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.

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

Sixers Mailbag: Draft De'Aaron Fox at 3, re-sign Ersan Ilyasova?

This week, I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses. If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don’t see it on here, don't worry, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

The Sixers should explore all possibilities: trade up, trade down, trade the pick, draft third. The draft is a little funky this year in that there is not a clear-cut choice between picks three through five, and perhaps beyond that. If the Sixers like either player, there is the possibility they could simply select that player No. 3.

I’ve said before, I could see Fox going third. The speedy point guard met with the Sixers at the draft combine and outlined how he would fit playing off the ball with Ben Simmons and finding opportunities with Joel Embiid. Is three a stretch for him? I don’t think so (more on why here).

Monk has not been projected as high as Fox, so the option of trading down for him is viable. If the Sixers draft for need, however, his skill set is a fit at three. Monk is their best option for a shooter, and they are lacking shooters. It's not uncommon for a prospect to jump in the draft order based on what the team at that selection is looking for. Of course, if the Sixers trade down, they could pick up another piece (future pick, etc.) in addition to Monk in the deal, which always is worth considering.

Ersan Ilyasova was a great veteran presence for the Sixers this season before they traded him to the Hawks at the deadline. He boosted their offense and, more importantly, helped in Dario Saric’s development.

The Sixers and Ilyasova had different plans for the future, though, and understandably so. Ilyasova, who turned 30 this month, was going to be looking for a longer-term contract this offseason than the Sixers were interested in offering. Ilyasova wanted commitment and security at this point in his career; the Sixers wanted flexibility with their options in the frontcourt.

Ilyasova has put together a résumé that will attract teams in free agency this summer.

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

De'Aaron Fox
Position: PG
School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3
Weight: 170 pounds
Wingspan: 6-6½

The case for Fox
With maybe the deepest point guard class in recent draft history, Fox has been flying up draft boards in the past month while still staying relatively under the radar when compared with Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball — the expected top two picks in some order. He is electric on offense, and the Wildcats' guard posted double-figure points in all but four games during his lone collegiate season.

Against UCLA in the Sweet 16, Fox scored a career-high 39 and added four dimes. But perhaps more impressively, he shut down Ball, holding his 6-foot-6 counterpart to just 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting and one trey. And it wasn't just a one-time thing — two nights later, Fox held North Carolina guard Joel Berry II to just 11 points.

Although the Sixers have repeatedly said Ben Simmons will be their starting point guard at the beginning of next season (assuming the young star has no other setbacks), they will need someone to defend against opponents' quicker guards. With T.J. McConnell as the only true ballhandler currently on the roster, Fox certainly would be able to help spell Simmons at the point as well.

When experts began putting together their mock draft boards at the end of the college basketball season, Fox was frequently listed as a back-end lottery selection. Now, many have him as a potential top-five pick, and it's hard to see Fox slipping much past the Kings at No. 5 as Sacramento is a rebuilding team still in search of a point guard of their own.

The case against Fox
The biggest knock on Fox is his size. On Kentucky's website, he is listed at 187 pounds. But at the NBA draft combine, he measured in 17 pounds lighter. For scouts already concerned with his thin frame, this did little to reassure them that Fox will be able to hang with bigger guards at the next level — but maybe he fits as a complement to the 6-foot-11 Simmons.

Another worry is his three-point shooting. For the season, Fox shot just 24.9 percent from beyond the arc, attempting just fewer than two three-pointers per game. As a team in 2016-17, the Sixers took the seventh-most triples but ranked 25th out of 30 NBA teams from distance at 34 percent. With the Sixers in desperate need of consistent outside shooting, Fox would need to significantly improve that area of his game at the next level to help Brett Brown's team take the next step.

And, of course, as with most young ballhandlers (Fox is just 19), he has rough spots when leading the offense. Yes, Fox helped Kentucky to its fair share of highlight-reel alley-oops, yet he still struggled to command the Wildcats' offense at times and would occasionally get lost in pick-and-roll defense. Although his 5.8 assists per 40 minutes are a sign that he can eventually grow into the point guard that the Sixers need him to be, they could also use Fox to be an immediate impact player for a team that is finally trying to put all the pieces together.

Analysis
If the Sixers do in fact miss out on Fultz and Ball, Fox would certainly be a good consolation prize. He is incredibly quick with the ball in his hands and has the potential to improve defensively. In fact, our Amy Fadool lauded him as one of the most improved players in all of college basketball last season — he shot almost 48 percent from the field in Kentucky's final 14 games of the season.

There is no one on the Sixers' roster, as it stands, with a skill set comparable to Fox's, but it's still fair to question how he will handle some of the bigger and stronger point guards in the Eastern Conference, such as Kyrie Irving and John Wall, on both ends of the floor. With plenty of young budding talent in the fold, though, if Fox can immediately step in as a plus defender and a steady reserve ballhandler, he could definitely help the Sixers' core of Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric become even more lethal offensively.

A couple of weeks ago, I definitely viewed Fox as a stretch at No. 3. The more I think about it, however, he would not be an unreasonable selection for the Sixers. Yes, they also would likely have the option of Kansas' Josh Jackson or Duke's Jayson Tatum, as well as Fox's former teammate, Malik Monk, when they go on the clock, but Fox could fill a critical need. 

If the Sixers were somehow able to get the Kings to trade up to No. 3, Fox would be a great pick at No. 5 overall. And if Fultz or Ball were somehow available at No. 3, the Sixers would be hard-pressed to pass on either. Still, with so many talented point guards in this year's class, Fox is very much a worthy first-round candidate.