MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan.
Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting to go along with eight rebounds in just 19 first-half minutes. He’s scored on spinning one-handed bank shots, dunks and put-backs, and has completely dominated the proceedings over the first two periods.
Things started off just fine for the Heat, but the way they built their early lead proved to be unsustainable. LeBron James looked to get his teammates involved early, and either scored or assisted on 19 of his team’s 24 first quarter points. The Heat were getting their points from three-point distance and off of Spurs turnovers, but neither of those continued late in the second period.
Miami led by as many as seven in the second, but the team turned tentative offensively and the Spurs were able to take advantage. San Antonio ended the half on an 11-0 run, while James either settled for midrange jumpers, didn’t take them at all when the Spurs dared him to, or deferred to his teammates.
After a five-point, five-assist first quarter from James, he was just 1-of-6 from the field in the second, and Miami as a team was held to just 31.6 percent shooting, while the Spurs knocked down better than 55 percent of their shots.
The Heat will need a much more aggressive performance from James in the second half if they plan on forcing a Game 7, but if Duncan continues to play anywhere close to the way he has thus far, the Spurs will be crowned as champions before the night is through.
Kevin Garnett might retire. Paul Pierce’s contract is only partially guaranteed for next season. Who knows when Rajon Rondo will return to full health? The Celtics have plenty of question marks headed into next season.
Meanwhile, Doc Rivers had been lying low.
He’s finally spoken publically about his future with the Celtics, but he didn’t say much. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
When asked if he is still in the decision-making process, Rivers told the Globe “I’d rather not say.”
Speculating, I wonder whether Rivers was peeved Danny Ainge announced Rivers would return. Rivers very well might have wanted to do that on his own terms, and that could make this lengthy silence his way of showing his displeasure.
If that’s the case, I don’t think Rivers is petty enough to step down over this, just to make the Celtics sweat. And he’d certainly be entitled.
I’d still guess Rivers returns, but this has become closer to a 50-50 call than I ever anticipated, and it very easily could depend on how Boston handles Garnett and Pierce. Coaching those two would certainly be more appealing to Rivers than beginning a rebuilding project.
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them.
However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series, but in a game of small ball he just has a good courtside seat.
Except it’s been pretty obvious the Heat need some of what he brings. Udonis Haslem is giving the Heat little and Miami certainly could have used Andersen’s rim protection as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have gotten in the lane.
Expect him to get some run in Game 6. Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel pointed it out with statements he got from players at shootaround Tuesday.
“It’s cliché to say `stay ready,’ but I think Bird will have an impact tonight,” forward Shane Battier said.
Erik Spoelstra danced around any lineup questions at shootaround (he says anything is possible), but in a game when the Heat need a bolt of energy, particularly on the defensive end, the Birdman could swoop in with some key minutes. I don’t know that Andersen will start, but he should see time in the rotation again.
Russell Westbrook jumped on Vine and he needed some followers. So he tweeted this.
Just got on that VINE need some new followers..can y'all help me out? Pleaseeeee lol—
Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) June 05, 2013
Then he posted this:
And I had to pass it along because… TAYLOR SWIFT!!! OMG!!!
Hat tip to Lang at NBA.com’s All Ball for finding this (he’s one of the really good guys in this biz).
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer.
As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just 41.6 percent — but one entering what should be the prime of his career.
How about Dallas and Atlanta? And somehow the Lakers, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com.
Sources say the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers have interest in Ellis, although the Lakers could get Ellis only via an unlikely sign-and-trade deal.
Ellis, who originally signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the Golden State Warriors, is close with Lakers free agent Dwight Howard. The two have long desired to play together.
Atlanta is looking to build a Spurs-style organization (GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Budenholzer are Spurs alums) with Al Horford in the middle of it. Does that strike you as a fit with Ellis?
Dallas is looking for a superstar to build around and until they get that are offering only short-term deals until they find that guy. I could see them making a one or two-year offer to Ellis, but likely not the kind of deal he is looking for.
The Lakers? Not bloody likely. Even if Howard re-signs with the Lakers the L.A. pitch is that in 2014 they will have only him and Steve Nash on the payroll. Plus, Ellis could only come to the Lakers on the taxpayers midlevel exception of $3 million a year — the Lakers cannot take a free agent in a sign and trade deal (unless it brings their team salary under $76 million, which this would not). The new CBA says the Lakers or any team over the tax apron ($4 million above the tax line) can send a player out in a sign-and-trade (Howard, hypothetically) but cannot take a free agent in that way. No way that happens.
It’s interesting to hear the teams thrown out early on, it will be more interesting to see which ones actually offer a contract. One of those teams might be the Bucks.