Tim Duncan

LeBron James pushed the Miami Heat to a 98-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in game two of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center Sunday night. 

After receiving plenty of criticism for leaving game one with cramps, James was dialed in for the second game, dominating the majority of the game. He finished the contest with 35 points and 10 boards.

The game was close throughout, as both teams traded the lead all night long. But, with under a minute and half remaining, Heat forward Chris Bosh hit a go-ahead 3 and Miami held on from there. Bosh finished with 18 points.

With the win, Miami improves to 6-0 Game 2 record when losing the first game of a series.

For the Spurs, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan led the team in a valiant effort. Parker scored 21 points and Duncan finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Duncan’s performance moved him into a tie with Magic Johnson for all-time playoff double-doubles with 157. But Duncan’s historic performance was not enough for San Antonio to get past Miami.

“We didn’t do it as a group,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We tried to do it individually, and we aren’t good enough to do that.”

As a team, San Antonio also sturggled mightily from the free throw line, converting just 12 of 20 attempts.

The NBA Finals now transition to Miami for the next two games. Game 3 is Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

The San Antonio Spurs outlasted the Miami Heat, and the Texas heat, in the first game of the NBA Finals.

Temperatures at the AT&T Center in San Antonio rose into the nineties after an electrical failure caused the arena’s air conditioning to fail, as the Spurs knocked off the Heat, 110-95.

Despite the sweltering heat, the Spurs were able to overcome a nine point deficit in the fourth quarter. San Antonio rallied behind a 16-3 run to end the game. San Antonio was a scorching 14 of 16 from the field and a perfect 6 for 6 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan showed off his signature fundamental approach en route to a double-double. Duncan led the team to victory with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

“We are one step closer to four wins,” Duncan said.

Alongside Duncan’s masterful performance, San Antonio received solid play from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - the duo combined to score 35 points. Spurs guard Danny Green fueled the team’s comeback by hitting three big three-point shots in the fourth quarter.

Although the heat didn’t affect the San Antonio players, Miami forward LeBron James fell victim to cramping. James’ cramping became evident during the fourth quarter and got so bad his teammates had carry him off the court. The cramps James went through caused the Heat to lose any momentum they had and helped Spurs pull away.

“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping to bench like that," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

While the Heat lost game one, they possibility of a three-peat certainly shouldn’t be put to rest. Since 2011, Miami is 5-0 in series’ in which it loses the first game.

Spurs and NBA officials are confident that the AT&T Center’s air conditioning issue will be fixed in time for game two.

“We think it'll be fixed come Sunday and we'll be able to play under normal conditions," NBA executive Rod Thorn said.

The Spurs and Heat will play game two Sunday at the AT&T Center at 7 pm.

Easily the most dramatic contest of the series so far, the Heat defeated the Spurs 103-100 in overtime.  LeBron James summed up Game 6 best during the post-game press conference held Tuesday night.

"This is by far the best game I've ever been a part of," James told reporters after the game. 

After three quarters of textbook basketball, the San Antonio Spurs held a 75-65 advantage over the Miami Heat heading into the final twelve minutes of regulation. Tim Duncan had broken out of his shooting slump and was finally in the middle of a podium game, Boris Diaw had visibly taken James out of rhythm and Kawhi Leonard was providing an excellent push off the bench for San Antonio. 

Predictably, though, Miami wasn't going down without a fight. After remaining eerily quiet for most of the game, James finally erupted in the fourth quarter and was a key part of the late game rally to tie the game up and send it into overtime where they outscored the Spurs 8-to-5. San Antonio suffered a very uncharacteristic breakdown through the last 17 minutes of play before the Heat handed them a stunning 103-100 loss inside the American Airlines center on the road to tie the series 3-3. 

Though his shooting struggles continued throughout this match, James turned in a very productive performance with 32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, one block and three steals. His main source of help came from Mario Chalmers who scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting with four rebounds and two assists. Dwyane Wade went for 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks and Chris Bosh finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals. Ray Allen and Shane Battier combined for 18 points of 6-of-12 shooting, including a clutch three-pointer by Allen to tie the game and send it into overtime. 

Duncan turned back the clock tonight with 30 points on 13-of-21 shooting to go with 17 rebounds. It was, statistically, his most productive performance in a decade. Shockingly, though, he went scoreless for the last 20 minutes of the game. 

Tony Parker fought his way to 19 points on 6-of-23 shooting with three rebounds and eight assists. Leonard finished with 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 11 rebounds, though his game will likely be overshadowed by his missed late game free throw that would have put the game one point beyond Miami's reach.

Manu Ginobili had nine points, four rebounds and three assists but ended with eight turnovers. Diaw chipped in seven points, four rebounds and two assists. Danny Green finally went cold from three, hitting just once beyond the arc, his only made field goal all game. 

Though the Spurs pulled down more rebounds (45 to 42) and made more free throws (21 to 16), the Heat's defense forced 10 steals and blocked six shots to trouble the San Antonio Offense. Miami also out-assisted San Antonio dishing 23 dimes to the Spurs' 13. The Heat made exactly one more field goal and it is likely that two missed late game free-throws and two missed rebounds will haunt the Spurs until Thursday. 

This was the first overtime contest of a Game 6 of the Finals since 1974 when the Bucks beat the Celtics. Game 7 is at 8 pm in Miami and will be the deciding game of the series. 

 

In what turned out to be only the second (reasonably) close game in this series so far, Game 4 of the NBA Finals became one of revenge for the Miami Heat. After suffering the third worst loss in Finals history (113-77) in Game 3, Miami righted the ship and beat the Spurs soundly Thursday evening, handing them a 109-93 defeat on their home floor in San Antonio.

Right from the opening tip, Miami played with laser-focus, desperation and in very clear attack-mode. They forced a 20 point swing in their favor in the first half. They played suffocating defense. They adjusted their starting lineup. They scored in the paint. And they won.

This contest was a tale of two teams’ Big Threes: the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker combined for 40 points on 14-of-31 shooting, with 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Miami’s LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade combined for 85 points on 37-of-64 shooting, with 30 rebounds and nine assists. That’s just eight points less than the entire Spurs team scored all night and accounted for 78% of the Heat’s offense.

James’ aggression set the tone in the first quarter and he heated up early, finishing with 33 points on 15-of-25 shooting, 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and two steals. Center Chris Bosh went for 20 points, 13 rebounds, one assist, two blocked shots and two steals and Ray Allen added 14 points on 50% shooting.

But it was Dwyane Wade who ended up having the real podium game. After 39 minutes of play, his final line boasted 32 points on 14-of-25 shooting, six rebounds, four assists, one blocked shot and six steals. After a solid first half, he dominated the second half, taking the ball up the floor, running the offense, drawing defenders and looking for his own shot. This was his first 30 point game since March 4th. He had only eight over the course of the entire season.

For San Antonio, Tony Parker, hobbled somewhat by a strained hamstring, finished with 15 points, nine assists and four rebounds on 7-of-16 shooting. Kawhi Leonard went for 12 points and seven rebounds, and the Texas version of the Splash Brothers (or, Gary Neal and Danny Green) combined for 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting (with 6-of-9 from three point range), seven rebounds and four assists. Tim Duncan was the best player on the floor Thursday night for the Spurs, ending up with 20 points, five rebounds and just one assist..

In the end, Miami’s defense beat the Spurs offense. The Spurs’ rhythm was visibly disrupted. They ran in transition less, passed the ball less and attempted fewer three pointers (in Game 3, they made 16 threes. In Game 4, they attempted that many). They had the ball stolen 13 times and turned the ball over 18 times. Miami turned it over nine times and had the ball stolen just five. The Spurs got to the free throw line 31 times (14 more than Miami), but still couldn’t capitalize, only making 23 shots.

The series, now tied 2-2, will stay in San Antonio for Game 5 at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

When two of the league's deepest and most talented teams collided Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the results could've hardly been better. This game had a little something for everybody: intense pace, execution and mind-blowing heroics from superstars. 

The rest versus rust debate regarding the San Antonio Spurs after ten days off was quickly and decisively laid to rest after a blistering first quarter. Down four at the half, the patient Spurs got what they needed to come back for a 92-88 statement win and a 1-0 lead in the Finals. And all with only four turnovers. On the road. In the finals.

Tim Duncan was his usual consistent self, putting up a more-than-solid 20 points and 14 rebounds. Manu Ginobili chipped in 13 points and both Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard combined for 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting with 15 rebounds.  And then there was Tony Parker. 

Parker finished with 21 points and 50 percent shooting with six assists, though it felt more like 50 points and 18 assists. Plus the crossover, the spin move. And that shotclock beater was essential. 

However, the Miami Heat did not give up easily. The Heat outscored the Spurs in the first two quarters. Dwayne Wade scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and Chris Bosh went for 14 points. Ray Allen went 3-of-4 from the three point line and finished with 13 points from the bench. LeBron James notched a triple double (18/18/10) but failed to meet expectations, scoring 18 points in Game 1. 

In Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, the Spurs fell to the Miami Heat 84-103 to tie the series at one win apiece. The Heat took advantage of an uncharacteristic fourth quarter breakdown and 16 turnovers by the Spurs. 

The game was won towards the end of the third quarter when Miami ripped off a 33-5 run in which they had 6-of-7 shooting, 5-of-5 coming from the three point range. 

San Antonio's Big Three struggled throughout the contest combining for 27 points, 16 rebounds, two assists and nine turnovers. Parker had 13 points with five assists and five rebounds. Duncan had what was arguably the worst playoff performance of his career with nine points, 11 rebounds and only one assist, shooting just 3-of-13. 

The Spurs, however, did get some help from their bench in Leonard, who contributed nine points, 14 rebounds and two assists. Green was perfect from the three-point range shooting 6-of-6. Former Longhorn Cory Joseph added eight points and three rebounds. 

James contributed 17 points for the Heat with eight rebounds and seven assists. Bosh had his best game since facing the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, shooting 6-of-10. Wade had 10 points with two rebounds and six assists. 

Mario Chalmers, however, headlined for the Heat. Chalmers went for 19 points and four rebounds. 

The Spurs and Heat face off Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in San Antonio for Game 3. 

A mid-season report on the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks

At the mid-point of an NBA season, uncertainties tend to become certainties, questions tend to get answers, and teams tend to settle into a relative standard of playing level. In general, the identities of teams begin to coalesce. This traditional expectation applies fruitfully to the San Antonio Spurs. However, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are still in a nebulous zone, far from forming their identity, realizing their potential, and meeting that baseline expectation for mid-season.

At this point, the San Antonio Spurs embody the persona of a championship contender. Anything less than that would be to underestimate the potent Spurs offense and Popovich’s genius. The Spurs (36-11) currently stand at the apex of the Western Conference standings and scream contender status on a daily basis. The elite point guard play of Tony Parker, the resurgence of the greatest power forward Tim Duncan ever, and a top 5 supporting cast makes the Spurs seem invincible year in and year out. Currently boasting seven players averaging nine points or more ( Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard), the Spurs rarely depend on the same players to step up on a nightly basis. The sharing of responsibility, the culture instilled by the Spurs system, and the wealth of supporting talent explicates how the Spurs put up consistent wins despite the occasional absence of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. At this point during the season, the Spurs know who they are and what they want. They are a clear-cut contender.

The Houston Rockets (24-22) currently stand at the eighth position in the Western Conference standings. The Rockets show flashes of brilliance and the potential their team holds. However, their playing style is often plagued by their inexperience and inconsistency. One thing is for sure though; the Rockets have their franchise foundation piece in James Harden. Harden is on his way to becoming the NBA’s best shooting guard, fortifying his relentless athleticism with his experiences as the number one option. The Rockets know they go as Harden goes. However, with the average age of the Houston Rockets roster around 24, they still have a long maturation process to undergo before realizing their true potential and identity.

Although they have recently won six of last eight, the Dallas Mavericks (19-25) lack any sort of identity of consistency. With 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki still trying to find his Hall of Fame form and missing the All Star Game for the first time in over a decade, the Mavericks have been in a state of fluctuation and confusion. They lead the league with 17 different starting lineups. Over the past three games, they have had three different starting centers. Nevertheless, Rick Carlisle has mentioned that he is attempting to establish a more consistent lineup and rotation. Once Dirk Nowitzki encapsulates the superstar style of play he is capable of, Darren Collison and OJ Mayo begin to produce on a more consistent basis, and the team commits to defense, the Mavericks have a chance to make a late-season surge for the playoffs.

When the Spurs step on to the court at this point of the season, you know what you’re going to get. However, the same cannot be stated for the Rockets and the Mavericks. As Forrest Gump once said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” With the Mavericks and Rockets, you just never know. 

Spurs players Tim Duncan (left) and Tony Parker (right) hold up toy guns  to the head of a man dressed as NBA referee Joey Crawford.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Only three days after San Antonio was fined $250,000 by the NBA for sending its star players home on the day of a showdown with Miami, the Spurs could once again be in trouble with the NBA.

On Monday, a photo emerged on Reddit of San Antonio stars Tony Parker and Tim Duncan in costume pointing a pair of toy guns at the head of a man dressed as NBA referee Joey Crawford. The photo appears to have been taken at a Halloween party.

Crawford, one of the NBA’s more controversial referees, has a history of getting into tiffs with players, especially Spurs players. In a 2007 game, Crawford ejected Duncan when he was sitting on the bench laughing. The NBA later suspended Crawford for the incident.

The photo, while clearly a joke, might spell bad news for the Spurs. It won’t be taken lightly by NBA commissioner David Stern, and could draw yet another fine.

Neither the Spurs nor the NBA has commented on the incident, but Manu Ginobili did have this to say to the San Antonio Express-News:

“I don’t know exactly what people are saying about it,” Ginobili said. “What I know is, it was Halloween. If somebody dressed like [head coach Gregg Popovich] was there, I probably would have done the same with my little sword. I think it was a joke. It was very innocent.”

Printed on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 as: Spurs Halloween photo goes viral 

NBA Notebook

Gregg Popovich and his San Antonio Spurs continue to defy the “old” label they are often shouldered with. The Spurs are in second place in the Western Conference and are third in the league in scoring.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

If the NBA season were to end today, every Texas team would have a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The tried-and-true San Antonio Spurs, young Houston Rockets and reigning champion Dallas Mavericks are all among the top-eight teams in the West, but each is dealing with its own set of issues as the playoffs draw nearer.

Popovich managing Spurs carefully in crunch time

Don’t call them old. Only Gregg Popovich can do that.

Despite officially listing the reason aging star, Tim Duncan, didn’t play against Philadelphia last week is because he’s “old,” Popovich’s squad is doing what it does best — winning. The Spurs were one of the teams that were predicted to falter this season because of the compressed 66-game schedule. However, the Spurs are the West’s second-best team that no one is talking about.

“It’s a little bit more difficult than the normal season,” Popovich said before the game of managing minutes. “We’ve always played our guys less than most teams, so it’s a little bit more emphasis than usual.”

San Antonio is the third best scoring team in the league and it is currently enjoying an eight-game win streak after routing Cleveland 125-90 last night. Popovich has had to strategically divvy minutes among his players to keep veterans like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Duncan off the floor when they don’t need to be there. And the strategy is working. The old-reliable crew has kept its numbers on par with their career statistics and the Spurs continue to cash in wins like they have for the last decade.

Tuesday night kicked off a 16-game-in-23-days stretch to finish the shortened season. As the playoffs draw closer, the second-place Spurs will likely rest their starters more often to keep them fresh for a deep playoff run. Parker, Ginobili and Duncan each played less than 23 minutes Tuesday against the Caveliers, but they still all had +/- ratings above 16.

Rockets trying to stay in rarefied air

As has been the case for the last two seasons, the Houston Rockets are in contention for a low-seed in the playoffs. Currently gasping for air with a one-game lead over the ninth place Utah Jazz, the Rockets are a league anomaly.

The third-best team in the state beat some of the best teams in the league as well as lost to some of the worst. In March, the Rockets beat the Thunder in an improbable come-from-behind victory over the West’s best Oklahoma City Thunder. On Monday, the Rockets beat the East’s best team, the Chicago Bulls. However, they’ve been prone to losing to teams such as Phoenix, Toronto and Minnesota.

Lately, the Rockets have gotten the job done without their best players Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin. Lowry should return soon, but he is still dealing with a bacterial infection, while Martin is nursing a right shoulder injury that will see him miss more time.

For Houston to ensure at least the eight seed, it will need to play mentally tough on the road, something it hasn’t done particularly well this season. The Rockets are a 9-17 on the road with seven of their next 12 games being played away from home.

“I never understood that,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said as he tried to explain his team’s road woes. “Baskets are 10 feet high and the court’s 94 feet. I’ve never seen a fan score a point yet.”

Mavericks still searching for that championship swagger

Whatever magic Dallas conjured up last year, it’ll need to do it again. The Mavericks may be playing better ball and hold the third seed in the West, but they look nothing like the inspired championship team from 2011.

Dallas has been inconsistent this season, winning games it has the sheer talent to beat, but faltering against younger, quicker squads. The Mavs dropped their latest contest against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday. They only scored 75 points to the Clippers’ 94, and head coach Rick Carlisle thought his team looked lethargic.

“No, it wasn’t very good,” Carlisle said after watching Monday’s game film. “We’re going to have to do a lot better [today against Memphis]. Breakdowns, and it really began with turnovers and transition defense. We’ve got to pick it up.”

The Mavericks have the old-school pieces in place to surprise everybody in the playoffs though, and if Carlisle can get them focused and running the floor, he thinks the team can get back to that elite level.

“Our awareness has got to be better,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got to do to things hard, we’ve got to do things efficiently, we’ve got to do things well and we have a higher level and we’re going to get to it.”

Printed on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 as: Texas' NBA teams all occupy playoff spots

Tony Parker appreciates San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s conservation plan.

During this condensed NBA season, Parker said Popovich is rarely allowing anyone to play more than 40 minutes, a strategy that contributed to the Spurs’ 89-84 victory Monday night over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Parker, playing 36 minutes, scored 21 points, and Tim Duncan added 19 points and a season-high 17 rebounds in 32 minutes.

“I think Pop tries to keep us fresh,” Parker said. “It’s rare that me, or anyone, plays 40 minutes. Over the course of the season, if you have to play 38 or 40 minutes a game, it’s tough. It takes its toll.”

Memphis, minus Zach Randolph indefinitely and Tony Allen the past two games, was forced to use starters Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley for 40-plus minutes. Gasol had 22 points to lead the Grizzlies, while Conley scored 19 and Gay 18.

Gay said the Grizzlies, who lost their third straight, expended their energy fighting back from a 14-point first-half deficit to take a six-point lead entering the final quarter.

“It was tough,” Gay said. “A couple of guys were fatigued from playing a lot of heavy minutes. It was one of those games that slipped away from us.”

The Grizzlies were outscored 22-11 in the fourth quarter. The 11 points represented a season low for a single quarter.

“We made some shots and got some stops [to rally],” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “Then in the fourth quarter, we couldn’t make a shot anymore.”

Memphis didn’t have an answer for Duncan in the second half. He scored 13 of his points after the half as the Spurs opened a nine-game road trip with a win, their fifth straight. The Grizzlies led 73-67 entering the final period, but missed their first nine shots to allow the Spurs to recover and take an 87-81 lead with 1:18 to go.

Duncan also had two key blocks in the closing minute as the Spurs clung to an 87-84 lead. He first blocked Gay’s layup attempt with 32 seconds left and followed with a block of Gasol’s close-range attempt 10 seconds later.

“He is somebody who is pretty special,” Popovich said. “The blocks were pretty good down the stretch. Those kinds of things are what he does.”

Parker said Duncan has been playing at a high level recently. It was Duncan’s second straight double-double. He had 13 points and 15 rebounds Saturday in a win over Oklahoma City.

“He’s feeling good,” Parker said. “His knee is doing well. Hopefully, he can stay like that. That’s a great game from Timmy — 19 [points] and 17 [rebounds].”

The Grizzlies trailed by 13 at 61-48 early in the third quarter, but rallied behind a 25-6 run to end the period. Memphis took its first lead of the second half, at 66-63, on O.J. Mayo’s 3-pointer with 2:11 to go in the third quarter.

Hitting five of seven 3-pointers in the first half, San Antonio led by as many as 14 late in the second quarter. Matt Bonner and Gary Neal connected on two 3-pointers apiece and Kawhi Leonard had the other.
 

The trio that brought a trio of titles to San Antonio could be split up.

Tony Parker has spent the entirety of his 10-year NBA career in San Antonio, but the Spurs are rumored to be considering a trade involving Parker for a lottery pick in tonight’s NBA Draft. San Antonio has reportedly talked to the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings about their interest in Parker. The Raptors, who have the draft’s No. 5 pick, used Jose Calderon, who averaged 9.8 points and 8.9 assists per game last season, at point guard for most of their games. The Kings used two point guards in their lineup ­— Beno Udrih and 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.

Last season, the Spurs were cruising for the majority of the regular season, boasting a 57-13 record in late March, but imploded down the stretch. San Antonio lost eight of their final 12 contests and could not right the ship in time for the postseason as the Spurs fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies in six games.

It’s no secret that the Spurs’ championship window has been closing. Their top three scorers ­— Manu Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan — have combined to play more than 80,000 minutes during their respective careers (nearly 10,000 if you include playoff minutes). While many of those minutes were spent keeping their string of consecutive 50-win seasons intact (a streak that’s at 12 and counting) and others were spent securing titles in 2003, 2005 and 2007, the Spurs might be looking to get a little younger.

Such a move could make sense for San Antonio. Recent acquisitions of young players have paid off. DeJuan Blair, 22, has been a menacing post presence since being drafted by the Spurs in 2009. George Hill, 25, was San Antonio’s top scorer not named Ginobili, Parker or Duncan last season and would take over for Parker if he was traded.

Gary Neal, 26, scored 9.8 points per game in his rookie year and provided the Spurs’ proudest playoff moment when he hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to force overtime in San Antonio’s eventual Game 2 win over Memphis.

Parker earned Finals MVP honors from San Antonio’s most recent championship campaign, but could find himself playing in a different country if the Spurs’ attempts to trade him are successful. Gregg Popovich would still be strolling the Spurs sideline. Duncan and Ginobili would still be there.

Hill would step in as the starting point guard. But a Spurs lineup without Parker would drastically change the dynamic of how they play.

San Antonio would lose their electrifying floor general who gets to the basket like defenders are escorting him there.

More importantly, they would be taking the first steps toward ushering in a new era of Spurs basketball. As hard as it might be for San Antonio fans to admit, it would be an admission that their championship window is closing or, even worse, has closed. But it also means that the Spurs front office is ensuring that while one window is closing, another one will open.