts from long range, the fewest of anyone ranked in the top 10.

    Excluding Calderon, the men in the top 10 averaged 4.5 three-point attempts per game during the regular season. This number jumped to about 4.9 during the postseason as an emphasis was put on quality possessions and marginal three-point shooters passed up attempts to give these specialists their shots.

    Danny Green shot a historic 55 percent from three-point range during the 2013 Finals. Green’s three-point percentage jumped from just less than 43 percent during the regular season to just over 48 percent during the postseason. This increase made him an outlier among the shooters in the regular season top 10.

    Milwaukee’s Mike Dunleavy was the only other player in the top 10 whose percentage rose during the playoffs. He made seven of 16 attempts from long range to shoot 43.8 percent, a very small four-game sample just incrementally better than his regular season clip of 42.8 percent.

    Curry made 42 of 106 postseason attempts, dropping below the 40 percent mark. The Miami Heat’s Shane Battier hit 26 of his 88 attempts, though history will likely remember the six three-pointers he made in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, not his ice-cold 29 percent clip for the postseason. After each shooting over 40 percent during the regular season, Nash, Ersan Ilyasova and Willie Green went a combined 4-14 from long range in the playoffs.

    After five NBA Finals games, Green was shooting 65 percent from long-range and the Spurs were one win from a championship. Green went a combined 2-11 in games six and seven and the Spurs lost two straight games and the series. When Green was hot, the Spurs were near unstoppable; when he cooled down, the Heat was able to reclaim series control.

    A hot shooter can open up an offensive gameplan like little else in basketball. Despite ultimately coming up short, Danny Green will go down in 
    San Antonio lore for his epic performance during the 2013 postseason.

     

  4. Knicks acquire World Peace at good value

    The New York Knicks have signed Metta World Peace to a two-year deal worth $1.6 million per year with a player option for year two, according to espn.com.

    World Peace was amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers and had cleared waivers Sunday afternoon. The Lakers will still owe their former forward over $7 million during the 2013-14 season, but it will not count against 
    the team’s salary cap number. World Peace was undoubtedly a cap casualty and including luxury tax ramifications, his release saved the team around $15 million.

    Release aside, World Peace was still a productive player for the Lakers last season. He led the Lakers in plus/minus at plus-193 for the year.

    He bounced back nicely from a subpar 2011-12 season. After shooting just 29 percent from three-point range two seasons ago, World Peace made 34 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season to match his career average. He also recorded more rebounds per game than in any season since 2008-09 and more steals and blocks per game than in any season since 2007-08, according to basketball-reference.com.

    World Peace will turn 34 this November. He played a significant role on the Lakers’ 2010 championship team, but his declining skillset and escalating salary proved too much for a Lakers team conscious of increasingly punitive luxury 
    tax penalties. For a Knicks team with over $43 million invested in Carmelo Anthony and an oft-injured Amar’e Stoudemire, World Peace should provide good bang for their buck at just $1.6 million per year.

    World Peace joins a Knicks team which ranked 11th in PPG during the 2012-13 season and allowed the seventh-fewest points to its opponents. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, he will provide the Knicks a large, capable body to throw at skilled wing players for other powerhouse franchises in the Eastern Conference, specifically LeBron James of the Miami Heat, Paul George of the Indiana Pacers and Joe Johnson of the Brooklyn Nets.

    The acquisition of World Peace also means the acquisition of his larger-than-life personality.

    This November will mark the ten-year anniversary of the brawl at the Palace in Auburn Hills which led to a suspension for World Peace, then named Ron Artest, for the remainder of the 2004-05 season. Having played four years in Los Angeles, World Peace is no stranger to the spotlight. It will be interesting to see how his large personality meshes with those of Anthony, J.R. Smith and Tyson Chandler and how he handles being a professional athlete in his hometown of New York.

    The move came as positive news on the same day as Smith, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, underwent a surgical procedure on his knee which figures to sideline him 12-16 weeks. Recovery from the surgery may prevent Smith from playing at the beginning of next season.

     

  5. Unprecedented coaching shakeup will shape next NBA era

    Of the NBA’s 30 teams, 10 have hired new head coaches since May 27. Add in the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, still coachless but surely nearing coaching hires of their own, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hired former head coach Mike Brown to the same position in late April, and nearly half the teams in the league will start the 2013-14 season with a different man at the helm than when the 2012-13 season ended.

    Some of these teams are the usual suspects.

    Almost as soon as the Charlotte Bobcats hired Mike Dunlap to be their head coach last offseason, the hire was questioned and the progression toward his firing was set in motion.

    Since Rick Adelman’s tenure in Sacramento ended in 2006, no Kings coach has sniffed .500. That trend continued during the 2012-13 season under Keith Smart, amid threats the team would be uprooted and moved to Seattle.

    The post-Flip Saunders era in Detroit has been equally unkind. Michael Curry’s 2008-09 squad snuck in the playoffs despite being four games under .500 and was promptly swept in the first round. Since then, the Pistons have won about 35 percent of their games but are hoping the recent hire of Maurice Cheeks will right the ship.

    Perhaps more notable in this offseason’s class of new hires is the wealth of quality coaching positions available.

    David Joerger was hired Thursday to take over a Memphis Grizzlies squad just one series victory from representing the Western Conference in the 2013 NBA Finals. The team has been assembled to be strong on the defensive end, a superior formula for building a consistent contender.

    Before acquiring former Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers, the Los Angeles Clippers set a franchise record with 56 victories during the 2012-13 season under Vinny Del Negro. Assuming Rivers can convince free-agent point guard Chris Paul to return, the Clippers are among four or five teams with a legitimate chance to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

    The Brooklyn Nets hired recently retired Jason Kidd to replace interim coach P.J. Carlesimo who guided the team to the playoffs last season. Kidd’s coaching acumen is yet to be determined, but with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, his Nets are one of the few teams in the league with an elite (yes, I said it) point guard and a legitimate interior offensive presence. Add Joe Johnson and about one third of the Celtics’ roster to the mix (pending league approval) and the Nets have the talent to match up with nearly anyone in the league.

    The Atlanta Hawks, who have quietly made the playoffs in six consecutive seasons, looked to the Gregg Popovich disciple tree in hiring former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer. Atlanta has no shortage of talent either and the resolution of Josh Smith’s future will be a major determinant in its future.

    The Denver Nuggets let go of George Karl in early June, just a month after he had been named the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year. The Nuggets replaced Karl with Brian Shaw, a former Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers assistant coach who has long been among the hottest commodities in NBA coaching searches. The Nuggets were the 3-seed in the West despite having one of the five youngest rosters in the NBA this season.

    As is the case with any coaching transition, there is work to be done for all 13 of the teams who will be taking the floor with new coaches when the 2013-14 season tips off. That said, many of these teams are not starting at Ground Zero.

    For the unusually large number of young coaches taking over teams which have experienced levels of success in recent years, the sky is the limit. The pieces are in place for these men and their teams to flourish, and those who do so will come to define the next generation of NBA basketball.

  6. Rivers to Clippers nearly a done deal

    The on-again, off-again saga involving a potential trade of Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers was resolved Sunday when the Boston Celtics agreed to send the head coach to the Clippers in exchange for a first-round pick. The NBA has not yet approved the deal because language in Rivers’ contract is still under negotiation, but has not made any moves to stop the transaction.

    Rivers was at the helm for the Celtics’ 2008 NBA Championship. He is presumed to be an improvement over Vinny Del Negro whose contract was allowed to expire by the Clippers after the 2012-13 season despite leading the team to a franchise-record 56 wins.

    The Clippers top priority for this offseason is retaining free-agent point guard Chris Paul so the move likely received Paul’s approval. Rivers was the highest paid coach in the NBA last season, making $7 million. His contract with the Clippers is reported to be for three years and $21 million.

    Rivers is expected to improve an already stingy Clippers defense. The Clippers allowed the fourth-fewest PPG to opponents last season while Rivers’ Celtics had the 12th-ranked scoring defense in the league. The Celtics defensive effort felt the effects of an aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well an injuries which cost Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley significant time. In the previous two seasons, the Celtics defense had ranked second and first in PPG allowed while the Clippers had ranked 13th and 20th.

    The Celtics are now quite clearly at the end of the “Big Three” era which began in 2007 when the Celtics acquired Ray Allen and Garnett to play alongside Pierce. Led by Rivers, the group experienced its greatest triumph during the 2007-08 season when it captured the franchise’s 17th championship.

    Allen joined the Miami Heat in free agency prior to last season in search of another championship and hit a crucial three-pointer in Game 6 of the NBA Finals which propelled the Heat to the title. Pierce will be 36 in October and Garnett just turned 37; both men have been brought up as trade chips to begin the Celtics’ rebuilding process. Before heading to Los Angeles, Rivers was the second-longest tenured NBA coach behind the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.

    The Celtics receive a first-round draft pick in 2015 and will presumably start to rebuild around Rondo, a 4-time NBA All-Star. The team will hope to reload while avoiding the woes of the two seasons preceding the arrival of the Big Three when the Celtics went a combined 57-107.

    With the Heat pursuing a three-peat, the Chicago Bulls awaiting the return from injury of 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose and the maturation of an Indiana Pacers squad which pushed the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics will be hard-pressed to make any noise in the Eastern Conference Playoffs in the next few years.

    The hope of Clippers management is that Rivers will be able to control the team’s large personalities, specifically Chris Paul, while also providing an X’s and O’s improvement over Del Negro. However, Rivers alone will not solve the issues which caused the team to lose four consecutive games to the Memphis Grizzlies en route to a 4-2 first round playoff loss this season, and the team will likely need to pursue additional pieces through free agency or trades. The ageless Spurs, the up-and-coming Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder with a healthy Russell Westbrook are all viable contenders to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

     

  7. Heat respond again, even up series at 2-2

    The Miami Heat once again responded to an NBA Finals loss with an impressive performance to even up the series with the San Antonio Spurs at 2-2. 

    For the first time this postseason, the “Big Three” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh lived up to its billing. James shot 60 percent on his way to 33 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Wade resembled the Dwyane Wade who won the NBA Finals MVP in 2006, shooting over 55 percent from the floor and posting 32 points, six assists, six steals and four rebounds. Bosh added 20 points and 13 rebounds to go with his two blocks and two steals.

    For the Spurs, Tony Parker got off to a fast start in Game 4 and had 15 points by halftime, but was held scoreless in the second half. Danny Green and Gary Neal, on the heels of 13 three-pointers in Game 3 shot only 6-9 from downtown. After each grabbing double-digit rebounds in Game 3, Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan grabbed a total of 12 in Game 4. Manu Ginobili was once again ineffective coming off the bench.

    After setting a single-game Finals record for three pointers in Game 3, the Spurs cooled off, if only slightly, in Game 4. They finished 8-16 from beyond the arc against a Heat defense closed out on shooters far more successfully in Game 4.

    The Spurs had 18 turnovers in Game 4, while the Heat only turned it over nine times. After getting crushed on the glass in Game 3, the Heat responded. The Heat won the rebounding battle 41-36 and grabbed seven offensive rebounds to the Spurs’ five.

    Despite the Heat being called for eight more fouls, the Spurs struggled to capitalize at the free-throw line. The Spurs shot 23-31 from the charity stripe, just less than 75 percent. In fewer attempts, the Heat went 15-17 from the line. 

    The winner of Game 5 will be one victory from securing the title. With games six and seven both in Miami, if the Heat can string together a second consecutive good performance, it will have two chances to close out the series at home where it was 37-4 during the regular season. 

    Game 5 in San Antonio tips at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sunday. 

  8. Spurs set Finals three-point record, take 2-1 series edge

    The San Antonio Spurs had just two three-pointers in the first quarter of Tuesday’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

    By the end of the game, the Spurs had tallied a single-game NBA Finals record 16 makes from beyond the arc. Leading the barrage was Danny Green, who followed up his 5-5 Game 2 three-point performance by going 7-9 from three-point range on his way to a team-leading 27 points in Game 3. Not far behind Green was Gary Neal who came off the Spurs bench with 24 big points, including 6-10 on three-point shots.

    The end result of the sharpshooting performance was a 113-77 Spurs victory, a 2-1 series lead and a reassertion of series control after the Heat’s 103-84 demolition of the Spurs in Game 2.

    For the Heat, the struggles extended far beyond the defensive end. LeBron James had 11 rebounds and five assists but scored most of his 15 points after the game’s outcome had been decided and needed 21 shots to do it. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh added 16 and 12 respectively, and no other Heat starter scored.

    James is in the midst of his worst three-game scoring stretch since the 2011 NBA Finals when the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks. After shooting nearly 57 percent from the field during the regular season, James has shot just under 39 percent from the field in the NBA Finals. Earlier this year James had a stretch of 33 straight games where he scored at least 20 points; he has failed to reach the 20-point mark in each of his last three games.

    The Green-Neal combination outscored the Heat’s starting lineup 51-43. And while the Spurs bench, led by Neal’s scoring outburst, put up 46 points, the Heat bench provided only 34 points, despite another stellar outing by Mike Miller who kept the Heat competitive into the third quarter going 5-5 from beyond the arc for his 15 points.

    Both on the offensive glass and overall, the Spurs dominated the boards. After an off Game 2, Tim Duncan grabbed 14 rebounds and Kawhi Leonard added another 12. Overall, the Spurs outrebounded the Heat 52-36, including a 19-9 edge in offensive rebounds.

    For the first time in the series, both teams had double-digit turnovers in the same game. After posting eight turnovers in Game 1 and just six in Game 2, the Heat turned it over 16 times in Game 3. The Spurs turned the ball over 12 times in Game 3, not quite up to their four-turnover effort in Game 1 but an improvement on the 16 turnovers they had in their 19-point Game 2 loss.

    Just about the only thing that went wrong for the Spurs in Game 3 was a Tony Parker hamstring injury suffered sometime during the third quarter. Parker said he will try to play, but his status for Game 4 remains uncertain.

    No team in NBA Finals history has ever come back to win the series after trailing 3-1. The Heat will look to avoid following into that dubious position when they take the floor Thursday night, while the Spurs will look to move within a game of clinching a fifth NBA Championship in the Gregg Popovich/ Tim Duncan era.

  9. Heat blitz Spurs, turn tables in Game 2 victory

    For much of the first three quarters, Game 2 of the NBA Finals looked like it would be every bit the back-and-forth affair Game 1 was. After that, the team facing the prospect of falling in a 2-0 series hole made sure it didn’t happen.

    The Spurs led by one when the Miami Heat went on a 33-5 run to end the third quarter and start the fourth quarter en route to a 103-84 victory.  Despite it being close for the better part of three quarters, the game was probably more lopsided than the final score indicated.

    Turnovers tell part of the story of Game 2. After committing just four turnovers in their 92-88 Game 1 victory, the Spurs committed 16 Sunday night. Tony Parker had five turnovers, one more than the entire team’s total in Game 1. Meanwhile, after just eight turnovers in Game 1, the Heat had only six during Game 2.

    The Spurs and Heat combined to shoot 20 of 39 from three-point range, including a 5-5 performance from Danny Green and a 3-3 performance by Mike Miller from beyond the Arc.

    After posting strong performances in Game 1, Parker and Tim Duncan were far less effective in Game 2. After 20 points and 14 rebounds in Game 1, Duncan grabbed 11 boards and scored just 9 points on 3-13 shooting in Game 2.  Parker needed 14 shots to score his 13 points and had as many turnovers as assists.

    Game 2 was an odd performance by LeBron James, who finished with 17 points on 17 shots, eight rebounds and seven assists. James at times looked lethargic and disengaged, especially in the first half, but his high-flying block of a Tiago Splitter dunk attempt during the Heat’s run was the game’s signature moment.

    With James not at his scoring best, other members of the Heat stepped up. Mario Chalmers scored 19 and did not turn the ball over. As James struggled with his shot, the Heat had success using him as a screener for Chalmers in pick-and-rolls, a play they’ll likely bring with them to San Antonio.

    Chris Bosh added 12 points and 10 rebounds in one of his best postseason performances in weeks. Dwyane Wade showed flashes of aggression offensively when he was able to get the ball on the low block and also added six assists.

    The Heat got a big 40 points from its bench. As Green knocked down long-range shots, Miller and Ray Allen were able to counter, going a combined 6-8 from three-point land. Despite foul trouble, Chris Andersen provided the Heat nine points and four boards in limited minutes off the bench. In Garbage time, even Shane Battier was able to finally knock down a three.

    Even after the 19-point loss, the Spurs return to San Antonio after stealing home court advantage in the series from Miami by virtue of their Game 1 victory. The Heat, despite yielding home court advantage will head to San Antonio feeling they have figured out some of the issues that led to the Game 1 loss.

    Both teams know the importance of Tuesday night’s Game 3. Since the Finals went to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, there have been 12 series tied 1-1 after two games. The winner of Game 3 in these series has won the series 11 of 12 times.

    The series heads back to San Antonio for three games beginning Tuesday. Game 3 tips at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

  10. Spurs take Game 1 with mistake-free play

    If Tony Parker hadn’t Tony Parker’d the Miami Heat with mere milliseconds left on the shot clock during a possession late in Game 1, the tone of the NBA Finals heading into Game 2 may have wound up very different.

    As it stands, the San Antonio Spurs 92-88 victory Thursday stole home court advantage from the Heat for the series and turned Sunday’s Game 2 into basically a must-win for Miami.

    Game 1 had some positive signs for the Heat. LeBron James notched his 10th career postseason triple-double and third career Finals triple-double in what admittedly was not one of his most inspiring performances. Heat shooters, specifically Ray Allen and Mike Miller, were hot to start Game 1. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had more offensive success early than in any game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

    But the Spurs are not the Pacers.

    The Pacers averaged nearly 16 turnovers per game during the Eastern Conference Finals. With the series on the line, the Pacers turned it over 21 times during a blowout Game 7 loss in Miami. The Spurs turned it over just four times during Game 1. In one stretch, the Spurs went over 26 minutes of game-time between turnovers, and just for good measure, they had no fourth quarter turnovers.

    To its credit, the Heat had only eight turnovers. However, five of those came in the fourth quarter and proved to be a death sentence as the Spurs methodically took command, outscoring the Heat 23-16 over the final 12 minutes.

    When the Pacers got behind, they panicked. In their losses, poor stretches snowballed into insurmountable deficits. The Spurs, during Game 1, seemed comfortable just hanging around before ultimately making a run during the fourth quarter to seize control.

    The Heat won the battle of the boards 46-37 in Game 1. Miami shot a better percentage both from the field and from three-point range than the Spurs. The Heat had 20 assists to the Spurs’ 16. The Spurs had the edge at the foul line, where they were +3 and in turnovers forced, where they were +4.

    In a series which features evenly-matched teams who are solid on both the offensive and defensive ends, the margins should continue to be close. The Spurs did just enough to win in Game 1 and put the pressure squarely on Miami heading into Sunday’s Game 2.