NBA Finals: Stephen Curry puts on a show; Cavaliers look deflated in Game 2 loss to Warriors

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors celebrates with Draymond Green during the fourth quarter of Game 2. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Coach Tyronn Lue insisted the Cleveland was not a broken team after squandering a great opportunity to steal Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Lue said the Cavaliers were ready for Sunday’s Game 2 in Oakland.

Lue’s team did not back him up.

Game 2 was more like what most expected from this series. The Cavaliers fell behind early and never led. Now they limp back to Cleveland for Game 3 on Wednesday down 0-2.

“I didn’t think we started the game like we needed to start,” Lue said as Golden State made its first seven field goal attempts. “Not being physical enough. We can’t start the game like that. … We have to start the game better, being more physical, bringing the physicality. We didn’t do that tonight to start.”

The Cavaliers can say what they want but Thursday’s loss was deflating and took something out of the underdogs. Cleveland was flat on both ends of the court for most of the first half and after cutting into the lead in the third quarter, quickly ran out of gas in the fourth quarter as Golden State stretched the lead to 23 before setting fo a 122-103 victory.

Cleveland reverted back to the shaky defensive team was saw all season, allowing the Warriors to shoot 57.3 percent from the field and LeBron James wasn’t anything close to matching his extraordinary Game 1 effort. And unless James plays out of this world, the Cavaliers have no chance.

James once again filled the stat sheet with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 13 assists, but his impact was nothing like Game 1 when he dropped 51. And James looked fatigued at times playing all but the final 4:09. He now has played 185:29 of a possible 197 minutes in the last four games. When LeBron is tired it shows more on the defensive end and in his effort getting back on defense. And he spent more time whining about non-calls than usual.

“It sucks to lose,” said James, who insists he got tired once during the game. “It sucks when you go out there and give everything you have – your mind’s into it, your body’s into it and you come out on the losing end.”

Cleveland forward LeBron James sits on the bench during the second half of the Cavaliers’ Game 2 Finals loss to the Warriors. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Stephen Curry highlight film: The first one came with 7:54 to play in the game. With the shot clock running down Curry briefly lost his dribble, picked up the ball and threw up a high-arcing shot from about 30 feet over Kevin Love that cleaning went through to push the Warriors lead to 14. About two minutes later, Curry raced to the corner and launched another 3-pointer, again over Love. The only difference this time was he landed on his back as he was fouled by Love and the shot turned into a four-point play.

“A big moment where we had a significant lead and we could extend it a little bit and create some separation down the stretch,” Curry said about the three that beat shot clock. “It was a cool moment for sure.”

The two 3-pointers were part of Curry’s Finals record of nine (in 17 attempts). He finished with 33 points and placed himself as the leading contender for Finals MVP. And that is saying a lot when for the second straight game the Warriors’ Big Three all topped 20 points with Kevin Duran scoring 26 (on 10-of-14 shooting) and Klay Thompson adding 20 (8 of 13).

    Warriors fans taunt JR Smith: Cleveland’s JR Smith wasn’t going to forget about one of the biggest blunders in Finals history in Game 1, a play that dominated the conversation during the two-day break between games. Smith’s meltdown in the final seconds of regulation – he dribbled out the final 4.7 seconds with the score tied – gave the Warriors life, who took advantage and dominated the overtime.

Warriors fans first showed Smith how much they appreciated his contributing to their team’s win by loudly cheering him during pregame introductions. Then, with Smith at the foul line, he heard chants of “MVP, MVP.” One fan brought a sign saying Smith was “DA REAL MVP.”

And how did Smith respond? He finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting but wasn’t about to admit the taunts got under his skin. Then again, this is a man who wanted everybody to believe that he knew the score at the end of Game 1 and was dribbling the ball to halfcourt looking for a better shot.

“I’m always a person who the fans like to talk to or heckle,” Smith said. “I like it. I’d rather they do that than not acknowledge me at all. I appreciate it.”

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NBA Finals: JR Smith’s blunder costs LeBron, Cavaliers chance to steal Game 1 from Warriors

Cleveland’s LeBron James looks at JR Smith as time expires in regulation against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals with the score tied at 107. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers – the biggest underdogs in the Finals in 30 years – squandered a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 and now must be wondering just what they have to do to win a game against the Golden State Warriors.

In the final minute of regulation, the Cavaliers were victimized by a little-known rule that allowed the officials to change a call and then watched JR Smith dribble out what could have been their only chance at a win.

Smith rebounded a missed George Hill free throw with 4.7 seconds to play in regulation and thinking the Cavs had the lead raced to halfcourt with the ball. The problem was the game was tied and Smith’s brain cramp send the game into overtime where the Warriors dominated for a 124-114 win.

Although Smith tried to save himself by saying he knew the game was tied and he was trying to find room to get a shot and then thought Cleveland going to call a time out, he clearly believed the Cavs had the lead.

Cavs coach Tryonn Lue confirmed that.

“He thought it was over,” Lue said. “He thought we were up one.”

The look on LeBron James’ face told the story. James finished with 51 points and must have been wondering if his effort was going to go to waste.

It did.

Smith’s mental meltdown concluded a bizarre final minute filled with drama and breakdowns.

It all started with a reversal on a block-charge call with 34.6 seconds to play that had a huge impact on the outcome. Kevin Durant was originally called for an offensive foul but because the officials could review the play to see if James was in the restricted circle, the actual call was also able to be reviewed. It was changed – correctly – to a block on James.

Instead of the Cavs leading 104-102 with the ball, Durant made both free throws and the game was tied.

“For our team to come out and play their hearts out, compete the way we did, it’s bad,” Lue said about the overturned call.

Fast forward to the final seconds with the Warriors leading 107-106 thanks to a Stephen Curry basket and free throw. The Warriors fell asleep on the biggest possession of the game and Klay Thompson had to grab Hill, who was cutting to the basket and would have been wide open as James was making the pass. Hill made the first free throw to tie the score and missed the second, setting up Smith’s blunder.

All of which must have James wondering: “What more can I do?”

James had the sixth 50-point game in NBA Finals history. He also tied Michael Jordan with his 109th playoff game with at least 30 points. James shot 19 of 32, had eight rebounds and eight assists and still could not will his team to a win.

In addition, the Cavaliers finished with a 52-38 rebounding advantage and the Warriors were just 8 of 30 on 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter. They finished 13 of 36.

While Lue said the  Cavs were robbed, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team was lucky.

“We played as well as we’ve played all postseason,” James said. “We gave ourselves a chance possession after possession after possession. And there were some plays that were kind of taken away from us.”

Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson confronts Golden State’s Draymond Green late in Game 1. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Let’s get physical: With the Cavaliers’ frustration level already boiling over, tempers flared in the final seconds of overtime and it could impact Sunday’s Game 2. After James had words with Curry and Thompson, Cleveland’s Tristian Thompson took offense to Shaun Livingston taking a shot with four seconds remaining and threw an elbow at Livingston.

Thompson said the thought Livingston should not have shot the ball and taken the shot clock violation. “That was some bull****,” he said.

Livingston, and the rest of the Warriors, disagreed.

“We don’t ever take a turnover,” Livingston said. “We finish the game out, that’s just how we play. That’s not disrespect to any team.”

Thompson was immediately ejected and as the teams came together Golden State’s Draymond Green started talking and waiving goodbye. Thompson shoved the basketball and his hand in Green’s face. Green backed off.

The league certainly will take a look at the play today and could fine or even suspend Tristian Thompson for a game.

Klay Thompson is in pain after injuring his left knee. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Warriors let out sigh of relief: As much as we all believe this will be a quick series the first quarter reminded us how quickly things could change.

Everybody connected to the Warriors held their breath when Smith slipped and rolled into Klay Thompson’s left knee about six minutes into the game. The Warriors guard went down grimacing and slapped the court, a bad sign. But the news was as good as it could have been for the Warriors as Thompson was diagnosed with a leg contusion and returned at the start of the second quarter. He finished with 24 points.

But the play illustrates why nothing is guaranteed. This could easily have ended differently and suddenly the Warriors are down one of their stars and the series takes on a whole different look.

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Pat Riley on Dwyane Wade as an activist: ‘People believe him. People will follow him’

Dwyane Wade paid tribute to Joaquin Oliver this week by writing Oliver’s name on his sneakers.

MIAMI – Six weeks after Dwyane Wade left Miami in 2016 to sign with the Chicago Bulls, his 32-year-old cousin, Nykea Aldridge, was killed when she was caught in the crossfire of a gang war. Wade, feeling more emboldened by returning to his hometown, spoke out about the gun violence that gripped the city that year and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump using the tragedy for political gain.

Six days after Wade returned to Miami last month, 14 students and three adults were shot and killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. Ten days later Wade learned the parents of 17-year-old Joaquin Oliver buried their son in a Wade jersey. Wade was back on his platform calling for changes in gun laws and reminding everybody that he will not be silenced.

Was Dwyane Wade put in Chicago and Miami for a reason?

“It definitely crossed my mind,” he said.

Wade’s return to South Florida transcends the basketball court. Sure, he has energized the city and the Heat fan base. The online demand for his Heat “Vice” jersey continues to outweigh the supply. And he turned back the clock with two vintage performances this week in which he averaged 26.0 points and knocked down a game-winning contested jump shot against the 76ers.

But he also returns to a community in which his voice resonates, especially with children who look to him as a role model. Because of that Wade promises he will not “shut up and dribble” when it comes to social issues.

The Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade celebrates after scoring the winning basket against Philadelphia on Tuesday. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

“It comes with age,” Wade said about his comfort in taking a stance. “You get older you stop worrying about things the same. As well, you go through life you get educated on a lot of things. There’s a lot of things I’ve learned over the last two, three years, experiences that changed me, that’s changed my outlook. I’m comfortable getting behind, supporting and talking about things that I want to and I’m not really worried about the repercussions of it.

“I feel that I do understand even more now sitting here at 36 the responsibility of being in a position like this. It’s not just making a lot of money and being on SportsCenter or things like that. I know my role in this life and I try to live up to it and I will continue to.”

Wade joined the Heat in 2003 five months after his 21st birthday. He was bursting with energy and talent. His contributions to the Heat then primarily were on the court. But as he has grown and matured, that impact has become far reaching.

“There was such a purpose attached to his life before he even came into the world,” said Jolinda Wade, Dwyane’s mother, a pastor at New Creation Church in Chicago. “Dwyane is a blessing to the world. I believe that he is strategically placed to serve whatever purpose that is attached to his life at that particular moment.”

Few have seen Wade grow and mature in his professional setting as has Heat president Pat Riley, who drafted Wade and then coached him in his early years.

“When he was first here he was young, he wasn’t naïve, he was excited and he was about the game only,” Riley told The Post. “He has matured in a way like I haven’t seen many players. Very sophisticated and almost worldly to a certain extent. How he expresses himself articulately whether it’s social media or whether it’s on a microphone. And he’s right on.

“I think everybody has seen Dwyane grow over the years in these areas, grow through adversity, grow through maturity, grow through being a great player and winning championships, just getting older.”

Riley coached Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for nine seasons with the Lakers, after playing against him in high school and with him in the NBA. Jabbar, 70, is one of the more outspoken social and political activists of his generation. And although Jabbar’s causes were different growing up in the 60s and converting to Islam, Riley sees similarities in Jabbar’s an Wade’s paths.

“I don’t know if Dwyane has the depth in those issues that Kareem has because of their age but I think one day he will,” Riley said. “When you’re seeing things from 15 years in the NBA and 10 years prior to that what he saw in Chicago, it definitely formulates a base of reference for you to be able to fall back on, and Dwyane is continuing to get educated by life and he knows to speak to life in a very succinct way.”

Wade said the first time he felt confident enough to speak out was after Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was shot and killed in 2012 by a security guard in a gated community in Sanford during a physical altercation between the two. Martin was unarmed.

George Zimmerman was tried for the crime and acquitted on self-defense grounds but that did not stop the protests, one coming from the Heat and led by Wade and LeBron James. Wade posted a photo of himself wearing a hoodie to his Twitter and Facebook pages one month later.

“That was the first time for me where I really started getting behind a lot of issues, whether it was politics, whether it was tragedies, and I started doing a lot of things in the community,” Wade said.

Then, after losing his cousin in a year in which Chicago saw 762 murders, the most in nearly two decades, Wade participated in a forum at a YMCA in the South Side of Chicago, not far from where he was raised.

“When you go back and trace his early years, he experienced so much and was around so much of that violence in the South Side,” Riley said. “And he was one of the few that was able to use basketball as a way to get out and to express himself and to become somebody who had a voice.

“Is he going to become an activist or would he ever become an activist? I think one day there is a possibility that he could. People believe him. People will follow him.”

Joaquin Oliver certainly would have had his life not been tragically cut short on Valentine’s Day as he sat in a classroom. Joaquin was excited that Wade had returned to the team he helped lead to three championships and will be remembered for when he is one day enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

And although it was just six days since Wade returned to Miami, Joaquin’s joy must have been overwhelming for his parents to make sure the last time they saw their son he was wearing a Dwyane Wade jersey.

“You play this game and you give everything you have to it and at the end people will argue how good you were statistically, are you in the top, are you not, all that bullcrap,” Wade said.

“It really doesn’t matter. Moments like that is really what the impact is about. What you’ve been able to do for others. What joy you’ve been able to bring.”

Wade has reached out to Joaquin’s family, and Jolinda and her daughter, Tragil, visited the Olivers this week.

Wade feels emboldened by players like James and coaches like Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy, who are outspoken in their opinions on a wide range of topics, including social issues to politics. And he is not surprised when he hears commentators like Fox News’ Laura Ingraham criticize athletes who use their platform by saying they should “shut up and dribble.” In other words, keep their opinions to themselves.

Ingraham directed her comments towards James, who is one of many NBA players who is critical of President Trump.

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard that as an athlete,” Wade said. “She said it to one of the biggest athletes in the world and it got picked up. I was glad it was said to LeBron because now that conversation can start even more.

“We’re people. We’re people who have a tremendous talent God’s given us but we still live in our communities, we still deal with tragedy, we still deal with depression, the stress. We still deal with everything that everyone deals with. … We’re no different than other individuals. … So, yeah, our voice needs to be heard for the parents, for the individuals in the school to bring and share light or attention on what needs to be done and how we can help get it done.”

And Jolinda, for one, will continue to encourage her son to preach.

“There’s not really works that can explain how proud I am as his mother to see the young man he has become, through life experiences, being a father, understanding that he has a bigger purpose than just playing basketball,” she said. “For him to be the voice to speak the way he speaks and to share his heart, I love it.”

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Disheartened Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had trouble sleeping after David Fizdale was fired

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra (right) said David Fizdale, fired Monday by Memphis, will step back from coaching this season.

CLEVELAND – Erik Spoelstra was distraught when hearing his friend, and former assistant, David Fizdale was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. So much so that the Heat coach had a tough time sleeping.

“I had a tough time wrapping my mind around it and a tough time even sleeping last night, thinking about it,” Spoelstra said Tuesday following the Heat’s shootaround prior to tonight’s game against the Cavaliers.

“You think as a young assistant going over there, moving cities to a new organization that’s transitioning, that you think it would be about the long game. And to have patience, and to be able to work through that transition, to be able to create something new. And that takes time in this league. And that’s what was so disheartening about it.

“Yes, they were going through a tough stretch right now, but this league is uncomfortable. It is. It is when you lose and you get challenged as an organization, when you’re going through those stretches. But, on the other side of those stretches oftentimes are the greatest benefits, when you’re able to get through that adversity together.”

With four assistant coaches, Spoelstra has one opening but he said Fizdale, 43, will not be re-joining the Heat, where he was an assistant from 2008-2016.

“”He’s not doing that right now,” he said. “He’s going to take some time, as well he should. Since something like this happens so suddenly and shockingly, I think the best thing to do is to step back, which is what his plan is, and really disengage and then contemplate his next move. He’s a head coach. I would love to have him at least join him as a consultant or somebody to break some bread and share some wine, but that’s not going to happen right now.”

Fizdale will collect the $5 million owed to him this season and next by the Grizzlies.

Fizdale joined the Heat in 2008 after five years as an assistant with the Warriors and Hawks. He was in Miami for eight years, the last two as an assistant head coach. Fizdale heavily was involved in game preparation and player development.

“Great basketball mind,” said Udonis Haslem, who played for the Heat during Fizdale’s entire tenure.

“Can relate to him. One of those coaches that can calm me down and get to me no matter the situation. We just spoke the same language, spoke the same lingo. We just really could relate. Great passion for the game.”

Spoelstra and Haslem both reached out to Fizdale on Monday. Haslem said the was “shocked” by the news.

“Couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I don’t think it was right. He took them to the playoffs last year. Obviously, they’ve had some injuries so they struggled, it’s not easy to play without your full roster. We know that first hand. We’ve been through that. I felt like he should have got a little bit more commitment from the organization. A little more patience.”

Fizdale was 50-51 in just more than one season in Memphis. The Grizzlies lost in the first round of the 2017 playoffs and have dropped to 7-12 this year after having lost eight straight.

The tipping point, though, was his deteriorating relationship with center Marc Gasol, who Fizdale benched for the fourth quarter of a loss to Brooklyn on Sunday. Memphis GM Chris Wallace acknowledged to local reporters there was tension between Fizdale and Gasol but said the decision was more about the way the team was performing.

The support for Fizdale was heard all over the NBA, not just from the Heat.

“I think David Fizdale is one of the best coaches in the league,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a brilliant guy, he’s got an edge to him, he’s tough, he’s smart. Their whole team is injured, Mike Conley is out. Like, this is what happens, you lose when your best players are out and when your whole team is wiped out. It caught me off guard.”

Cavalier coach Tyronn Lue, on Monday, vouched for Fizdale as a person and a coach.

“To pick up and move his family there, leave a good situation in Miami, where they were winning. … He was a part of those championships,” Lue said. “And then when you have an opportunity, I thought he did a great job. A lot of guys thought he did a great job. For this to happen to him, to a good person, to his family, it’s not right. I feel for him, but he did a helluva job.”

Fizdale took the high road in his statement issured early Tuesday that read:

“I would like to thank the Memphis Grizzlies organization for allowing me the opportunity to lead this proud franchise and represent the city of Memphis,” he wrote.

After thanking the ownership group and team officials he continued.  “It was a great honor and experience to serve as your Head Coach and be part of the Memphis community. The city of Memphis is a special place and embodies a spirit that is second to none. I wish the organization and the players the best moving forward and hope they bring the fans the championship they so richly deserve.”

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NBA Finals: Should this Golden State Warriors team be considered among the all-time greats?

The Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant carries his MVP trophy as he celebrates with fans a championship after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 129-120, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, June 12, 2017. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

The Warriors have earned another spot in the NBA history book.

With Monday’s 129-120 win over the Cavaliers, Golden State didn’t just claim its second NBA championship in three seasons. The Warriors also posted a 16-1 record (.941 win percentage) in these playoffs to go on the best title run ever, percentage points better than the 2001 Lakers (15-1, .938). Continue reading “NBA Finals: Should this Golden State Warriors team be considered among the all-time greats?”

2017 NBA Finals: 10 storylines as the Cavaliers and Warriors meet for third straight year

Cleveland’ s LeBron James celebrates in the final moments of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals against at Golden State. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will meet for the third consecutive season in the NBA Finals starting Thursday in Oakland.

The teams have split the first two series, with the Warriors winning in six games in 2015 and the Cavaliers recovering from a 3-1 hole to win Game 7 on the road in 2016.

Now, we have a new twist to the rivalry as Kevin Durant joined the Warriors in the offseason to give them a Big 4 (Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green) to go against Cleveland’s Big 3 (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love).

The series should be compelling so we bring you 10 storylines to keep in mind throughout:

Will Golden State lose a game these playoffs?

The Warriors enter the finals 12-0 in the postseason with sweeps over Portland, Utah and San Antonio. The closest anybody has come to that in the expanded playoffs era (needing 15 or 16 wins for the title) are the 2001 Lakers who were 15-1, sweeping the first three rounds and defeating Philadelphia in the Finals, 4-1. So the question really is: Will Golden State sweep Cleveland, which would give it a 16-0 postseason? The Warriors will win the title but, yes, they will lose a game – or two – along the way.

If the Cavaliers wins, will LeBron James’ success in Cleveland surpass his success in Miami?

LeBron’s first two seasons in his return to Cleveland and first two in Miami ended the same; losing in the Finals the first year and winning a championship the second. And while LeBron’s Cavs teams have had an easier run through the East than his Heat teams, the Warriors teams Cleveland has played in the Finals clearly are better than the Mavericks and Thunder teams the Heat faced in the 2011 and 2012 Finals. The Heat then defeated a very good Spurs team in the 2013 Finals, one that was much closer to these Warriors. If Cleveland wins this season it is on the same track as the 2011-2014 Heat. Then perhaps next year could determine which team has been more successful.

Will we see Warriors coach Steve Kerr on the bench in the Finals?

Kerr has not been on the bench since Game 2 of Golden State’s first round series against Portland due to complications from his 2015 back surgery – a spinal cord fluid leak causing headaches and nausea. Kerr, though, started traveling during the conference finals but remained in the locker room during games as Mike Brown continued as acting head coach. Kerr said Monday that he is not healthy enough to return to the bench and his status for the series is “still up in the air.”

What would another title mean to LeBron James’ legacy?

LeBron (and teammate James Jones) will become the only players not members of the Celtics’ dynasty of the 1960s to appear in at least seven straight finals. Michael Jordan, the man to whom LeBron is compared, never played in more than three in a row but it can be argued he would have been to eighth straight had he not abruptly left the sport for two seasons. This is James’ eight finals overall, winning three championships and losing four times in his previous seven. But last year’s title came against the greatest regular season team in league history. He still will have to convince some he is on par with Jordan if the Cavs upset the Warriors, but that gap would be narrowed.

Will the winning team be invited to the White House?

This will become a storyline after the Finals. Kerr is one of a handful of NBA coaches who have been outspoken against Donald Trump, calling him a “blowhard” and saying he “could not be more ill-suited” to be president. James never has been a fan of Trump’s, speaking out against his immigration order and refusing to stay at a Trump property in New York. The question then comes down to if the winner somehow is invited, will it accept?

Will Charles Barkley accuse Kevin Durant of riding Stephen Curry’s coattails if Golden State wins?

A discussion last week between Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on TNT got personal when Shaq once again reminded Barkley that he has never won a title and Barkley shot back that Shaq won his four titles by riding the coattails of Kobe Bryant in L.A. and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Durant could be accused of the same thing if the Warriors win. Durant already was heavily criticized last summer for joining Golden State after his Oklahoma City team blew a 3-1 series lead in the conference finals and lost Game 7.

Are Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love a better fit with LeBron James than Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh?

James had his ups and downs (mostly ups) with both the Cavaliers (since his return) and the Heat, but many believe he has never been better than he has this postseason. In both situations the third wheel of the Big 3 (Bosh and Love) had to make major sacrifices and at times some wondered if it would work (it did). James’ main sidekick (Wade and Irving) appeared to have an easier time with the transition. The biggest difference is Irving is a point guard while Wade is a shooting guard. But either way, James has done pretty well playing with both.

Will Draymond Green stay out of trouble in this year’s Finals?

The Warriors’ polarizing forward was suspended for Game 5 last season after being assessed a flagrant foul 1 on a play in which he and James got tangled and Green swung his arm into James’ groin area. Green has had several incidents throughout his career in which he has appeared to attempt to kick an opposing player, sometimes making contact to the groin. But Green has been a good boy during these playoffs. … so far. The NBA has handed out 10 fines during the postseason, none to Green. And there have been four flagrant 1s and one flagrant 2 called, none on Green. The worst he’s gotten is two technical fouls. So, continue that pattern and, yes, he’ll be OK. But, you never know with that temper.

Can either team be challenged in their respective conferences in the next few years?

The Warriors are younger when you consider their top four players still are in their 20s (Curry will turn 30 next March). James is 32 while Irving and Love are in their 20s. Still, neither team appears to be slowing down at least for the next two to three years. The only team possibly challenging either is Boston, which made it to the East finals this season, has the No. 1 pick in the draft and enough money to sign a max free agent.

Will the Finals make up for a boring NBA postseason to date?

Like the thrilling second half and overtime of the Super Bowl made up for a boring NFL playoffs? Yes. These playoffs have not been very competitive with five series ending in sweeps and two more lasting just five games, and just two going to Game 7. But this is what everybody has been waiting for and now is the time for the Warriors and Cavaliers to save the postseason.

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Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra named NBCA co-Coach of the Year

Erik Spoelstra’s peers recognized him for the job he did in leading the Miami Heat to a .500 record this season. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

After nine seasons, two titles, four trips to the Finals and seven playoff appearances, the Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra finally has been formally recognized as one of the  best coaches in the league.

Spoelstra was named co-winner of the inaugural Michael H. Goldberg National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year award it was announced Sunday. He shares the honor with the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

The award, voted upon by league’s 30 head coaches, is named for the longtime executive director of the coaches association who died earlier this year. The winner of the media voting will be announced June 26.

Dallas Mavericks coach and NBCA President Rick Carlisle recognized Spoelstra and D’Antoni.

“Congratulations to Mike and Erik on their outstanding work this year,” Carlisle said. “And somewhere up above our good friend Michael Goldberg is very proud.”

Spoelstra, 46, guided the Heat to the biggest turnaround in league history, going from 11-30 in the first half of the season to 30-11 in the second half. Miami is the only team in league history to finish at .500 after being 19 games under at some point during that season. The Heat tied with the Bulls for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference but the final playoff spot went to Chicago because of the tie-breaker.

This, despite Miami leading the league with 328 player games lost to injury or illness.

Spoelstra is 440-282 in his nine seasons as head coach. The closest he ever came to winning a coach of the year award was following the 2012-13 season after Miami finished 66-16.  Denver’s George Karl won the media award with a 57-25 record. Spoelstra was runner-up, 214 votes behind. The season ended with the Heat winning their second consecutive title under Spoelstra.

In the other three years of the Big Three in which Miami averaged nearly 53 victories, went to the Finals each year and won the 2012 title, Spoelstra received one Coach of the Year vote. … combined. That was a first place vote in 2010-11. The next year 15 different coaches received at least one vote as did 10 different coaches in 2013-14 .

Heat President Pat Riley believes coaching this team, which lost Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and included seven new players, was a different challenge for Spoelstra.

“There’s always challenges when you have great teams that are supposed to win. … And then there’s this kind of challenge in which I think he’s handled with great experience and by staying the course,” Riley said.

Heat guard Goran Dragic posted a video late in the season endorsing his coach for the top honor.

“In my opinion, he should win Coach of the Year,” Dragic said. “Everybody knows how we started the season and how we’ve bounced back, and a lot of credit goes to Erik.”

D’Antoni, 65, led the Rockets to the third best record in the NBA (55-27) and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference in his first season in Houston. D’Antoni improved Houston’s win total by 14 and put James Harden in position to become a legitimate MVP candidate.

Houston is D’Antoni’s fifth head coaching job.

Other coaches to receive votes included Washington’s Scott Brooks, Memphis’ David Fizdale, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich, the Clippers’ Doc Rivers and Utah’s Quin Snyder.

Spoelstra and D’Antoni will receive their trophy at the NBCA annual meeting of head coaches in September.

[Guard Wayne Ellington’s future in Miami is up to the Heat: ‘This is the place I want to be’]

[Former Heat cult hero Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen looking to take flight out of Miami]

[When it comes to free agency, what a difference a year makes for Heat forward James Johnson]

[Want more Heat news sent directly to your Facebook feed? Make sure to like our Heat Facebook page]

 

 

Miami Heat’s Erik Spoelstra gaining momentum in Coach of Year conversation. But can he win it?

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra watches his team during the first half of Miami’s victory at the Knicks on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra name is coming up more frequently in Coach of the Year talk with the Heat solidly in contention for a playoff spot.

The latest are analysts Greg Anthony and Jeff Van Gundy.

Anthony declared Monday on NBA TV that, “if the Heat make the playoffs, Erik Spoelstra is coach of the year.”

Van Gundy, talking to Fox 26 in Houston, said his top two are Spoelstra and the Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni.

This follows what analyst Reggie Miller tweeted last week to his nearly 800,000 followers:

“My Coach of the Year vote goes to Erik Spoelstra, especially if the Heat end up making Playoffs.. Miami had to reinvent themselves..”

Miller went on to say Boston’s Brad Stevens, D’Antoni and Utah’s Quin Snyder are strong candidates but that each is “working with All Stars and potential MVPs.”

Spoelstra also received love from Hall of Famers Kevin McHale and Isiah Thomas on Monday.

McHale said he didn’t think the Heat would win 25 games and then “they started believing in each other. A lot of that goes to Erik Spoelstra.”

Thomas said the Heat “probably are the most physically fit team in the East.”

The Heat (37-38) have won 26-of-34 games after having the second worst record in the league at 11-30. Miami is No. 7 in the East by virtue of owning the tiebreaker over Indiana, 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Chicago.

With Atlanta and Milwaukee tied for the fifth and sixth best records in the league (39-36), the Heat are two games out of the fifth spot.

Heat guard Goran Dragic recently posted a video on Twitter through “Uninterrupted” campaigning for Spoelstra to be coach of the year.

“In my opinion, he should win Coach of the Year,” Dragic said. “Everybody knows how we started the season and how we’ve bounced back, and a lot of credit goes to Erik.

“He’s an unbelievable coach, and a lot of players, we love to play for him. He’s putting the guys in the right spots and that’s how the players can thrive under his system. And he’s such a great communicator with all the players.”

FanRag picks Spoelstra over Washington’s Scott Brooks and D’Antoni and the praise has come from all corners, including his peers and his boss, Heat president Pat Riley.

The most recent coach to single out Spoelstra was Boston’s Brad Stevens. And Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy, whose team suffered a huge blow to their playoff hopes Tuesday, losing 79-96 at home to the Heat on a Hassan Whiteside tip in at the buzzer, said earlier this season that “there’s  not a better coach in the league” than Spoelstra.

Spoelstra, who was named the Eastern Conference’s coach of the month for February, likely has to get the Heat to .500 and into the playoffs to be a serious contender. If he does – and that could happen Friday when Miami returns home to face the Knicks – the Heat would become the first team in NBA history to reach .500 after being 19 games under.

Just three coaches in history have won the award coaching a team that was .500 or below, the most recent being Doc Rivers when his 1999-00 Orlando team finished 41-41 and missed the playoffs by one game.

One coach who won’t be voting for Spoelstra is Golden State’s Steve Kerr, who said Tuesday he believes D’Antoni has earned the honor.

“I think the fit with the roster and Mike’s philosophy has been perfect,” Kerr said Tuesday. “What he’s so good at is really giving his players confidence and belief. They’re obviously having an amazing year. My guess is that he’ll get the trophy. He’s earned it.”

The Coach of the Year award most is voted upon by the media. The National Basketball Coaches Association also recognizes a COY. That award, which will be named after Michael H. Goldberg, the longtime executive director of the NBCA who died in January, is voted upon by the coaches.

[Five takeaways: Heat cruise past Knicks to clinch winning road trip in middle of playoff race]

[NBA officiating report states Hassan Whiteside’s game-winning basket vs. Pistons never should have happened]

[A look at what went right for Heat, wrong for Pistons leading up to Hassan Whiteside’s game-winner]

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Heat’s Udonis Haslem on Trump’s immigration order: ‘We’re supposed to be the land of the free’

 

image Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem spoke out Tuesday against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration that bans citizens from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States.

“We’re supposed to be the land of the free,” Haslem said about the order that has led to large protests at airports around the country. “You can’t put everybody in one pot because of their race and religion. That’s what we’ve been fighting against for so long. It finally felt like we were getting close to a point where we were starting to turn and then something like this happens.

“It’s like one step forward and five steps back.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the team has not had a discussion to speak specifically about the issue – although the issue was expected to be raised at a meeting Tuesday led by players’ association rep Wayne Ellington – but he’s heard his players talking.

“I heard guys talking about it before (Monday’s) shootaround,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll be talking about in the locker room now because it is sad. It’s really sad to see that it’s come to this.”

The executive order suspends all refuges from entering the country for 120 days and blocked citizens from seven Muslim-based countries from coming to America for 90 days.

The NBA had questions, but specifically about two players, Lakers forward Luol Deng, who played the last two seasons for the Heat, and Bucks center Thon Maker, both from South Sudan.

The league contacted the state department looking for clarity regarding when those players travel to Toronto for a game.

Sudan is one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries in which Trump issued a 90-day ban on travel. South Sudan, which became an independent country in 2011, is not on the list. The others: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

[Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 104-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets]

The NBA has not been quiet on the issue with several players and coaches criticizing the order. One of the more outspoken was Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was born in Lebanon and whose father, Malcolm H. Kerr, a university professor whose specialty was the Middle East, was assassinated in Beirut in 1984.

“I would just say that as someone whose family member was a victim of terrorism, having lost my father, if we’re trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country by really going against the principles that this country is about and creating fear, it’s the wrong way to go about it,” Kerr said following the Warriors game Sunday. “If anything, we could be breeding anger and terror, so I’m completely against what’s happening.

“I think it’s shocking and a horrible idea and I really feel for all the people who are affected and the families that are being torn apart and I worry in the big picture what this means to the security of the world. He’s going about it completely the opposite — you want to solve terror, you want to solve crime, this is not the way to do it.”

The NBA Players Association and the league both released statements.

From the NBAPA: “Anything that might compromise our players’ freedom as members of the global basketball community is a cause of concern for the NBPA. With that in mind, we have been working diligently to gather all available information regarding the recent executive order on immigration and its potential affects on our players. We’ve also been in regular contact with the players who could be impacted, and we will continue to monitor the situation very closely.”

From the league: “Anything that might compromise our players’ freedom as members of the global basketball community is a cause of concern for the NBPA. With that in mind, we have been working diligently to gather all available information regarding the recent executive order on immigration and its potential effect on our players. We’ve also been in regular contact with the players who could be impacted, and we will continue to monitor the situation very closely.”

 

 

 

Warriors’ Steve Kerr among NBA coaches speaking out against, mocking Trump and his administration

 

Don't expect Steve Kerr and the Warriors to be getting an invite to the White House if they win the NBA title.
Don’t expect Steve Kerr and the Warriors to be getting an invite to the White House if they win the NBA title.

MIAMI — San Antonio’s Greg Popovich is not the only NBA coach speaking out against/mocking Donald Trump and his administration.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr is matching Popovich quote for quote.

Before the Warriors victory at Orlando on Sunday, Kerr was asked about his brief career with the Magic, in which he smiled and was very ‘liberal’ with the use of the word “star.” He was then asked if those were his “alternative facts” about his stay with the Magic.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he said. “Sean Spicer will be talking about my career any second now, 14,000 points, greatest player in Magic history.”

Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, ripped into the media Saturday for its reporting of the size of the crowd at Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, saying, “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration.”

Kerr, whose Warriors face the Heat tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena played 47 games for Orlando during the 1992-93 season and scored 122 points.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers chimed in on Saturday, referencing Trump during his pregame media session.

Kerr was one of a handful of coaches who blasted Trump after he won the November election. During a nearly three-minute rant the day after the election he said he was disappointed with the lack of respect Trump has shown to so many.

Here is a portion of what he said:

“Maybe we should’ve seen it coming over the last 10 years. You look at society, you look at what’s popular. People are getting paid millions of dollars to go on TV and scream at each other, whether it’s in sports or politics or entertainment, and I guess it was only a matter of time before it spilled into politics. But then all of a sudden you’re faced with the reality that the man who’s gonna lead you has routinely used racist, misogynist, insulting words.”

Click here to read his comments in full.

I think it’s safe to say the Warriors will not be receiving an invite to the White House if they win the NBA title. And even if they did, what’s the chance they would accept.

On Saturday, the day after Trump’s inauguration, Popovich spoke out, saying “you can’t really believe anything that comes out of his mouth.”

Kerr, Popovich and Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy were the three most outspoken coaches the day after the election. Van Gundy called Trump “brazenly racist and misogynistic.”