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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Will it be an unwelcome déjà vu for San Antonio?

Spurs 2-0 Grizzlies tbc..

Spurs 2-0 Grizzlies tbc.. Pic: NBA.com

San Antonio took care of home court in contrasting fashion to take a 2-0 series lead over Memphis and will now look to avoid repeating their collapse of 12 months ago.

The 2012 Western Conference Final started with the Spurs taking a 2-0 lead against Oklahoma before suffering defeat in the next four games and crashing out of the Playoffs.

Tony Parker eluded to their ‘nightmare’ before the series insisting that making the most of their home court advantage was vital and that last year’s defeat has been a motivation since training camp.

The Grizzlies are certainly capable of forcing San Antonio to re-live their collapse having already reeled off four straight victories in BOTH rounds so far, beating the Clippers 4-2 before a 4-1 win over last year’s Western victors OKC.

However, things haven’t quite clicked for Memphis just yet and their opponents have taken full advantage. Their head-coach, Lionel Hollins can at least take heart from the way his side battled back in Game 2 to force overtime but will be looking for All-Star Zach Randolph to have more of an impact on the series.

The opening game saw the Spurs get HOT from downtown in a dominant franchise record breaking performance (see tweet below) while the second was the ‘Tony Parker Show’ before holding their nerve in OT to go two up in the series. And this time it was the turn of Conley to pay tribute to TP9:

“Tony’s great, one of the best in the league! The draw and kick was effective and when you have a player creating a lot of plays it just puts pressure on the defence,” the Memphis guard added after going 0-2 down.

A 23-8 start to the series laid the foundation for an impressive beginning for Gregg Popovich‘s side as their lead grew to as many as 28 POINTS. San Antonio only needed six points from Tim Duncan in the 105-83 rout while the Grizzlies needed a lot more than the two points provided by Randolph.

His fortunes changed in Game 2, and in turn they changed for Memphis. However, not drastically as Randolph started the game going 1-10 before improving to 6-18 from the field for 15 points along with 18 rebounds while his front-court partner (and DPOY) Marc Gasol added 12p/14r.

San Antonio were out-rebounded 60-46 and gave up an 18 point lead which resulted in an extra period but they had all five starters in double-figures while Parker dished out a career-Playoff high 18 assists. The hosts enjoyed more minutes from Tiago Splitter and 14 more points this time around following the Brazilian‘s scoreless effort in the series opener.

Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are proving deadly 3-point shooters for the Spurs which makes them an effective team from outside considering the strengths of Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner coming off the bench. Memphis on the other hand, are not prolific shooters from beyond the arc and would much rather work the ball inside to either one of Z-Bo or Gasol and happily play out an old fashioned three point play.

The series is far from over and Memphis will be encouraged by their battling display to force OT in Game 2 while San Antonio will look to steal a game on the road to cast aside any lingering comparisons to their 2012 WC Finals.

Both sides will now get a few days extra rest as Miami and Indiana play their opening two games of the series and Duncan believes this period will benefit the Spurs.

Speaking about the break, the 3x NBA Finals MVP added: “It’s huge! Coming off the last game and now this physical series, we will be refreshed going into hostile territory. It will be a tough game in Memphis but we will use this time to be re-energised.”

Game 3 in Memphis takes place on Saturday @ 9pm Eastern Time which will equate to the early hours of Sunday morning in the UK.

NBA Playoffs: San Antonio Spurs 4-2 Golden State Warriors

Job Well Done: Parker and Duncan fire Spurs to win

Job Well Done: Parker and Duncan fire Spurs to win

In a series that every neutral wanted to go the distance, San Antonio came through in 6 to advance to the Conference Finals yet again. The Spurs swept the Lakers in the first round while Golden State upset 3rd seeds Denver 4-2 with Steph Curry lighting up the series to set up an exciting duel between the two.

GAME 1: Golden State 127-129 San Antonio (2OT) @ AT&T Centre

A thrilling start to the series saw Manu Ginobili sink a game-winning three in the dying seconds of the second period of overtime. The Warriors led by as many as 18 before being pegged back and falling short despite the heroics of a 44 point haul from Curry. It was the visitors who edged a fast-paced first half 53-49 before they broke clear in the third following another dynamic 3rd quarter display from the ‘Human Torch’. Curry netted an incredible 22 points including four 3-pointers as Golden State opened up a 90-82 advantage. Despite letting up 39 points, the hosts still scored 31 of their own to remain within reach as Danny Green connected with a trio of triples during the third. The 25 year old’s precision from downtown proved vital in the fourth as Green sent the game into overtime with 20 seconds left as the Spurs fought back from a 98-82 deficit with 9:00 left on the clock. The teams could not be separated in the first and it looked as if GSW were going to steal a win on the road with a 6-0 run in the final minute of the second period beyond regulation until Ginobili‘s killer three saved the hosts. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 28 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists while Tim Duncan (19p/11r) and Ginobili (16p/11a) added double-doubles and Green netted 6-9 from beyond the arc on his way to 22 points.

San Antonio lead the best-of-7-series 1-0.

GAME 2: Golden State 100-91 San Antonio @ AT&T Centre

Golden State tied the series with a dominant second quarter while Klay Thompson had a career-high night with 34 points and 14 rebounds to hand the Warriors home court advantage. Curry set the tone early on with two triples opening the scoring for the visitors but it was to be the other member of the ‘Splash Brothers’ duo who carried on the damage with a devastating first half dispaly. Thompson netted FIVE 3-pointers in a 17 point second quarter to take his tally to 29 at the half, where GSW led 62-43. San Antonio did their best to reduce the deficit and closed to within seven after consecutive three’s from Green and Gary Neal but Thompson struck his 8th trey at the end of the third to make it 83-72. The Spurs trailed by six at 95-89 but were unable to produce another comeback as Curry scored the next five points as the hosts were held to just 2 points in the final 4 minutes. Curry added 22 points to Thompson‘s impressive haul while Duncan and Parker combined for 43 points for San Antonio, who were restricted to below 40% from the field as the series was levelled at 1-1.

Series tied at 1-1.

GAME 3: San Antonio 102-92 Golden State @ Oracle Arena

Tony Parker led the Spurs to a win on the road as they bounced back from a loss at home in Game 2 while the Warriors were left concerned about Curry‘s ankle injury. TP9 exploded for 25 points in the opening half before finishing with a game-high 32 while Duncan added a 23-10 double-double. San Antonio were down 19-14 midway through the first before producing an 18-4 close to lead 32-23. Golden State enjoyed a better second quarter until the final minute when a 6-0 close to the half saw the Spurs maintain their nine point advantage at 57-48. The Warriors tied the game at 65 on a Curry three but then went scoreless for the next five minutes as the visitors opened up a double-digit lead and when Kawhi Leonard netted a three to the end the third, they led 79-69. Once again a GSW run was followed by an immediate response from the Spurs as Green and Parker netted triples to spark an 11-1 burst after a 9-0 start to the 4th from the Warriors. The home side closed to within five points but it was too little, too late as San Antonio held on to claim victory.

San Antonio lead the best-of-7-series 2-1.

GAME 4: San Antonio 87-97 Golden State (OT) @ Oracle Arena

Golden State levelled the series at 2-2 after an overtime victory as the Spurs capitulated during the extra period. Harrison Barnes produced a career-high 26 points while Jarett Jack had 24 off the bench and Andrew Bogut managed to grab 18 rebounds despite getting himself into foul trouble early on. Curry netted two triples early on but Ginobili took over the quarter with 11 late points including three 3-pointers to give the visitors a 26-19 advantage. A fourth followed in the second and San Antonio were soon ahead by 10 which became 8 at the half. Curry scored twice more from beyond the arc in a pivotal 18-4 run for the home side as they took the lead at 55-51. Parker would hand the Spurs back the initiative by the end of the third as his basket made it 62-60 to the visitors. GSW compiled a 10-2 run through Jack and Thompson to tie the game at 82 in the final minute. Both teams made baskets before missing the chance to take the game as they headed into overtime. San Antonio would miss their first seven shots from the field and the Warriors capitalised with nine points during their opponents’ baron spell. Green finally struck from 3-point range but the game was up and the series was heading back to Texas all-square.

Series tied at 2-2.

GAME 5: Golden State 91-109 San Antonio @ AT&T Centre

San Antonio took care of home court in style to put the pressure back on Golden State after taking a 3-2 series lead. Parker led the way for the Spurs with his first double-double of the series with 25 points and 10 assists with Duncan (14-10) adding one of his own, Leonard making 7-8 from the field for 17 points while the ‘Splash Brothers’ were less effective with a combined 13 points on 6-22 shooting for the visiting Warriors. The hosts made a strong start and Duncan had 10 first quarter points as the Spurs opened up a 37-28 advantage and they never looked back. Golden State threatened to take the lead when Curry made it a one point game but they were kept at bay by an efficient San Antonio offence, which built a 54-51 advantage at the interval. The third was more comfortable for the hosts who used a 7-0 run to break clear and by the end of the third, they led 83-72. There was to be no comebacks in this game as San Antonio saw the game out with ease as Gregg Popovich was able to rest his starters and Australian Patty Mills netted a late three off the bench to complete a satisfying performance for the home side.

San Antonio lead the best-of-7-series 3-2.

GAME 6 San Antonio 94-82 Golden State @ Oracle Arena

San Antonio closed out the series on the road to progress to the Western Conference Finals, where they will take on the Memphis Grizzlies. Curry‘s game-high 22 points were in vain for the Warriors as the Spurs had all five starters in double figures, led by Duncan‘s 19 points. The visitors edged a tight first quarter 21-19 before taking a 47-40 lead into the locker rooms courtesy of a 10-0 run at the start of the second. San Antonio remained in control throughout the third before a late rally from GSW as they took inspiration from the crowd to again trail by seven, heading into the fourth. Thompson made it a three point game but Green soon pushed the lead back up to seven with a 3-pointer of his own. The home side cut the gap to just a single basket as they hoped to extend the series but Leonard and Parker nailed dagger three’s before the French international sealed the win at the foul line, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the final quarter.

San Antonio win the best-of-7-series 4-2.

                                    Top 5 players

  1. Tony Parker 22.5 ppg; 6.2 apg; 4.7 rpg
  2. Tim Duncan 19.5 ppg; 10.3 rpg
  3. Steph Curry 22.5 ppg; 6.8 apg; 19 3PM
  4. Kawhi Leonard 14.7 ppg; 9.2 rpg; 56% FG
  5. Harrison Barnes 17.3 ppg; 7.3 rpg

Mini-Profile: Manu Ginobili

Next up in the series is a man looking to lead the Spurs in the absence of Tony Parker, Argentine Manu Ginobili.

Manu Ginobili leading the way

Manu Ginobili leading the way

Bio:

Age- 35 (28/07/77)

Position- Shooting Guard

Height- 6’6″

Nationality- Argentinian

Previous Teams- San Antonio Spurs (2002-present)

Season Highs:

Points- 23 (v Houston 28/12/12)

Assists- 15 (v Sacramento 01/03/13)

3pt made- 6 (v Orlando 28/11/12)

20+ Points- 7 (Most recent v Phoenix 26/01/13)

Career Highs:

Points- 48 (v Phoenix 21/01/05)

Points Per Game Average- 19.5 (San Antonio 2007-08)

3-pointers made- 8 (v Cleveland 13/02/08)

Rebounds- 15 (v Toronto 11/02/08)

Assists- 15 (v Sacramento 01/03/13 )

Honours

NBA Champion 2003, 2005, 2007

NBA All-Star 2005, 2011

NBA Sixth-man of the Year 2008

2004 Olympics Gold Medalist

2008 Olympics Silver Medalist

Game Night ft. Miami @ NY Knicks

HEAT COMEBACK TIES FRANCHISE WIN STREAK; CLIPPERS FALL TO OKC & LAKERS EDGE PAST THE HAWKS

Miami Heat (43-14) equalled their franchise record of 14 straight wins after defeating the Knicks (35-21) 99-93 in New York after overturning a 16-point deficit. LeBron James continued to enhance his MVP credentials with 29 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists while Dwyane Wade had 20pts/8rbs/8as to help cancel out the 32 point haul from Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo’ had 17 after the first although the Knicks trailed narrowly before streaking clear in the second with Jason Kidd nailing four triples to help the hosts into a 59-45 lead. Miami battled back in the third before tying the game following consecutive triples from LeBron in the final quarter. Wade put the visiting Heat ahead with four minutes to go and they held on to their advantage to deny the Knicks a third win over Miami this season.

In the second game of the SkySports double header, Oklahoma (43-16) survived a late fightback from the LA Clippers (43-19) to record a 108-104 victory.  Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 64 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists for the visitors while All-Star MVP Chris Paul had 26 points and 8 assists for the Clippers, who battled back from 19 points down after a foray of 3-pointers gave them the lead with 90 seconds to go before falling short.

San Antonio (47-14) reacted well to the loss of Tony Parker for around four weeks with a comprehensive 114-75 drubbing against the Detroit Pistons (23-39). LA Lakers (30-30) finally reached the .500 mark of a close fought 99-98 win at home to the Atlanta Hawks (33-25). Kobe Bryant top scored with a 34 point haul and scored a lay-up with nine seconds left to seal the win after the visiting Hawks  had battled back from 16 points down to lead in the final minute. Indiana Pacers (38-22) maintained second spot in the Eastern standings with a 97-92 home win against Chicago (34-26) as David West’s 31 points helped to down the Bulls.

STAR Performance: Tim Duncan had 16 points, 11 rebounds, provided six assists and blocked five shots.

Houston Rockets (33-28) recorded a convincing 136-103 win over the Dallas Mavericks (26-33) after a dominant third quarter powered them to success. Chandler Parsons had a career-high 32 points on 12-13 FG shooting including 6-7 three’s while James Harden and Jeremy Lin both added 21 points with 16 assists between them. Washington Wizards (19-39) enjoyed a 90-87 win at home to the 76ers (23-35) to inflict an eighth defeat in nine on Philadelphia.

Sacramento Kings (21-40) cruised to a 119-83 victory at home to the Charlotte Bobcats (13-46) after outscoring their opponents 43-19 in the third quarter. John Salmons led six Kings‘ scorers in double-figures with a 22 point haul as Sacramento look to lift themselves off of bottom spot in the Eastern standings. Memphis (39-19) have now won nine of their last ten after defeating Orlando (16-44) 108-82 with Tayshaun Prince leading an array of scorers with 14 points in the absence of Zach Randolph.

STAT: Marc Gasol dished out 11 assists for the first time in his career during the Grizzlies‘ win.

Check-out Kobe‘s high-flying dunk on his way to a 34 point haul against the Hawks.