Neal before the King? Fight for Finals MVP

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Prior to the 2013 NBA Finals, many were predicting a second consecutive Championship for Miami with LeBron James again claiming MVP honours. However, the series has not gone accordingly so far with San Antonio opening up a 2-1 advantage with the next two games on their home floor and ‘King James’ is being outshone.

Ultimately, you would imagine that the Finals MVP award will go to a player on the Championship winning side (Jerry West 1969 being the only exception) and were Miami able to turn the series around, LeBron seems to be the only viable contender from the Heat given the little support he has received so far.

There are several contenders for the Spurs with the creator in Parker, the shooter in Green, the defensive stalwart in Leonard and the solid veteran in Duncan, who does everything for Gregg Popovich. He might not be making a lot of shots but his defensive presence is huge for San Antonio especially when Thiago Splitter is not on the floor. Continue reading

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Paul George confident ahead of clash with LeBron

Guard of honour: The MVP v the MIP

Guard of honour: The MVP v the MIP

Paul George is full of confidence regarding the Eastern Conference Final showdown with Miami Heat as well as his personal duel with LeBron James.

The Indiana Pacers’ forward will most likely match-up with the recently crowned League MVP but is not concerned about the daunting prospect.

George said after practice: “It will be fun! I always embrace challenges and I’m looking forward to it. It should be a good series and I’m more prepared this year.”

“I feel like I’m in the best of shape, my confidence is feeling great!” the 23 year-old added.

The 2012-13 season has already proved successful for George personally as he followed up a first All-Star appearance with the Most Improved Player award. The 6’8″ forward improved in scoring, rebounding and assists to propel the Pacers into the play-offs as the third seeds. His regular season improvements are as follows:

2011-12: 12.1 ppg; 5.6 rpg; 2.4 apg in 66 games (all starts)
2012-13: 17.4 ppg; 7.6 rpg; 4.1 apg in 79 games (all starts)

From Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James, it doesn’t get easier for George and his coach Frank Vogel is hoping his forward can do his best and contain the Heat star.

“(LeBron) is the best player in the world and Paul (George) just has to do the best he can, like he did on Carmelo. LeBron (James) will have some moments and go off but Paul just has to compete and not foul.”

Vogel emphasised: “We do not want to put these guys at the free throw line.”

George is averaging 19.1 points per game along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Play-offs so far after victories over Atlanta and the Knicks in Indiana‘s first two games. The All-Star produced a 29 point haul in a 10 point win over Miami in January and the Pacers claimed the season series 2-1.

In last season’s post-season meeting, Miami defeated Indiana 4-2 on their way to their second NBA Championship but Indiana, like George, have improved this season and the Pacers star is hoping his team use their size to their advantage against the champions.

“We’re a big team, we can rebound and we can play physical basketball- it’s our bread and butter.”

The opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals is live on Sky Sports from 1:30 am tonight.

NBA Playoffs: Miami Heat 4-1 Chicago Bulls

The league MVP helps deliver the knockout blow

The league MVP helps deliver the knockout blow

In a fiery series, a depleted Chicago Bulls side went down fighting as Miami Heat booked a place in the Conference Finals for the 3rd straight year. The defending champions swept the Milwaukee Bucks 4-0 in the first round while Tom Thibodeau’s  battling Bulls edged past Brooklyn Nets 4-3 after a thrilling series which included a triple overtime game 3.

GAME 1: Chicago 93-86 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

Chicago claimed Game 1 on the road after a strong finish helped secure the victory. The visitors outscored Miami 35-24 in the final quarter and closed out the game with the last 10 points despite being without Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. In their absence, Nate Robinson (27p/9a) continued his fine play-off form while Jimmy Butler (21p/14r) and Joakim Noah (13p/11r) both added valuable double-doubles. LeBron James proved why he won his fourth MVP award with an impressive 24-8-7 performance but was only joined in double figures by Dwyane Wade, who had 14. The teams were tied at 37 at the half before Miami edged ahead at the end of the third on a Shane Battier three. A tense fourth ensued and the home side were leading 86-83 with 2:22 remaining before they were kept scoreless for the rest of the game as Marco Belinelli’s triple sparked a 10-0 close for the win with Robinson adding the final seven points.

Chicago Bulls lead the best-of-7-series 1-0.

GAME 2: Chicago 78-115 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

Everybody expected a response from the reigning champions and Erik Spoelstra’s side duly delivered with a dominant blow-out in a physical encounter. It was an historic post-season performance from Miami as they coasted to their largest margin of victory in a play-off game. Ray Allen led the way for the Heat with 21 points off the bench including a perfect 10-10 from the line. Norris Cole was another strong performer off the bench making 4-4 from 3-point range for 18 points as the hosts had four other players in double-figures as they shot 60% from the field. A total of nine technicals were dished out but Miami were not affected by the physical intensity. James scored all of his 19 points in the first half before turning provider in the second as Miami began to run riot. A run of 11 unanswered points helped them break further clear in the third before a 19-2 start to the fourth made it 104-68- an incredible lead of 46. Both teams emptied their bench at the end for a calm finish to a frosty tussle.

Series tied at 1-1.

GAME 3: Miami 104-94 Chicago @ United Centre

Miami then regained home advantage with a win on the road in a game marred by Nazr Mohammed’s ejection for pushing over the league MVP. LeBron had a 25-8-7 game while Chris Bosh had a huge game performance  with 20 points combined with a career play-off high 19 rebounds. All of Chicago‘s starters posted scores in double figures whilst clocking hefty minutes and the visitors managed to stay with their opponents for the majority of the game. The teams headed into the final quarter tied at 70 but Bosh‘s triple gave Miami a lead they would not relinquish with LeBron and Cole also netting late scores from beyond the arc to keep the Bulls at bay before closing out the game at the free throw line.

Miami lead the best-of-7-series 2-1.

GAME 4: Miami 88-65 Chicago @ United Centre

Chicago squandered the chance to level the series after their worst play-off performance in their franchise history. Miami opened up a double-digit advantage at half-time with James and Bosh combining for 27 points in a 44-33 half. The third quarter saw Miami power on to lead 61-42 on a Cole triple at the buzzer after restricting the Bulls to a nine point quarter. There was no way back for the visitors as they fell to their third straight loss and on the brink of elimination. LeBron led the way with 27-7-8 while Bosh was the only other player in double figures as the scoring was spread out across the roster. Chicago shot a lowly 25% from the field with Robinson going 0-12 while Noah went 1-6 and Carlos Boozer was 3-14.

Miami lead the best-of-7-series 3-1.

GAME 5: Chicago 91-94 Miami @ American Airlines Arena

The close-out game was not as straight forward as expected despite the early indications with Miami making their first seven shots in a 22-4 start. As has been the Chicago way this season, the Bulls battled back and took the lead at 38-36 on a Butler three midway through the second. They maintained the advantage at the half as Robinson sunk a late triple to make it 53-47 with Boozer leading the charge with 19 points. ‘Rip’ Hamilton’s 3-pointer made it a 10 point game in the third before the hosts narrowly reduced the deficit to trail 77-69 after 3Q. Battier scored 8 points early on in the fourth to help Miami regain the lead and there was to be no way back for the Bulls as they were finally down and out. Boozer finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds while LeBron (23-7-8) flirted with a triple-double yet again and Wade added 18 points as he continues to battle with a knee injury. A great effort from Chicago without D Rose, Deng and Hinrich for the entire series as a healthy Miami prove too much in their quest for a third NBA Championship.

Miami won the best-of-7-series 4-1.

                                    Top 5 Players:

  1. LeBron James- 23.6 ppg; 7.0 rpg; 7.8 apg
  2. Jimmy Butler- 15.6 ppg; 6.4 rpg; 44.2 mpg
  3. Chris Bosh- 13.6 ppg; 8.6 rpg; 50% 3PT
  4. Norris Cole- 11.0 ppg; 23.0 mpg; 81.8% 3PT
  5. Carlos Boozer- 15.0 ppg; 8.2 rpg

Red-hot Melo drops 50 on the Heat

Carmelo Anthony tied his career-high points tally with 50 against Miami as the Knicks extended their win streak to nine games. New York’s timely run of form is helping them hold on to second place in the East as they battle the Indiana Pacers for the #2 seed. Check-out Melo in action below: (NBAyoutube)

Can the Heat Streak be the greatest?

LeBron is the favourite to retain his MVP title

LeBron is the favourite to retain his MVP title

Miami Heat are just NINE games away from equalling the best-ever win streak in the NBA – but can they go one better and make history?

Erik Spoelstra’s men have not won 24 consecutive games the easy way with TEN of those by winning margins in single figures, FIVE 10+ points deficits not including a double-overtime marathon against Sacramento.

The whole team has stepped up at one stage or another with bench contributions from the likes of Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen often proving vital. The winning mentality is phenomenal and their game-by-game approach is working wonders for their confidence.

Asked how they’ve managed to keep the run going, Battier simply responded ‘Faith’ which epitomises the character of the reigning NBA champions. A good team morale is important, sure, but things are made considerably easier when you have LeBron James on your team..

Many believe the 3x time MVP will soon become the four-time MVP after yet another stellar season. The self-proclaimed ‘King James’ has had a number of incredible plays, in the 24 win Heat Streak alone:

The driving game-winner against Orlando; a triple-double including a trio of triples in a pivotal spell in the comeback win in Cleveland; a devastating dunk on Jason Terry; the winning jumper in the same game v Boston; dropping 39 points in the battle v KD; the NBA record of six straight games with 30+ points with a shooting percentage of 60+. Incredible indeed.

LeBron may be the star player but take nothing away from the four other starters in this team. During the streak, Dwyane Wade has been influential and even stole a Player of the Week award of LBJ which goes to show the level he was playing at. Mario Chalmers has produced a number of key cameo roles while Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem do their job on the boards.

You’d expect Miami to win their next five games despite facing a road trip to Chicago, but then they take on the Western leaders San Antonio. Gregg Popovich’s side are finding a way to cope without Tony Parker and have been impeccable on their home floor this season and they definietly provide the biggest challenge to Miami‘s historic bid.

Miami then take on New York Knicks at the American Airlines Arena and if they pass that test then the Lakers’ record streak of 33 should be equalled and then broken within three days as the Heat take on Philadelphia and Milwaukee at home in April.

There are no easy games in the NBA but the streak can definitely continue to role for the Miami Heat.