NBA Wrap: Big 3 spark Heat in Game 4 win

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NBA Wrap: Big 3 spark Heat in Game 4 win

3SAN ANTONIO -- Miami Heat owner Micky Arison had a message as he walked to the winning locker room.

"The death of the Big Three was overrated," he said.

Sure was. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his three prized players, are just fine.

So are the Heat's championship hopes.

Riding big performances from their three All-Stars, the Heat tied the NBA Finals with a 109-93 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night in Game 4.

"It was on our shoulders," James said. "We had to figure out how to win the game for us and play at the highest level. When all three of us are clicking we're very tough to beat."

James had 33 points and 11 rebounds after failing to break 20 points in any of the first three games of the series, and Wade scored 32 points, 11 more than his previous high this postseason.

Bosh matched his playoff high with 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, he and Wade supplying the baskets that finally put the Spurs away for good midway through the fourth quarter.

Three players, 85 points. Just the way the Heat envisioned it when they signed James and Bosh to play with Wade in 2010.

"When Bosh, Wade and James score the way they did tonight and shoot it the way they did tonight, a team is going to have a difficult time if you help them like we did," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

"When those guys are playing like that, you better be playing a perfect game."

The Spurs weren't, committing 19 turnovers that led to 23 points.

And just like they have for the last five months, the Heat bounced back from a loss with a victory. They are 12-0 after defeats since Jan. 10, outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 20 points in the previous 11 victories.

Tim Duncan scored 20 points for the Spurs, who have one more game here on Sunday. They fell to 10-3 at home all-time in the finals, failing to back up their 113-77 victory in Game 3 that was the third-most lopsided score in the history of the championship series.

James insisted he would be better after shooting 7 of 21 from the field with no free throws in that game, saying he was the star and it was his job to lead his team. He was 15 of 25 on Thursday.

But while James -- and millions of critics worldwide -- wanted to pile all the pressure on the league's MVP, it was Wade on Wednesday who said it was the Heat's three All-Stars who had to lead them together, or there would be no championship.

He was right. And now those championship hopes are right back on track.

"It was all about myself, Chris and LeBron coming out and leading this team to a victory," Wade said.

"The thing we talked about is we all have to make an impact in this game, somehow, some way."

Wade shot 14 of 25, adding six steals, six rebounds and four assists in a performance that James compared to when Wade was MVP of the 2006 finals.

Tony Parker had 15 points and nine assists for the Spurs, who made a finals-record 16 3-pointers on Tuesday but got up only 16 attempts in this one. Gary Neal scored 13 points and Danny Green had 10, solid nights but nothing like when they combined for 13 3-pointers two nights earlier.

"They play very aggressive defense," Parker said. "They gamble and they take a lot of chances, and tonight it worked."

The Heat guaranteed they will get at least one more game on their home floor. Game 6 will be Tuesday night, where they could have a chance to celebrate a second straight championship.

The revelry in south Florida was marred Thursday by an accident in which the deck behind a popular sports bar collapsed during the game, spilling patrons into Biscayne Bay. Miami Dade Fire Chief David Downey said 24 people were transported to area hospitals, and that two people were in serious condition.

"We share our concerns for all that was injured at Shuckers restaurant," Wade said as he started his postgame news conference.

Wade, battling right knee pain throughout the spring, helped the Heat put it away in the fourth quarter. He followed a basket with a steal and dunk, pushing the lead to 90-81, and after he made another jumper, Bosh scored the next six Heat points, taking the load off of James.

"We're not going to put him on an island," Bosh said. "He's never alone. We're out there with him."

The Heat switched their lineup, inserting Mike Miller, who made 10 of his 11 shots, going 9 of 10 on 3-pointers, in the first three games of the series. They changed uniforms, too, switching from their road reds to their blacks.

The only change they really needed was in the performances of their Big Three.

James called it a "must-win" and it probably was: No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals.

And the way their three stars played, they couldn't lose.

The Heat blocked shots, made stops, and occasionally flopped, playing with renewed aggression after what coach Erik Spoelstra called a "miserable" day of watching and analyzing their passive performance from Tuesday.

They still haven't lost two in a row since Jan. 8 and 10.

Parker played through a strained right hamstring, shooting 7 of 16, but the Spurs couldn't match the Heat's speed.

After the teams traded blowouts in the previous two games, momentum swung wildly in a first half that ended tied at 49. San Antonio raced to a quick 10-point lead, fell behind by 10 with 7 minutes left in the half, then finished with an 11-2 spurt sparked by reserve Boris Diaw. Bosh dove for a dunk that came just after the buzzer, Spurs owner Peter Holt waving it off from his seat along the sideline.

James rocked back and forth during the national anthem, a bundle of energy ready to get going. It took a few minutes after the game started, but he began playing with the speed and power that can make him unguardable, grabbing rebounds on defense and rushing the ball up the floor himself to get the Heat into their offense.

He and Wade combined to make 10 of 11 shots and score 21 points in the first quarter, helping the Heat erase their early 10-point deficit to go ahead 29-26.

Popovich even lit into Duncan during an early second-quarter timeout with Miami on its way to a 41-31 advantage, but the Spurs had it back to even by the time the teams headed to the locker room.

Notes
Sebastien De La Cruz, an 11-year-old mariachi singer, sang the national anthem again after his Game 3 performance set off a barrage of racist tweets by what Popovich called "idiots." Popovich and Spoelstra congratulated him at midcourt after his performance, which earned him a rousing ovation. ... James passed Hakeem Olajuwon (3,755 points) and John Havlicek (3,776) to move into ninth place in career playoff scoring. James has 3,777.

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.