By Ollie Nash
Bam Adebayo led the Head to the NBA Finals in Game 6. Photo: AFP
The Miami Heat have advanced to their first NBA Finals since 2014 following their 125-113 Game 6 win over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
A dominant 32 point, 14 rebound and five assist performance from Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat, who finished off the fourth quarter on a 27-13 run to take the win.
Adebayo was upset with his 13 points in their Game 5 loss, but he made up for it today, attacking every chance he got offensively and putting Boston’s big men under pressure. Celtic centre Daniel Theis felt the brunt of it, fouling out midway through the final quarter.
Adebayo’s intensity seemed to filter through the entire Heat roster who followed his lead, attacking at every opportunity. Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart therefor found themselves in foul trouble too, Walker committing two fouls in the first four minutes of the game.
Miami’s game style reflected in the shooting numbers. 19 less field goals attempted than Boston but made two more. They put up 18 less threes and still only made one less than the Celtics. 26 free throw attempts to 15 as well shows the Heat’s attack first mentality.
During the second and third quarters Boston flipped their game plan and attacked Miami’s zone and it worked. They were finding easy shots and open looks in the paint and it kept them in the game.
When they went away from that, the Heat were able to go on short runs and get a six or eight point lead. Eventually they went on a run that stuck in the fourth which ended the game.
Of the Celtics top four scorers, it was only Jaylen Brown that shot the ball well (10-17 from the field and 3-7 from the three-point line). Low and behold, he was the only one attacking the rim regularly for the Celtics. Walker and Smart each shot double digit threes and hit three and four respectively.
Jimmy Butler will play off in his first NBA Finals in 2020. Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Miami’s elite shooting (56.2 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from three) was their saviour. Boston led the offensive rebound count 13 to two, dominated second chance points, had eight more points off turnovers than the Heat and 11 fast-break points to three. Plain and simply the Celtics couldn’t buy a bucket and Miami could, which decided the game.
Tyler Herro (19 points, five rebounds and seven assists) and Andre Iguodala (15 points and four threes) were great off the bench for the Heat.
Jayson Tatum didn’t have a field goal in the first quarter for the third straight game but still managed to finish with 24 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. Walker and Smart added 20 each as well.
The series loss is Boston’s third conference finals defeat in four seasons and Miami’s first appearance and win in the third round in six years.
The Heat will now look forward to facing LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who took the franchise to four straight NBA Finals and two championships from 2011-2014. Game 1 of that series tips off on Thursday at 11:00 am AEDT on ESPN.
Cover Photo: Fansided
By Liam Melrose.
Jayson Tatum put the Celtics on his back in Game 5. Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Celtics have brought the series back to 3-2, forcing a Game 6 on the back of a 121-108 win. The victory keeps the series alive, giving the Miami Heat just their third loss of the post-season.
The Celtics were back to their best against Miami in Game 5, as they attempt to become the latest team to come back from a 3-1 deficit.
Boston had six players in double figure scoring numbers, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combining for 59 Celtic points. Tatum finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Brown had 28 points shooting the ball at 52.2% from the field.
The Heat threatened to finish the series off early, beginning the game on a 17-5 scoring run in the first quarter. Jimmy Butler was clicking all cylinders in the first half with 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Duncan Robinson had 17 points propelling the Heat to a seven-point buffer at the half.
Jimmy Butler was strong in the first half with 14 points and eight rebounds. Photo: Getty Images
However, after halftime with their season on the line, Boston went to another level beginning the second half on a 20-6 run, outscoring Miami 41-25 in the third quarter.
It looked as though Boston had suddenly realised this was it. They had to win the second half or they were going home.
Tatum put the Celtics on his back in the third quarter with 17 points, lifting the Celtics to a nine-point lead going into the fourth.
It was the eighteenth time this season Miami had blown a lead of at least 10 points or more, with the Heat struggling to handle the depth of the Boston lineup once the Celtics got things rolling.
The Celtics began the fourth quarter full of energy, as Jaylen Brown hit back to back threes with just over eight minutes remaining in the fourth. This would spark a run that would give Boston a sixteen-point lead, their biggest of the night, ultimately putting the game out of reach.
The Heat struggled from the three-point line shooting just 3-18 from behind the arc, while Boston put the clamps on Tyler Herro keeping him to just 14 points after he had 37-points in Game 5.
Miami currently leads the series 3-2, as Boston look to push the series to seven games on Monday with the game taking place at 9:30am AEDT.
Cover Photo: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
By Ollie Nash
Anthony Davis was great for the Lakers and put multiple Denver bigs in foul trouble. Photo: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
The Los Angeles Lakers have taken a commanding 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, with a 114-108 win in Game 4.
Thanks to 60 combined points from Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the Lakers held off the Nuggets who despite being down the entire game, continued to make runs and stay in the contest.
LA were able to jump out to multiple double-digit leads in the second and third quarters, but thanks to another exceptional game from Jamal Murray, Denver continually bought it back to within four or five.
After a 37-30 first quarter lead to Los Angeles, the points differential for the remaining three quarters was just two in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth.
Offensive rebounds were the difference for the Lakers, and Dwight Howard led the way in this area from the outset. Replacing JaVale McGee in the starting line-up, Howard had eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter, four of which were offensive.
His impact on the game extended to the defensive end too, holding Nikola Jokic to just two points in the first quarter. Anthony Davis and Jamal Murray were on fire to start the game however, Davis putting up 14 points on 6-6 field goal and Murray having 12 on 6-7 shooting.
The two continued their dominance in the remaining three quarters, which were back and forth with big plays from star players on both ends.
The Lakers looked to be breaking away with an 11-point lead with 3:35 to play in the third. An 11-4 Denver run and back-to-back threes from Michael Porter Jr. bought the margin back to three however, and it was anyone’s game going into the final quarter.
Jamal Murray continues to impress in these playoffs. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
Davis injured his ankle after landing on Paul Millsap’s foot with 6:44 to play and with just a five-point lead following his free-throws, it felt like Denver were in the box seat. Big play after big play on both ends ensued, and it took a Rajon Rondo jump-shot and two free-throws from LeBron James to take the margin to seven with two-minutes to play, enough to get the Lakers home.
Despite James’ tough defence on him in the final six minutes, Jamal Murray was still outstanding, finishing with 32 points, three rebounds and eight assists on 12-20 shooting from the field.
Jokic was quiet compared to his standards with 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists. It was the supporting cast that kept Denver alive though, Jerami Grant (17), Porter Jr. (13) and Monte Morris (12) all impacting the game.
On the Lakers side Howard’s 12 points and 11 rebounds were huge and Rondo’s 11 points, five rebounds and seven assists were big also.
Los Angeles will now look to advance to their first NBA Finals since 2010 on Sunday, with Game Five kicking off at 11:00 am AEDT on ESPN.
Cover Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
By Ollie Nash
Tyler Herro's name is forever in the history books after his breakout performance. Photo: NBA
The Miami Heat have taken a commanding 3-1 lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to the first ever “Tyler Herro playoff game,” but not without a late scare from the Celtics.
The rookie poured in 37 points on 14-21 shooting from the field and 5-10 from the three-point line to propel the Heat to a 112-109 win, their 11th of these playoffs from 13 games.
In a game where defence was king and neither team could hit consistent threes, Herro was a class above, with the 20-year-old leading the way. Boston eventually finished 14-40 from the arc, but Miami went just 10-37 from deep. This was still a big improvement from their three-quarter time numbers, Boston entering the fourth 9-29 and Miami 6-26 from the three.
Both teams’ stars were superb. Despite going scoreless in the first half, Jayson Tatum caught fire to pour in 16 third quarter points, finishing with 28. Kemba Walker (20), Jaylen Brown (21) and Gordon Hayward off the bench (14) were great in a losing effort for Boston.
Jimmy Butler (24), Bam Adebayo (20) and Goran Dragic (22) were a handy supporting cast for Herro on the Miami side.
As has been the case for the Heat throughout these playoffs, despite leading the entire game, it was never a blowout and Boston were in the game across all four quarters. A game-high 12-point lead for the Heat early in the third was quickly back to six, and it stayed around that mark for the remainder of the contest.
With 56-seconds left in the fourth quarter Miami took a nine-point lead off a Herro layup and the game was seemingly over. However, back-to-back threes from Tatum and Brown bought the game back to just three points with 16-seconds remaining.
Back and forth free throws finished the game, with Daniel Theis’s full-court pass to Brown for a last second three attempt being broken up and time running out.
Jimmy Butler and Jaylen Brown for excellent for their respective sides in Game 4. Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Turnovers proved costly for Boston, they had 19 for the game which led to 17 Miami points. In comparison, Miami committed just eight for nine Celtics points. In a game where shooting numbers and other statistics were so even, turnovers proved to be the difference.
The turning point of the game came late in the second term. Miami moved to their zone that has proved so effective in these playoffs and did so again tonight. Dragic finished off a four-point play to give Miami a six-point lead and a nice buffer.
Boston was never out of it though and after some Tatum magic in the third, they took a one-point lead with just under nine minutes to play. This was their first since leading 25-24 in the first quarter.
An Adebayo dunk and five-straight points to Herro quickly gave Miami that six-point buffer again however, which they never relinquished.
Miami will now look to advance to their first NBA Finals since 2014 with a win on Saturday, kicking off at 10:30 am AEDT time on ESPN.
Cover Photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports
By Ollie Nash
The top two seeds in the East are gone while the Clippers and Lakers live to fight another day in the West. Photo: ESPN
The 2019-20 NBA playoffs have been amazing. Fans and experts will look back at some of these games as the best playoff games in history, I have no doubt about that.
I’m wasting no time and jumping straight in, because if I don’t then someone might score 100 points, it honestly wouldn’t surprise me after 2020 so far. Here are the biggest surprises and positive storylines from the NBA Playoffs to date.
1. Miami proving all doubters wrong
I’ll put my hand up and say I didn’t believe in Miami as a genuine contender. I, like many, thought they matched up well against Milwaukee, but assumed the Bucks would ultimately get over them through seven games. The Heat basically said 'f*** you' to everyone and won the series in five.
For the now, it gives Miami a chance to win a title which no one saw coming. For the future, it gives them even further legitimacy in free agency than they already had, with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra leading the way. They have cap space and a bunch of role players on great contracts and they’re hungry for success. Miami have nailed their rebuild so far.
Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat have exceeded all expectations in the bubble. Photo: USA Today
2. Luka Doncic is legit
We already knew Luka Doncic was a star, but his performance against the Clippers in the first round has taken him to a level that no one has gone to at his age before. Playing against a team full of “dogs”, Doncic was the biggest dog of them all, putting Dallas on his back and taking it to the Clips.
Even with the extra attention from Marcus Morris Sr. (which we all know was dirty), he put up 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists on 50/36.4/65.5 shooting splits. Chuck in a step-back game-winning three and a 20-point comeback for good measure as well, and we have ourselves a serious playoff player for the next 15 or so years.
3. Boston and Toronto series
Toronto and Boston have played in the biggest heavyweight title fight type series I have almost ever seen. Just haymakers being thrown left and right. This series is plain and simply just good for basketball. Blowouts, buzzer beaters, two of the best coaches in the league going at it and some post-game fights just to top it all off.
I’ve never sat back in my chair, hands on head and said “holy sh**” as many times as I did during the last quarter and double-overtime of game six. Big shots being made by star players and huge defensive stops on the other end. Then to top it all off, game seven came down to the wire and the young Celtics got over the hump of the experienced, reigning champion Raptors. Amazing series.
Tension was high through a long seven game series between Toronto and Boston. Photo: AP/Mark J. Terrill
4. Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray coming out party
I have been Jamal Murray’s biggest critic. I thought he was inconsistent and overpaid. He has served me a big old piece of humble pie in these playoffs. He has still had a couple of down games, as all players do, but has jumped up a level in the stardom standings.
His battle with Donovan Mitchell in their first round match-up was historic. Before the series began only two players had scored 50 or more points twice in a single playoff series, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson. That number doubled after Murray and Mitchell did it.
Both players are stuck on teams at the moment that aren’t quite there, but their personal trajectory is looking skyward, and no doubt they will drag their teams with them in the coming years.
5. Chris Paul winding back the clock
Although Oklahoma City couldn’t get past Houston in game seven of their first-round match-up, the play from Chris Paul to get them to that position was awesome. From 2-0 down and seemingly out of the series to forcing a game seven and coming within a couple of plays of winning. Like the Boston/Toronto game six, I couldn’t hold back my “what the f*** is going on” comment in the dying stages of that game seven.
It was fun to watch Paul get back to leading a team and now I look forward to another potential move to a legitimate contender. With that in mind, does Paul look good in green?
Cover Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP
By Liam Melrose
The Dallas Mavericks are led by Slovenian Luka Doncic and Latvian Kristaps Porzingis. Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
It’s rare in the NBA to see two of the best international players in the league pair up to become the duo of a franchise. In fact, it’s so rare we’ve never seen it before.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis may have exited the 2019-20 season in the first round of the playoffs, however they went down swinging to one of the best teams in the league, the Los Angeles Clippers. For both players, it was their first time in the playoffs.
Through the six games of the series Doncic averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds and 8.7 assists. He was just the fifth player in NBA history to average at least 30 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists in a playoff series, and even more remarkably the first player ever to do so in their inaugural playoff campaign.
The Clippers did all they could to provoke Doncic in a similar way to how the Detroit Pistons used to attack Michael Jordan. He had to earn every basket with Los Angeles using Marcus Morris Snr to attack the young superstar.
It started in Game 1, with Morris unnecessarily wrapping his arms around Doncic, which eventually led to things getting heated and Kristaps Porzingis ejected with a second technical foul. Doncic was nursing an injured ankle in Game 5, and while Morris denies any wrongdoing, it looked to many as if he deliberately stood on Doncic’s injured ankle. In the first quarter of Game 6, Morris once again was under the spotlight, this time receiving a flagrant two foul, as he hit Doncic hard on his way to the ring, eventually leading to an ejection.
Doncic suggested following Game 6 he felt as though Morris was trying to hurt him.
“It’s two games in a row that he did something like that,” Doncic said. “I really hope the first game it wasn’t on purpose. But looking back at the foul this game, you know what I think. I don’t want to deal with those kind of players. I just move on.”
Luka Doncic has taken the NBA by storm at just 21 years of age. Photo: Sam Hodde/AP
It speaks volumes of Doncic's character and maturity for such a young player, to be able to handle anything that the Clippers threw at him, and still be able to perform at his absolute peak.
While Doncic put up historic numbers for a first-time playoff appearance, we can’t forget about Kristaps Porzingis. In my opinion he was the strongest performing big man throughout the seeding games, and if it wasn’t for him going down with a knee injury, who knows how far this team could have gone.
Throughout the six seeding games Porzingis played, he averaged 30.5 points per game, an increase of 11.1 from during the regular season before the restart, as well as 9.5 rebounds per game.
The Mavericks have the opportunity to build a dynasty with Porzingis being just 25 years of age, and Doncic remarkably just 21. Both players are also contracted for multiple years to come.
After the Mavericks made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 this season, the chemistry between Doncic and Porzingis should continue to grow. We should expect to see Dallas advance past the first round for the first time since 2011 as early as next season, if they can find the right pieces to put alongside the exciting pair.
Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis could be a force for years to come. Photo: AP/Tony Gutierrez
Doncic and Porzingis are both superstars in a team that has a number of strong role players that make them a playoff team in the Western Conference for the time being. However, if they’re going to take the next step and win a title in seasons to come, they need a defensive anchor. Porzingis averaged 1.5 blocks per game following the restart of the season, however his value is on the offensive end.
While there are a number of scoring wing options that would fit in the Dallas lineup, such as Gordon Hayward, JJ Redick or Caris LaVert, the Mavericks should put their focus into the defensive end.
A player I think would fit perfectly is Utah’s Rudy Gobert, and it’s not an unrealistic option. With well documented tension between Gobert and superstar teammate Donovan Mitchell, the Frenchman could be on the move next season. By adding Gobert, suddenly the Mavericks would have extreme length at the four and five positions, making them extremely hard to score against, and a balance of offensive and defensive strength between their two talls.
A potential trade that would see Rudy Gobert get to the Dallas Mavericks.
Another terrific fit would be Patrick Beverley of the Los Angeles Clippers. Beverley is one of the toughest defensive guards in the league, and if the Mavericks could secure a player like him it takes the pressure off Luka Doncic, and allows Dallas to assign Beverley to the oppositions best offensive guard. Doncic can then put most of his focus into scoring and playmaking, which is his greatest strength.
Rudy Gobert would be a perfect fit alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Photo: Michael Ainsworth/AP
It was a priority for Dallas to make the postseason for the first time in four years going into the 2019-20 season, and while they have two young superstars with untapped potential, the ball is in their hands in terms of how far this franchise can go in years to come.
However, no matter what pieces the Mavericks place around them, the sky is the limit for this dream European superstar duo.
Cover Photo: Derick E.Hingle-USA TODAY Sports