NBA Finals Game 2: Plus NBA Draft Risers

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THE NBA FINALS REPORT: HERE’S OUR GAME 2 PREVIEW AS HEAT LOOK TO “GET EVEN” WITH THE SPURS

PLUS OUR NBA DRAFT NOTES: TAKIN’ A LOOK AT A FEW FAST RISERS …

BASEBALL NOTEBOOK: HOW COME HOME COOKING’S NOT HELPING A MAJORITY OF MLB TEAMS?

Maybe the San Antonio Spurs’ 110-95 triumph over the Miami Heat in Game 1 of this year’s NBA Finals shouldn’t have been just all about the lack of “AC” in the building …

After all, the Spurs are now a perfect 6-of-6 in NBA Finals Game 1 tilts and something positive must be said regarding San Ant’s 58.8 percent accuracy rate from the floor.

Hey, we know the absence of cramped-up LeBron James for most of the game’s final 7:31 killed the Heat’s cause in Thursday’s series opener but “The King” couldn’t have been everywhere on the floor in that final frame when the Spurs were shooting an eye-popping 14-of-16 from the field.
Here’s hoping the air conditioner is on full blast for this Game 2 on Sunday night and that there’s no talk afterwards about cramping and dehydration and soaring on-floor temperatures.

After all, we’re not sure we can handle any more camera shots of ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy getting toweled down by fellow announcers/class clowns Mike Breen and Mark Jackson.

Ready LeBron?

NBA FINALS – Game 2
MIAMI at SAN ANTONIO -- Spurs lead series 1-0

Here’s one aspect that the Miami Heat may have to deal with come the fourth quarter here in Game 2:

Did the regulars aside from James – that’s Dwyane Wade (19 points in Game 1), Chris Bosh (18 points in the opener) and even key reserve Ray Allen (16 points) -- all go above-and-beyond their usual energy reserves in that wilting heat in Game 1 to maybe not have their legs late here in Game 2?

If that’s somehow the case, then Erik Spoelstra’s club will have no choice here in this tilt other than have James (25 points and 6 rebounds in Game 1 while playing 33 minutes) rattle off a 30-plus point game with a batch of rebounds and assists if the two-time defending NBA champions are gonna “get even” in this best-of-seven series here.

The Heat played a brilliant Game 1 for some three-and-a-half quarters – remember that Bosh fadeaway three-point shot plus the foul called on Tim Duncan had Miami up 86-79 – with the aforementioned Wade/Bosh/Allen triumvirate shooting a combined 21-of-41 from the field along with 15 rebounds and 6 assists and many times the Heat players were able to waltz freely into the lane with driving hoops that were not defended very well by the likes of Duncan and sidekick Tiago Splitter.

The bottom line is once James limped to the bench, the Spurs surged with that three-point shooting of Danny Green (see three fourth-quarter triples and 13 points overall) leading the way but we still want to know why Spolstra and Company didn’t make any late-game adjustments as Green, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker all banged home key trifectas in the final few minutes and nary was a hand in their respective grills.

In this Game 2 clash, expect Miami to pick up San Antonio players at half court – you can’t see the Spurs shooting another 13-of-25 from beyond the three-point arc here, can you? – and look for the Heat to execute more time off the shot clock. There’s no need for even a healthy James to get in a back-and-forth style affair here as San Antonio’s deeper bench makes a run-run game more beneficial to Gregg Popovich’s squad.

Also, one of Miami’s Game 2 adjustments here should be putting both standstill shooters Allen and Rashard Lewis (10 points in Game 1 in 31 minutes) on the floor at the same time so as to stretch out the floor and allow James and Wade more open space in the middle of the floor with a plan to attack the rim.

On the flip side, the Spurs know that Duncan (21 points on 9-of-10 FG shooting and 10 boards in Game 1) pretty much had his way in the paint area and so the game plan here could well be to bring Duncan out for his patented 15-foot wing jumpers in case Chris “Birdman” Andersen and/or Udonis Haslem gets the call to body him up in the post.

Still, the key remains Parker’s ankle – it held up fine in a 19-point, 8-assist effort that spanned 37 minutes in Game 1 – and San Antonio must get that energetic play from lefty G Manu Ginobili who bombed away in the first half with three key triples en route to a satisfying 16-point, 11-assist performance.

Ginobili was quick with his first step – Miami made some real errors in judgment by letting him go left time-after-time – and give San Antonio credit for some neat top-of-the-land screens that set Ginobili free in the opening half and then later opened up things for Green and mates in the final seven-plus minutes.

If there’s one other thing the Spurs need here to snag a two games-to-love series advantage it’s more instant offense from other reserves as both Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills (a combined 16 points on 5-of-8 FG shooting in Game 1) were truly effective and efficient and both remain dangerous on the perimeter when Heat defenders are paying more attention to the other “name” players.

Finally, want an X-factor that no one is talking about?

Then check to see if Miami – while stealing a page from the San Antonio playbook – goes zone at times in an effort to both preserve James’ legs and to make San Antonio work longer/harder against the 24-second clock.

If this Game 2 is a 93-90 affair, it’s advantage Heat. Once someone gets over 100 points, advantage Spurs.

Don’t believe us?

Note that San Antonio is 9-and-oh both SU (straight-up) and ATS (against the spread) now in its last nine playoff games this spring when scoring 100-or-more points

NBA DRAFT NOTES

The NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 26 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and while we count down to draft night, here’s three names that are popping up as “board risers” … here’s some thoughts:

MARCUS SMART, G, OKLAHOMA STATE – The Cowboys’ one-time starter probably saw his stock drop last winter after that three-game suspension for shoving a fan in Lubbock but recent workouts have propelled this 6-foot-3, 228-pounder back into the top six or seven picks and word is the Los Angeles Lakers could be zeroing in on him with the #7 pick.

NIK STAUSKAS, G, MICHIGAN – This 6-foot-7 pure shooter generally is considered a back-of-the-lottery pick but the rumor mill is saying this former maize-and-blue stud could creep into the top 10 and maybe even Michael Jordan and Company are eyeballing him with the #9 overall pick. Stauskas has been a clutch big-game performer and so expect his stock to rise and we’re wondering if maybe Chicago or Oklahoma City trading up for ‘em.

T.J. WARREN, F, N.C. STATE – This 6-foot-8, 222-pounder is an offensive machine who led the ACC in scoring last year, so why are most draft boards considering him a top 18-to-22 type pick? You got us as we see Warren climbing up right near the end of the lottery with Denver at #11 a distinct possibility. Warren’s game translates well to the NBA but there are some concerns about his defense. Still, for a 20 pgg scorer, you’ve got to think he’s gonna be grabbed within the draft’s top dozen selections.

Here’s our right-here, right-now forecast of the top 10 NBA picks with now less than three weeks away from:

  1. CLEVELAND – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
  2. MILWAUKEE – Andrew Wiggins, G, Kansas
  3. PHILADELPHIA – Jabari Parker, F, Duke
  4. ORLANDO – Julius Randle, F, Kentucky
  5. UTAH – Dante Exum, PG, Australia
  6. BOSTON – Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
  7.  LA LAKERS – Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
  8. SACRAMENTO – Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
  9. CHARLOTTE – Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan
  10. PHILADELPHIA – Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana

 
BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

Did you happen to take a look at the Major-League Baseball standings while entering this first full weekend in June?

In the American League East, four of the five teams – only Toronto (18-13) is the exception here, folks – are playing sub-.500 ball in their own backyards and that’s particularly interesting when it comes to Baltimore (11-12 at home) and the New York Yankees (13-16 in The Bronx) because those clubs have offense plainly suited for those hitter-friendly and power-friendly parks.

Okay, there’s been some injuries to key members of both of these lineups but, still, you think Baltimore manager Buck Showalter and Yankees skipper Joe Girardi haven’t had some sleepless nights when it concerns their teams at home so far this season?

Go next to the National League where the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals entered the weekend at only 16-14 at home while the Los Angeles Dodgers are a dreadful 13-19 at home.

Hey, weren’t they the last two teams standing a year ago in the NLCS?

The Cards – who lack punch and aren’t making the most of the huge gaps at Busch Stadium – may just need for the hot weather to arrive in order to straighten things out but the Dodgers have been clearly better on the road (18-11) and that leads one to assume this team’s “pressing” at home with the monstrous salary number hanging over the heads of Don Mattingly’s “chemistry-challenged” club.

Let’s just say that if the Dodgers don’t turn the beat around at home sooner rather than later they’ll need binoculars to check out the NL West front-running San Francisco Giants.

The worst home team this year?

Well, that’s the Arizona Diamondbacks (26-36) who are just 9-22 at home this year but keep in mind that the D-Backs have dug out from a lot of that early-season rubble. If Kirk Gibson’s crew can start to win at home, than maybe a .500 mark won’t be out of the question.

NOTE: More NBA Finals coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez plus NBA Draft Notes too in the coming columns.

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