And, yet, another scoring record for the NBA All Star Game held at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, Sunday, February 14, 2015, with the West outlasting the East 163-158, for a total of 321 points, beating the 2014 outing of 318 points. The teams combined to make 48 3-pointers, obliterating the previous high of 30, a record which was also set last year.
Eventual All Star Game MVP Russell Westbrook had a hot hand (shooting 16-for-28, 5-for-9 beyond the arc) and his 41 points was just one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time All Star game scoring mark of 42, set over five decades ago in 1962. Westbrook (Oklahoma City) joins Chamberlain (Philadelphia Warriors) and Michael Jordan (Chicago Bulls), who dropped 40 in 1988, as the only players to ever top the 40-mark during the mid-season classic.
It should be noted that Chamberlain set his mark in 37 minutes of play, while Westbrook was in the game for only 25 minutes. The OKC guard did set a record for points scored in a half, with his 27 topping the previous high, 24, accomplished by Glen Rice (Charlotte Hornets) in 1997 and Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) in 2014.
There was another, different, mark achieved Sunday as the Gasol brothers, Pau (Chicago Bulls) and Marc (Memphis Grizzlies), became the first siblings to start in the annual best-of-the-league series. They even faced off for the opening tip, which was won by older brother, Pau, for the East.
Had the East been able to pull out the victory, the game being tied at 148 with four minutes to play, it is likely Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James might have taken the MVP trophy home, scoring 30 points on 11-for-21 shooting, though only 4-for-12 from long distance, while grabbing five boards and adding seven assists.
In a game that is totally driven by offense, with very little defense being played, the West players shot 65-133 (48.9%), with 25-65 (38.5%) from 3-point-land, and the East was 65-130 (50%), but only 23-68 (33.8%) beyond the arc. Other players who put on a show were James Harden (Houston Rockets) with 29 points (firing 11-for-16 overall, 7-12 from 3-point) with eight boards and eight assists, and Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks) with 21 points, all from long-range, where he was 7-for12.
Reserve West guard Chis Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) had a game high 15 assists while Pau Gasol led both squads with 12 rebounds, beating brother Marc, who was second highest with 10.
LeBron James, arguably the most talented player on the court today, maybe even any day, announced his return July 11 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is a good move, for more reasons than one. The way he did it this time is pure class. Let him tell the story (as told to Lee Jenkins at Sports Illustrated). It is well-worth reading.
Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.
Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.
I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.
I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.
I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.
When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.
I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.
To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Walters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.
But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.
I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.
Best of luck, LeBron. It will definitely be a challenge, but you are the man for the job.
For the San Antonio Spurs, who saw the 2013 finals slip away from them in the Game 6 heartbreaker and then lost Game 7 in Miami, these NBA Finals were a much different story. The Spurs took down the 2-time reigning champs, the Miami Heat, decisively, four games to one, with each win in double-digits and set an NBA record, winning by the largest average point differential ever (14).
Games 1 and 2 in San Antonio – Heat 95 Spurs 110 and Heat 98 Spurs 96. Games 3 and 4 in Miami – Spurs 111 Heat 92 and Spurs 107 Heat 86. Game 5 in San Antonio – Heat 87 Spurs 104. In Game 2, Tim Duncan tied Magic Johnson with the most career playoff double-doubles (157). Game 3 saw the Spurs set a record 75.8% shooting effort in the first half, where they took a 71-50 lead at halftime. Games 4 and 5 saw Kawhi Leonard log double-doubles (22-14 and 22-10).
Though soft-spoken 22-year old sensation Leonard was named the NBA Finals MVP, the entire Spurs cast put on a show of basketball greatness, especially the back-to-back slam dunks of the Heat on their home court. Along with Leonard, teammates Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli and the rest of the Spurs play probably the most unselfish game in the NBA, always looking for the open man with the best shot.
Leonard joined teammate Duncan as one of three players to receive the MVP award at that age, though Duncan was a few months younger when he took home the trophy in 1999. The other 22-year old, the youngest, was Magic Johnson, who earned the trophy his rookie season, the only NBA player to ever do so. Leonard was extremely effective offensively, averaging 17.8 points on 61% shooting (including 57.9% from beyond the arc), and did, for the most part, keep 4-time NBA MVP and 2-time Finals MVP LeBron James in check.
For Duncan, a 14-time NBA All Star who has spent his entire NBA career with the Spurs, and coach Gregg “Pop” Popovich, a 3-time NBA Coach of the Year, this championship became No. 5, with previous banners earned in 1999 (4-1 over the New York Knicks), 2003 (4-2 over the New Jersey Nets), 2005 (4-3 over the Detroit Pistons) and 2007 (4-0 over the Cleveland Cavaliers). Only the Celtics (17), Lakers (16) and Bulls (6) have won more titles.
Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs, 2014 NBA Champions.
The defending, and 2-time, NBA Champion Miami Heat and 4-time NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs provided an NBA Finals for the ages, filled with plenty of back-and-forth. From close games to blow-outs, the 2013 series was fun to watch, more so if the two teams, representing the Eastern and Western Conferences, were not the viewer’s favorites. If one of the two was a fave there was either, in the end, total elation or devastating heart-break.
The road to the 2013 Finals saw Miami post a league-best 66-16 record, during which time they went on an all-time NBA 2nd-best 27-0 run, and then saw them struggle against a very aggressive and much bigger Indiana Pacers squad in their Conference Final match-up taking all 7 games to win, while the Spurs (58-24) were tested in the semi-finals and then swept the Memphis Grizzlies in 4, which allowed them some much needed rest before the final games of the season.
This series saw: eclectic DWade pre-game wardrobes; Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli of old as well as an old Tim and and old Manu; a passive LeBron James and a seriously assertive game-changing LeBron; games where the Big 3 of both teams did not fare well; an NBA record-setting barrage of behind-the-arc pumps by an individual player in the Finals, Danny Green (27), as well as by a team in one game (SA-16) and in a series (SA-61); the 3rd largest beatdown in a Finals game (SA 113 – Heat 77); a lost King James headband; a one-shoed 3-pointer by Mike Miller; double-figure double-doubles; two triple-doubles by LeBron; and numerous wild and crazy blocks, steals, slam dunks, turnovers, and overall fast-paced play, without technical or flagrant fouls.
Way late in the 4th quarter of Game 6 (i.e., 30 seconds left, leading by 5) it seemed as though San Antonio had nailed it, so much so that Miami fans were leaving American Airlines Arena and there were activities occurring behind the scene to crown the Spurs as the 2013 Champions and award the trophy. However, the Heat were having none of that (which would have been a repeat of their painful 6th game, home court loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011) as the NBA all-time leader in 3-pointers, Ray Allen, forced an OT which saw the Heat survive and force Game 7. Perhaps Miami Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said it best following Game 6: “They’re the best two words in sports: Game 7.”
In the end, during the final game 7 match-up, it was the Miami Heat taking advantage of unlikely, yet numerous, 4th quarter Spurs turnovers and an outstanding full-game performance by the eventual NBA Finals MVP LeBron James. The onslaught of outside shooting by both James and Wade, strongly assisted by 6 for 8 3-point sharp-shooting by, previously-in-a-funk, Shane Battier, proved a potent offensive weapon for the Heat. For pure competitiveness, incredible passion and excellent sportsmanship this series, with games 6 and 7 in particular (either of which really could have gone either way), will go down as one of the best in NBA history and MVP LeBron summed it up neatly, “They pushed us to the limit.”
Quick recap: Game 1 Spurs 92 – Heat 88 with Tony Parker’s bank shot sealing the game with 4.2 seconds left; Game 2 Heat 103 – Spurs 84 with 5 Heat players scoring in double figures; Game 3 Spurs 113 – Heat 77 with the Spurs nailing 16 3-pointers; Game 4 Heat 109 – Spurs 93 with Miami’s Big 3 combining for 85 points; Game 5 Spurs 114 – Heat 104 with the Spurs team shooting 60% (42 of 70) from the floor; Game 6 Heat 103 – Spurs 100 in OT with Chris Bosh providing 2 very key blocks; Game 7 Heat 95 – Spurs 88 as Wade and James go a combined 23 for 34 (68%).
All in all, a tremendously enjoyable series for fans (always much better when it goes all 7 games), resulting a disappointing loss for the runner-up San Antonio Spurs, and a great victory for the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat.
As a note, with their victory, the Heat join only 7 other franchises to garner at least 3 NBA Finals Champion trophies. Far and away the leaders remain the Celtics and Lakers, with 17 and 16 respectively. Following those 2 are the Bulls with 6, Spurs with 4, and, at 3 apiece, the 76ers, Heat, Pistons and Warriors.
Now it’s on to the draft and then free agency as all 29 teams place Miami in their cross-hairs in order to foil a possible Heat 3-Peat.