Tim Duncan wanted the Miami Heat Again, now he has Them

tim-duncan-nba-finalsIt’s another year in the NBA, but not much has changed at the top. For the second straight year, the Miami Heat dispatched the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, taking the series in six games. The San Antonio Spurs also needed just six games to beat the more-youthful Oklahoma City Thunder. So now, for the second straight year, Miami and San Antonio will meet in the NBA Finals.

Last year’s series was a seesaw affair, with the Heat finally pulling away 95-88 on their home floor in Game 7. The Spurs had their adversaries on the ropes at one point in Game 6. However, LeBron James and Ray Allen sparked a heroic comeback that saw the series shift back to Miami for the deciding final contest.

Duncan can’t wait to play Miami

Given how close the series was, it’s little surprise that Tim Duncan relishes the opportunity to play the Heat again for the NBA title. “We’re happy that it’s the Heat,” said Duncan. “We’ll be ready for them. We’ve got some experience, obviously, from last year against them. And we’ll go back and look at some film. And we’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to take it this time.”

Duncan has won four titles with the Spurs, taking the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 1999, 2003, ’05 and ’07. He and the Spurs came agonizingly close to another one in 2013 as they led Game 6 by a score of 94-89 with just 28 seconds left. However, an Allen 3-pointer turned the tide of the game and, as mentioned before, Miami won the final two contests. “We were ready last year and we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Duncan said.

Renewed Fire

tim-duncan-nba-finals-1Losing the Finals really seems to have motivated the aging Spurs this season as they topped the NBA with a 62-20 record, despite playing in the all-around-tougher Western Conference. The Heat, meanwhile, cruised to the second seed in the East after finishing 54-28. That said, San Antonio will have home court advantage in this year’s 2-2-1-1-1 format.

Aside from having home court advantage in the 2014 NBA Finals – a change from last season – San Antonio also comes into the series with more experience. Sure, you can’t get more experienced than the Spurs’ “Big Three,” Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. However, important role players like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter and Corey Joseph were all making their first trip to the Finals a year ago. Plus, there’s new help in Boris Diaw, who scored 26 points against the Thunder in Game 6, and sharpshooter Marco Belinelli.

“Last year was many guys’ first time to the Finals,” Green explained. “We’re lucky enough to go back. There is still a lot of work to be done, and we won’t be satisfied until we accomplish our goal. And that’s to be the last team standing.”

Stepping up

It seems that the San Antonio role players could have a much bigger impact this time around. This is especially the case with regard to Joseph, who started the entire second half of San Antonio’s 112-107 (OT) Game 6 victory over Oklahoma City. Parker sat out after his ankle began bothering him and he couldn’t cut on it very well. So head coach Greg Popovich chose to rest his star guard, rather than risk further injury. Parker, who averaged 14 PPG and 5.5 APG on the season, had just eight points, two rebounds and no assists in his limited Game 6 outing.

The one thing that Parker and older Spurs players have on their side is five days rest. The 2014 NBA Finals doesn’t start until 8pm ET on Thursday. This also favors those who are interested in 2014 NBA Finals betting because they still have plenty of time to research the matchups and make an informed decision. Furthermore, there’ll also be a number of NBA Finals prop bets and live wagering opportunities for bettors to enjoy.

Amazingly, Greg Oden is playing Meaningful NBA Minutes Again

greg-oden-returnsIt’s safe to say that Greg Oden’s professional basketball career hasn’t gotten off to a very good start. In fact, some people already consider Oden to be a major draft bust since injuries have prevented him from seeing much of the court.

After averaging 15.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG and 3.3 BPG in his lone season at Ohio State, the 7-footer was drafted number one overall by the Portland Trailblazers. Unfortunately, he didn’t play a single game in his first year after undergoing microfracture surgery before the preseason even started.

Oden finally got to debut as a rookie in the 2008-2009 season. He still missed 21 games and played through injuries, but managed to post numbers of 8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.1 BPG. Oden started out the 2009-10  season with even better numbers, averaging 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG. But his career was derailed again when he was carried off the court on a stretcher. He suffered a season-ending injury and underwent surgery for a fractured left patella.

Following more setbacks, Oden missed two more seasons for the Trailblazers, and the team officially cut ties with him in 2012 so they could create more roster space. Given the fact that he played just 82 games for them over a six-year span, the Trailblazers will always consider him a bust. But that doesn’t mean the former number one overall pick has given up…

greg-oden-returns-1He recently returned to the court for the Miami Heat. He signed a one-year minimum contract worth $884,293 in an attempt to revive his career. Seeing as how the Heat don’t exactly need a lot of help at center with Chris Bosh starting and Chris Anderson backing him up, they decided to bring Oden along slowly. And now, it appears as if he’s finally in shape and over previous injuries.

In four games so far, he’s averaging 3.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG and 0.5 BPG. Oden fills an important role for the Heat because of his size (7’0″, 270 pounds), and he’s a true center who could match up well with Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. Contrast this to Bosh and Anderson, who are also centers, but not exactly low-post bruisers.

We can only count on Oden’s role expanding as he gets better and more used to real game minutes. “I still got a ways to go,” he said. “I’m still not as quick as I want to be out there. There are still things I can get better at.”

At 25 years old and with multiple injuries throughout his career, Greg Oden may never live up to the demands of a number-one draft pick. However, he’s getting meaningful minutes once again, and with a two-time defending NBA champion nonetheless. It’ll be quite interesting to see if he can help the Heat win their third title in a row this season.

Miami currently boasts the Eastern Conference’s second best record (31-12), trailing Indiana and their league-leading 31-8 mark. The Pacers took them to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year. And the Pacers are looking even better thanks to Paul George, Hibbert and the emergence of second-round pick Lance Stephenson. If the Heat are to make the NBA Finals again, the’ll need Oden to help neutralize Hibbert’s impact since there’s hardly anybody in the league who can match up with the 7’2″ center.

Are the Brooklyn Nets bound to miss the Playoffs?

new-jersey-nets-miss-playoffsThis past offseason, the Brooklyn Nets made some huge free agent acquisitions to vault themselves among the NBA’s elite teams…or so it seemed. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov was pretty clear that he wanted to compete for a championship now, so GM Billy King went out and got Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

However, these moves were costly because the Nets gave up several draft picks, leaving them with just one draft selection between now and 2018. In addition to losing the picks, Brooklyn also has the highest payroll in the league at $102.2 million, along with an $87.2 million luxury tax – bringing their total to $187.4 million.

So with a third of the season now finished, what have they gotten for all of these expenditures? A 9-18 record, which is tied for third in the Atlantic Division. Things have been ugly beyond just the record too. Rookie head coach Jason Kidd seems in over his head, and he had a large role in super-assistant Lawrence Frank’s demotion. His locker room speeches are far from inspiring too, as you can see from the following gem that he delivered after the Nets’ blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers:

Well I think it is getting very close to just accepting losing. We are kind of getting comfortable with losing. And we got to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we just give in and most of the time right now we do.

jason-kidd-new-jersey-coachKidd’s rough coaching introduction and King trading away Brooklyn’s future doesn’t even begin to cover everything that’s wrong here. The team’s early season MVP, Brook Lopez, is now sidelined with a broken foot. This means the team will have to replace 20.7 PPG, 6 RPG and 1.76 BPG. Brooklyn has also sorely missed an injured Andrei Kirilenko, who’s played just 57 minutes this year. His bargain-basement signing this offseason is what truly worried the defending champion Miami Heat. But there’s nothing to fear when Kirilenko can’t stay on the court.

Even those who have been on the court have underachieved. Pierce is scoring just 12.6 PPG and shooting 40.2% from the field. Nobody expected him to play like he did a decade ago. But Pierce is really struggling to fit in with his new team. Garnett is even more disappointing, averaging just 6.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG and shooting a dreadful 37.5% from the field. At 38 years old, you have to wonder if KG is now on a steep decline.

Joe Johnson (16.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and Deron Williams (12.5 PPG, 7.6 APG) have both been solid thus far. But these two alone aren’t capable of leading a team to the NBA title. So if they don’t get some help from the supporting cast soon, you have to wonder if this overly expensive team is headed for the draft lottery.

What’s sad is that, even if they do get a lottery pick, the selection will belong to the Atlanta Hawks (via Joe Johnson deal). So it basically looks like it’s postseason or bust for this team. Their best chance currently resides in passing some of their foes in the awful Atlantic Division. Toronto currently leads the Atlantic with an 11-15 record, while Boston holds the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed with a 12-17 record. Boston is 2 games ahead of New Jersey, while Toronto is 2.5 games ahead of them.

Assuming Brooklyn can’t overtake either of these teams and grab a playoff berth, this could mark one of the biggest disasters in NBA history. After all, who wants to pay $189.4 million for a lottery pick that you won’t get to use anyways?

Miami Favored on 2013 NBA Finals Game 7 Betting Line

heat-spurs-game-7Anybody who watched Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was given a real treat. San Antonio went on a big 12-0 run in the third quarter and had a 12-point lead over the Miami Heat to start the fourth. But showing the heart of a champion, Miami battled back thanks to plenty of big plays by their “Big 3.”

LeBron James hits some shots at the beginning of the quarter, Dwayne Wade made some clutch buckets, and Chris Bosh had a couple of big defensive plays. Ray Allen also stepped up and made a huge three to tie the game near the end of regulation. Overtime was also close, but the Heat were able to hang onto their three-point lead when Bosh blocked a Danny Green 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Taking all of this into account, people are pretty excited about Game 7 of the NBA Finals, which starts tonight (June 20th) at 9:00pm EST. Assuming you’re looking to get some action on this contest, here’s how GTBets.eu has the betting line:

San Antonio   (-110)
Miami  -5.5  (-110)

heat-spurs-game-7-1With the Heat being at home for Game 7, they’ve got to cover 5.5 points in this matchup. With how well the Spurs played in Miami on Tuesday, the fact that they’re being spotted 5.5 points is an attractive proposition. Many people didn’t expect this series to go to seven games, but San Antonio has played well enough to push the defending champions to the brink.

Of course, the Heat will no doubt get an emotional boost from their home crowd as they hope to repeat. Assuming you’re looking for some advice on which side to bet on in the deciding Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals, here’s a look at what both teams need to do to win.

San Antonio Spurs

The biggest problem for the Spurs throughout this series has been their inability to put together a complete 48 minutes. One game they shoot 60% from the field, but turn the ball over 18 times. The next, they cut the turnovers down to 13, but shoot 27.8% from the 3-point line.

San Antonio’s big advantage coming into this series was their ability to execute. Obviously this is easier said than done while facing the Heat’s defensive length and speed. But for the Spurs to win such a huge contest on the road, they’ll have to shoot well and exercise good ball control.

heat-spurs-game-7-2Another point that this team needs to address is cutting Manu Ginobili’s minutes if he doesn’t produce in the early going. He was great in Game 5, but fell totally flat on Tuesday after scoring just 9 points and committing 8 turnovers in 35 minutes. When Ginobili played in Game 6, San Antonio was outscored by 21 points. That said, Greg Popovich needs to be willing to pull him right away if he starts playing badly.

One more thing worth mentioning about the Spurs is that they need some more shooting magic from Gary Neal and Danny Green. After torching the nets earlier in the series, this pair collectively shot 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-8 from behind the arc. If they can get going, along with Tony Parker, who shot 6-for-23 in Game 6, San Antonio has an excellent chance to win.

Miami Heat

The Heat made multiple big plays down the stretch to push last game into overtime and pull out the win. However, there were several times when it looked as if they’d surrender the NBA Championship on their home floor. That said, Miami needs to focus on slowing San Antonio’s big runs and keeping the game manageable.

heat-spurs-game-7-3Much of this starts with keeping the Spurs out of the paint because they outscored Miami 60-36 inside. Sure Tim Duncan is probably going to get his production. However, the Heat have to do a better job of keeping him off the offensive glass. Kawhi Leonard also got a few easy buckets inside as well.

Once again, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade need to give Miami a little more in the scoring department. Both players were integral parts of the Heat victory, but combined for just 11-of-27 shooting and 24 points. Lucky for them, point guard Mario Chalmers had a strong shooting performance after knocking down 7-of-11 shots and hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers.

Game 7 starts at 9:00pm ET on ABC tonight. So make sure to place your bets by then and get ready for another entertaining battle between these two clubs.

Danny Green sets Impressive NBA Finals Record

danny-green-nba-finalsIf there’s one guy who’s become a star through the 2013 NBA Finals, it’s San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green. The third-year player has been a thorn in the Miami Heat’s side after hitting 25 out of 38 three-pointers. The 25 three-pointers are actually a Finals record, and this easily beats the previous mark of 22 three’s. What’s amazing is that we’re not even done yet!

San Antonio, which holds a 3-2 series lead, will play Game 6 in Miami tonight. This means that Green will get at least one more crack at further extending his record. And if the Heat are able to win at home, where they’re favored, Green is going to have two more games to improve upon the 25 three-pointers. Whether he has one or two games, it’s almost a given that the North Carolina product will extend his record.

So what’s turned Danny Green into the breakout star that he’s been in the 2013 NBA Finals? Well to hear Green say it, it’s all about the Spurs’ “Big 3” in Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. “I’ve been getting lucky. I was moving around a lot. Our transition helps us, our pace.” Green said, “Tony penetrating and Manu penetrating, making the defense collapse is the reason why I’ve been getting open. Luckily, a couple have dropped for me.”

danny-green-nba-finals-1A couple of 3’s is the under-exaggeration of the 2013 NBA season since Green has been phenomenal throughout this series. He’s been so good that when he made 6-of-10 three-pointers in Game 5, it actually dropped his shooting percentage to 65.8%. Most players would be happy to nail even half of these attempts in the Finals.

Parker spoke about his teammate’s outstanding performance by saying, “I can’t believe he’s still open at this moment of this series.” He added, “They are still trapping me and doubling Timmy, and Danny is wide open. He’s shooting the ball well – if you are going to leave Danny wide open, he’s going to make threes.”

You can bet that the Heat will be doing everything they can to solve the problem that Green has created. So far, the San Antonio ball movement keeps allowing him to get open looks. Now the question for tonight’s game is whether the Heat will dedicate extra attention towards taking him out of the game, or keep trapping Parker and doubling Duncan.

As Parker said, “You can’t stop everything.” And he’s right since Miami won’t be able to shut down everything that the Spurs do. However, you also have to consider that San Antonio can’t rely on 60.0% shooting for the next one or two games.

Keeping this thought in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if Green and his teammates can keep up their torrid shooting. If so, there’s a very good chance that San Antonio wins in Miami and closes out this series. But if they can’t continue shooting red-hot, they could be in trouble since Miami is great at forcing turnovers. We’ll get to see the action unfold tonight at 9:00pm EST on ABC.

Miami has Slight Edge in 2013 NBA Finals Game 5 Betting Line

2013-nba-finals-game5After going down 2-1 in the 2013 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat battled back by winning 109-93 on the road in San Antonio. With the series now even, Miami is actually favored in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, despite playing one more contest in San Antonio. Here’s a look at how GTBets.eu has the betting line for tonight’s game, which airs at 8:00pm EST:

Miami  -1.5  (-110)
San Antonio  (-110)

As you can see, the favored Heat need to cover 1.5 points in this road game. Based on the way the 2013 Finals have gone so far, this will be no small task. However, it’s definitely worth noting that Miami’s “Big 3” finally got going as LeBron James (33 points), Dwayne Wade (32 points) and Chris Bosh (20 points) carried their team to victory in Game 4. This trio scored all but 24 of their team’s points in the win. Veteran guard Ray Allen also had a nice game off the bench as he scored 14 points.

San Antonio didn’t shoot too badly since Tim Duncan (20 points) and Tony Parker (15 points) combined for 50% shooting. Danny Green (10 points) and Gary Neal (13 points) were once again lights-out from the 3-point line as they combined for 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. However, it was the Spurs ball control, or lack thereof, that did them in.

Miami’s defensive pressure forced San Antonio into 18 turnovers. Meanwhile, the Heat committed just 9 turnovers, which was the biggest difference in the game. The Spurs have to do a better job of taking care of the ball tonight since this will be the final game played in San Antonio. That said, here are a few keys for both teams if they want to win Game 5.

Miami Heat’s Keys to Victory

2013-nba-finals-game5-1-2Dwayne Wade needs to keep it up – Going back to the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade has struggled mightily compared to his normal superhuman self. And his kryptonite appears to be a knee injury that’s been nagging him over the past few weeks. Some people thought maybe he should even be benched for the remainder of the Finals. However, all of this is forgotten after a 14-for-25 shooting performance that saw Wade pour in 32 points. If he keeps this up, Miami is a lock to repeat in 2013.

Keep swarming Tony Parker – Parker is what makes the Spurs offense click, but it was hard for him to get San Antonio into a rhythm with the Heat’s speed and length on defense. Many thought that Parker would create a huge mismatch with Mario Chalmers guarding him. However, Wade and LeBron have done an excellent job of helping trap the Frenchman and forcing the ball out of his hands. Wade was especially effective all over the floor after collecting six steals throughout Game 4.

Chris Bosh needs to remain a Force Inside – Another one of the Spurs’ advantages was negated when Bosh came through with a big game. He scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked two shots in a performance that overshadowed Duncan’s production. If he can continue giving Miami a big presence inside, it takes away just one more edge that San Antonio figures to have.

San Antonio Spurs’ Keys to Victory

2013-nba-finals-game5-1Taigo Splitter must do Something – Starting center Taigo Splitter has not exactly looked his best the past few games. But he reached a new low on Friday night after shooting 0-for-3, grabbing 3 rebounds, and committing 3 turnovers in 14 minutes of play. He was playing as if this were his first game in the NBA. Splitter must get back on track for San Antonio to have any chance.

Tony Parker needs to be Healthy – There were concerns over Parker’s hamstring injury going into Game 4, but everything seemed to be fine in the first half. However, Parker didn’t look quite as good in the second half and admitted that he stiffened up a bit. Much like Wade did last game, Parker needs to get some excellent pregame treatment and remain at full speed for San Antonio to win.

Manu Ginobili has to provide Support – San Antonio’s “Big 3” has become the “Big 2” after Ginobili’s disappearing act in the Finals. He’s been sporadic throughout the 2013 NBA Playoffs and has only provided glimpses of himself in certain games. Hopefully for the Spurs’ sake, he shows more of these glimpses in tonight’s contest because there’s no way San Antonio will win two straight series-deciding games in Miami.