Even in a loss, Rondo's effort was historic

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Even in a loss, Rondo's effort was historic

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Back and forth they went in overtime, Rajon Rondo and the Miami Heat. Rondo scored. The Heat answered. Then again. And again. Eventually, Rondo missed, one of the rare times he didn't deliver on an unforgettable night. Moments later, the Heat took the lead for good, finally able to close out a wild Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored eight of his 23 points in the extra session and the Heat rallied from 15 down to beat the Boston Celtics 115-111 on Wednesday night -- taking a 2-0 lead in the series by pulling off the biggest comeback in franchise postseason history. "One of the best games I've played in, win or lose," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "It's easier said when you win -- but it's unbelievable." Rondo scored all 12 of Boston's points in overtime, capping a 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound effort in which he played every second of a 53-minute game. The Heat expected Boston's best -- and the Celtics didn't disappoint, yet still head home for Game 3 on Friday night facing a deficit no Boston team has rallied from to win a series since 1969. "Listen, we played terrific," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I told them, we played extremely hard. I thought we played with great heart tonight, but I didn't think we played smart all the time. And there's things we can absolutely fix, and we'll do that. We'll be ready for Friday." Mario Chalmers scored 22 for the Heat, who took 47 free throws -- 24 by James -- to Boston's 29. "This group had resolve," Wade said of the Celtics. "They came out and played a great game. It was physical early. They brought the game to us. That can't happen. We used our crowd and the energy to get back into the game and we had to play better." Paul Pierce scored 21 points, Kevin Garnett added 18 and Ray Allen 13 for Boston. Rondo finished 16 of 24 from the floor, 10 of 12 from the foul line and made both his 3-point tries. "He showed why he's one of the best point guards in this league," Chalmers said. Rondo shrugged off his night. "We lost," Rondo said. "Simple as that." Allen's 3-pointer with 34.3 seconds left tied the game at 99-all. James missed two shots, first a layup -- he got the rebound of his own miss -- and then a jumper on the final possession of regulation, and to overtime they went. "We had to do it the tough way," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. The Heat had come back to win from 14 points down in playoff games twice before, first in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA finals -- their title clincher -- and again last season against Philadelphia. And this one was slipping away, more than once. James missed two free throws 21 seconds into overtime, and Miami looked in trouble, especially since Rondo was simply taking over. When Rondo missed a layup -- he thought he was fouled, and the Celtics agreed -- with 1:33 left, Miami took advantage, with Udonis Haslem getting a dunk to put the Heat up 105-103. And after a turnover on the next Boston possession, Wade drove the lane, hit the deck and watched as his layup bounced on the rim and dropped through. Garnett stood over Wade and glared, to no avail. Wade hit the free throw, and Miami was up 110-105 with 59.7 seconds left. By then, the no-call on Rondo had the Celtics seething. "It was obvious," Rondo said. Added Allen: "We all thought he got hit. I'll say it. He did, but what can you do about it?" Miami was down by 15 in the first half and by as many as 11 in the third quarter, before a pair of 3-pointers by James started a comeback. Wade made consecutive jumpers midway through the third to shake off a slow start to his night and get the Heat within three both times, and the 2006 NBA finals MVP set up Haslem for a three-point play with 2:55 left that gave Miami its first lead since the opening minutes, 73-71. As Haslem's shot dropped, Wade spun at midcourt and punched the air. More highlights followed. Miami's lead got to as much as seven in the third after James blocked Pierce's shot near the rim, sending the ball high into the air and starting a sequence that was capped by a three-point play from Wade, pushing the margin to 78-71. It capped a 12-0 run for the Heat, who took an 81-75 lead into the fourth. It was the fifth straight game where Miami outscored its opponent by double-digits in the third quarter. In each of the previous four of those outings, Miami never trailed in the final period. That streak ended in this one. "It's been very key for us, whether we're up, whether we're down, to win that quarter," Wade said. "But in the fourth quarter, even when we were down, we felt like we were close enough. ... We never felt like we were out of it." They weren't out of it -- but a call that Boston argued against played a big role in the Celtics getting the lead back. James stole the ball from Rondo early in the fourth, drove down the court and got wrapped up by Pietrus, who was assessed a clear-path foul, meaning Miami got two free throws and the ball. James missed both foul shots, Mike Miller missed a 3-pointer later in the possession, and the lead stayed at 85-81. Barely a minute later, it was gone. Pietrus hit a 3-pointer, Rondo followed with a steal and layup and Boston led 86-85. The Celtics led by five with 3:50 left after a jumper by Pierce, and the Celtics looked to be in control. It was temporary. The Heat scored the next nine points, Haslem's jumper with 1:08 remaining put Miami up 98-94. So of course, back came Boston -- Allen's 3-pointer tying the game a few moments after Pierce fouled out. "Rondo was absolutely amazing," James said. "The performance he put on tonight will go down in the record books. ... It was a battle, and we never felt like we won the game or lost the game when there were zeros on the clock." NOTES: Celebrities in attendance included UCLA coach Ben Howland, rapper Flo Rida and former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, a regular in the Heat crowd. ... Celtics F Greg Stiemsma had four fouls in the first quarter, the first NBA player to do that since 2009. ... Rondo's only other 22-point first half was Feb. 22, 2009 at Phoenix. ... Allen, considered one of the game's absolute best shooters for many years, said he's been getting plenty of unsolicited advice lately on how to get rolling again. "I've only been doing this for 20 years," Allen said at the morning shootaround. ... Haslem (6) had more rebounds than Boston (5) in the third quarter. ... Heat C Ronny Turiaf started, played the first 4:51 and did not return. Joel Anthony started the second half in Turiaf's place.

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

Warriors complete Phase 1 in preparation for trilogy Finals vs Cavs

OAKLAND -- The Warriors studied video and practiced for nearly two hours Saturday, completing Phase 1 of the plan they’ll take into the NBA Finals.

Everybody on the roster is healthy, including starting center Zaza Pachulia, who missed Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a heel contusion, and seldom-used forward Kevon Looney, out for seven weeks with a hip strain.

“We had a great film session with the team, a great discussion with the team and put our keys up on the board for our guys and went over that stuff with them before practice,” acting head coach Mike Brown said after practice.

Defending Cavaliers star LeBron James surely was among the topics to generate considerable dialogue. It provides some relief that Andre Iguodala says he feels fine after battling knee soreness in the Western Conference Finals.

It was Iguodala, after all, who earned the NBA Finals MVP award after doing such a fine job as a primary defender of James in 2015. It’s an altogether different test now that the Cavs are healthy and have a surplus of shooters surrounding James.

“You still try to watch film, any new sets or anything that they try to implement for their team, because he’s the type of player that is so dynamic he can hurt you in different ways, especially with his passing ability,” Iguodala said.

When facing elite scorers, the Warriors typically vary their defensive looks. In addition to Iguodala, James will see some Kevin Durant, some Draymond Green and probably some Matt Barnes.

Nearly as important as Iguodala’s health is that of Pachulia. Though Cleveland is more willing to go small than in the past, there will be times when a big body, such as Pachulia, will be needed to keep Cavs big man Tristan Thompson off the glass.

Thompson had five of Cleveland’s 18 offensive rebounds last Christmas Day, when the Cavaliers came back for a 109-108 victory over the Warriors in Cleveland. The Warriors lost the rebounding battle by nine (60-51).

When the teams met three weeks later in Oakland, the Warriors pulled off a 126-91 rout largely on the strength of outrebounding Cleveland 58-35. Thompson had two offensive rebounds and five overall, while Pachulia gobbled up 13 rebounds -- 10 on the defensive glass.

The Cavs outscored the Warriors 17-8 in second-chance points in the first game, but the teams tied, 12-12, in that category in the rematch.

“It’s part of their strength,” Pachulia said. “Second-chance points are a killer. It’s something we have to take away. That’s one of the keys for us.”

 

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

Klay's next assignment: Slow down Kyrie...and he's got a gameplan

OAKLAND -- Klay Thompson spent nearly eight minutes Saturday answering a variety of questions, many of which were related to his diminished offense this postseason and his primary defensive assignment in the upcoming NBA Finals.

Mired in a shooting slump, by his standards, the Warriors guard now has to confront the fabulous offensive arsenal of Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

As much as Thompson would love to rediscover his shooting touch in Game 1 on Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the Warriors may be more delighted if he can prevent Irving from finding his.

“I take pride in (playing) both sides of the ball, defense as equally as offense,” Thompson said after practice at the team’s downtown facility. “Whether or not my shot falls, I can always control that part of the game.”

The Warriors are undefeated (12-0) this postseason despite Thompson averaging only 14.4 points (compared to 22.3 in the regular season) on 38.3-percent shooting from the field (46.8 in the regular season), 36.4 percent beyond the arc (41.4 in the regular season).

That spotless postseason record is, in part, a reflection of Thompson’s work on defense. In all three rounds, he has guarded the opponent’s most dangerous backcourt player.

“I couldn’t be happier with how he’s helped us win games,” acting head coach Mike Brown said.

Next up for Thompson is Irving, who has hit game-winning shots in each of the last two times Cleveland has beaten the Warriors, a 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2015 Finals and a midrange fadeaway jumper last Christmas Day at Quicken Loans Arena.

Irving has played well this postseason but lately has lifted his game to another level. In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, Irving averaged 25.8 points per game, while shooting 62.2 percent.

He was particularly dazzling as the Cavs finished off the Celtics in Games 4 and 5, averaging 33.0 points on 64.9-percent shooting.

Irving’s recent run prompted Cleveland teammate LeBron James to label him one of the best one-on-one players of all time, a compliment Brown did not argue.

“There are a lot of guys that can shoot the 3, but that’s all they can do,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that can dribble drive and finish at the rim, but that’s all they can do. Here’s a guy that can shoot the 3 off the catch-and-shoot, he could shoot the 3 off the dribble. He has medium-game pull-up. He has medium-game floater. And then he can get to the rim. And when he gets to the rim, he can finish in traffic among 7-footers.

“The way he puts English on the ball, how high he gets it off the glass when he needs to, all those things play into a factor of why he is one of the greatest one-on-one players of all time.”

Thompson said Irving’s offense “easily” belongs in the discussion with the league’s best, a group including the likes of MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, as well as Thompson’s teammate, reigning MVP Stephen Curry.

“He’s done it in big moments, so you’ve got to give him credit,” Thompson said of Irving. “Not only have I seen him do it in the pros, but I’ve seen him do it with the USA Team, too. Kyrie’s a very tough guard. We’ve got a game plan for him, and it’ll be fun.”

Thompson said he will try to crowd Irving, contest every shot and not be outhustled. Still, he concedes that may not be enough.

There is, however, one other thing Thompson cited that could impact Irving’s offensive production. Make him work on defense, something both Warriors guards have the ability to do.

For Thompson, that means finding his stroke.

“I’d like to see the ball go in the basket,” he said. “It has, just not as frequently as I want. But that means nothing now. That’s in the past. It wouldn’t have mattered if I shot lights-out if we didn’t finish the job off.

“Now that we’re here, it’s a clean slate. It’s time to go. Can’t be worried about a few bad shooting games or the percentages when you went 12-0. You’ve just got to do what you can and have the intentions to win the game, not to go out there and score a number of points but to just go out there and win the game and make winning plays. That’s what I’m focused on.”