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.

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.

Game Night! ft. OKC @ Memphis

STUNNING COMEBACK KEEPS STREAK GOING; MEMPHIS EDGE OUT OKC & LOPEZ LEADS NETS TO WIN ON ESPN

Memphis Grizzlies (46-21) kept up their chances of catching OKC (50-19) after beating their Western rivals 90-89 in an overtime battle. The home side looked in control during the first half before the Thunder fought back to take the lead and it needed a late triple from to force the game beyond regulation.

During the extra period, it was the visitors who edged ahead once more before Marc Gasol snatched the victory with the tip-in just before the final buzzer. The Spaniard and All-Star team-mate Zach Randolph combined for 29 points and 33 rebounds in the win with Mike Conley top scoring with 24 points while Kevin Durant had a game-high 32.

Conley: “It’s always good to win a game like that especially against one of the best teams in the league! This says a lot about our confidence as a team; believing we can win regardless.”

Miami Heat (53-14) pulled off an unbelievable comeback from 27 points down to take their win streak to 24 games after beating Cleveland (22-46) 98-95. LeBron James continues to demonstrate his MVP potential with a vital triple-double with 25 points, 12 rebounds and ten assists and had a personal 8-0 run to give Miami the lead at the start of the fourth while Mario Chalmers contributed a further 17 points as the visitors netted TWELVE triples during the win.

The Cavs (still without Kyrie Irving) used a 19-0 run in the second quarter to assert their authority and opened up a commanding lead at 67-40 in the third quarter. Shane Battier nailed two three’s in the middle of a 15-1 burst before Daniel Gibson‘s late triple gave the hosts a 77-68 lead going into the fourth,where Miami took over. However, despite the nine-point lead being reversed, the home side kept battling and closed to within a point in the final minute after seven unanswered points before James sunk two crucial free throws and Miami held on.

LeBron: “It was one of the best comebacks I’ve been a part of. The streak wasn’t on my mind but getting blown out was!”

The New York Knicks (40-26) closed in on second place in the East after a comfortable 106-94 win at home to Orlando (18-51) as Carmelo Anthony added 21 points and 8 rebounds on his return to the team. Anthony Davis tipped in the game winner in New Orleans as the Hornets (23-46) recorded a narrow 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics (36-31) despite a 28 point haul from Paul Pierce. Brook Lopez led Brooklyn (40-28) to a 113-96 win over Dallas (32-36) after an impressive 38 points and 11 rebounds while Deron Williams added 31 in the ESPN fixture and Reggie Evans pulled down 22 boards.

San Antonio (52-16) used a dominant second quarter display to propel them to a 104-93 success at home to the Golden State Warriors (39-31) with Tim Duncan stepping up with 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. LA Clippers (47-22) eased to a 101-72 victory against Philadelphia (26-41) while Washington (24-43) collected an 88-79 win on the road against the Phoenix Suns (23-46).

Houston Rockets (37-31) earned a vital win in a play-off battle at home to Utah Jazz (34-34) with James Harden‘s 29 points leading the way. Atlanta Hawks (38-30) were guided to a 98-90 win against the Milwaukee Bucks (34-33) by Jeff Teague‘s double-double of 27 points and 11 assists. In the final game, the Charlotte Bobcats (16-52) defeated the Toronto Raptors (26-42) 107-101 for their second win in a row.

Check-out highlights of Miami‘s historic win in Cleveland (NBA):

Wade- “Winning streak is something special”

'WOW' Way of Wade in action

‘WOW’ Way of Wade in action

Dwyane Wade is expecting a tough challenge from Miami’s next two opponents as they look to continue their win streak.

Miami have won their last TWELVE games as they sit clear at the top of the Eastern Conference standings with a 41-14 and take on Memphis tonight before a game in New York on Sunday against the Knicks.

“Memphis are coming in very hot and an early game in New York, I’ll like to see how we respond,” the Heat guard admitted.

“Every game is different! We have confidence as a team but this is a different challenge for us now.”

The 31 year-old had a season-high 39 points in the win over Sacramento in double-OT as he combined with team-mate LeBron James for 79 in total. The dynamic duo were in top form throughout February as Miami began their winning streak with James averaging an incredible 29.7ppg and Wade contributing 23.9 a game.

Wade described Memphis as a ‘physical team’ and praised the partnership of All-Star Zach Randolph and Spanish international Marc Gasol. LeBron also paid tribute to the duo after alluding to the impressive EIGHT game win-streak for the Grizzlies.

“Marc Gasol has one of the biggest IQ’s in the game and Z-Bo is just a walking double-double, his nickname is 20-10,”

The reigning MVP has been thrilling the Miami crowd in recent weeks with some breathtaking pre-game dunks but LeBron insists he is not concerned about the criticism he has received for not participating in the annual Slam Dunk Contest.

“I don’t care. I get criticised for everything! I don’t need props and capes and cheerleaders,  I just do it!”

Another highlight dunk could be on the cards at the American Airlines Arena prior to the Grizzlies game in a battle of the win streaks in Miami. The last time the two sides met it was Memphis who got the W with a 104-86 home triumph back in November.