LeBron shows his clutch side in Game 2 win

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LeBron shows his clutch side in Game 2 win

From Comcast SportsNet
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- LeBron James has seen his share of great starts turn into faulty finishes. So with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh providing the help he needed, he wasn't letting another one get away Thursday night. James scored 32 points, got a disputed big stop on Kevin Durant and the Miami Heat held off a furious fourth-quarter rally behind their three All-Stars to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-96, tying the NBA Finals at one game apiece. "We had played too well in the first 36 minutes to try to let this one slip away from us," James said. "We just wanted to make one more, two more plays than they made and come out with a victory and we were able to do that." Wade rebounded from a poor opener to add 24 points and Bosh had 16 points and 15 rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Heat, who snapped a four-game finals losing streak with their first victory since Game 3 against Dallas last year. "It's been so long since we've had them all together," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "They played like the All-Stars that they are and that's the effort that we need." Now they go home to host Game 3 on Sunday and the next two after that, knowing they don't have to hear the noisy Thunder fans again -- not to mention all their critics -- if they win all three. Miami blew a 13-point lead in Game 1 and seemed headed toward a repeat of the second game of the finals last year, when it blew a 15-point edge on its home floor. Not this time. "This is a good team and we didn't want to be down 2-0," Bosh said. "We know in order to accomplish our goal, we have to win on the road. We're a good road team. We've done it before. They posed a great challenge because they haven't lost up until today. But we felt that we let one get away and we felt that we could play a much, much better game in Game 2." Durant scored 32 points for the Thunder, but missed a short jumper with 9.9 seconds left after appearing to be bumped by James. The basket would have tied a game the Thunder trailed the entire way. Oklahoma City's explosive point guard Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but shot 10 of 26 from the field. James Harden tried to keep the Thunder in it early and finished with 21 points, but this time the Thunder couldn't come back from a double-digit deficit after spotting Miami a 17-point advantage during their worst first half of the season. "That was the game. We can't start off down 18-2," Durant said. "We can't go down that much, especially at home. We've got to correct it." It was the first home loss in 10 postseason games for the Thunder, who had overcome a 13-point deficit in Game 1. James had what was his career high, 30 points, in the opener, but afterward said Wade needed to be Wade -- All-Star, Olympic gold medalist and finals MVP. In Game 1, Wade was 7 of 19. He wasn't sharp in the last round and continues to hear reports that something is physically wrong with him. He was all but asked Wednesday if his explosiveness was a thing of the past, what must have been insulting to a player who, though 30, still believes he's not far from the top of the game. Wade bounced back in a big way, not quite at the level he was as the 2006 finals MVP, but certainly good enough with the help around him now for the Heat to win another one. "Just know that I'm always going to keep coming back until I don't play this game no more," Wade said. "I know my abilities, I know what I'm capable of and it was good." He spun into the lane and found Bosh for a dunk that seemed to have the Heat safe at 98-91 inside the final minute, but a 3-pointer by Durant cut it to 98-96 with 37 seconds left. After James missed a 3-pointer, the Thunder got the ball into Durant, who appeared to be knocked off balance by James as he missed the baseline shot attempt. Durant said only that he missed the shot, saying he would have to watch the tape to see if he was fouled. James then sank the insurance free throws -- finishing a 12-for-12 night at the line -- as fans booed loudly over the no-call. Bosh started after coming off the bench in every game since returning late last round from his nine-game absence with a strained lower abdominal muscle. The Big Three joined Battier and Mario Chalmers in the lineup, the first time Miami had gone with that first five all season. It sent the Heat on their way to a terrific start, and Battier matched his surprising 17-point performance in Game 1 by going 5 of 7 from 3-point range, providing all the help the superstar trio needed. James had his fifth straight 30-point game, breaking Wade's franchise playoff record, and added eight rebounds. He defended Durant early in Game 1 and helped put the league's scoring champion in early foul trouble, just one of the problems the Thunder had early. Another loud, blue and white crowd tried to inspire them to rally, but the team could just simply never get close enough to until the final minutes. For most of the first three quarters, the home team would get the deficit to around 10, and James would get himself into the post or drive powerfully into the lane to score or set up a teammate. Durant nailed a 3-pointer and drove into the lane to throw down a dunk over Battier that cut it to 82-74 with 8:22 remaining. His 3-pointer from the wing trimmed it to 90-86, and the Thunder got it all the way to 94-91 when Westbrook dunked Durant's miss with 1:48 to go. James answered by banking in a jumper for his first basket of the final period, as the Big Three combined for all but one of Miami's seven field goals in the fourth quarter. The Thunder missed 11 of their first 12 shots, and when James capped a run of 13 straight Miami points with a basket, it was 18-2 with 4:51 remaining in the period. Coach Scott Brooks had talked to his team about its poor starts -- this was three straight games with a double-digit deficit -- and told the Thunder during a first-quarter timeout that the Heat were playing harder than they were. The Heat kept it up, pushing it to 25-8 on Wade's jumper with 2:39 left. "We kept missing good shots," forward Serge Ibaka said. "We can do better." .Notes: The Heat used their 25th different lineup in their 86 games this season, including seventh of the postseason. The most frequently used lineup in the regular season, with James, Wade, Bosh, Chalmers and center Joel Anthony, has not opened a game in the postseason after going 27-10 during the regular season. ... Reserve James Jones checked in for the Heat in the first quarter after missing Game 1 with a migraine. ... Former Oklahoma star running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was at the game. ... A powerful storm knocked out cable in many South Florida homes, keeping Heat fans from seeing the entire game.

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CSN Insider Notebook: Noel to the Blazers? Bogut to Boston?

CSN Insider Notebook: Noel to the Blazers? Bogut to Boston?

We’re back for another edition of the CSN Insiders notebook, the most comprehensive collection of trade rumors, team news, injury updates and a wide range of league-related news sure to whet the appetite of any NBA fan.

We begin this week jumping right into trade rumors. And as we’ve seen in recent years, the Boston Celtics continue to be one of the more popular teams whose name is often brought up in various trade scenarios. 

While there doesn’t appear to be anything imminent with the Celtics, it’s pretty clear that their greatest need at this point is a defensive-minded big man who can also rebound.

So who should they target?

CELTICS TO PURSUE BOGUT?

As the February trade deadline draws near, the Boston Celtics are expected to take a close look at adding a defensive-minded, rebounding big man with Dallas’ Andrew Bogut likely to emerge as a target.

The former No. 1 overall pick is the final year of a three-year, $36 million contract he signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2014.

He is due to make $11.027 million in this, the last season of the contract.

Dallas (4-15) has the worst record in the NBA and are likely to continue building for a post-Dirk Nowitzki with a high lottery pick in June’s NBA draft. Adding another first-round pick from Boston would benefit a squad that has to increase its quality depth going forward. Having another first-round pick can only enhance their roster.

Boston could offer the Mavericks Amir Johnson (he makes $12 million this season) straight-up for Bogut, but would likely have to include a future first round pick that would not be Boston’s 2017 pick which they have the option of swapping for Brooklyn’s first-round pick which is likely to be in the lottery (top-14). 

For the Celtics, giving up Johnson and a future first-round pick is a small price to pay for a physical, defensive-minded rebounder who would provide a different brand of rim protection than Johnson who like Bogut, will also be a free agent this summer.

In addition, he gives Boston a legit physical banger in the middle which they current do not have.

While no deal is imminent, but both sides would appear to come out getting great value if this deal were to completed prior to the February trade deadline. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

PHILLY PLANS TO GO SUPER-SIZED AT POINT GUARD

The Sixers have big plans for Ben Simmons when he returns from a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Big as in, 6-foot-10 point guard big.

Yes, Brett Brown said this week the Sixers intend to utilize Simmons at the one spot on both offense and defense. 

That role has been in flux all season as Jerryd Bayless, originally signed this offseason to be the starting point guard, only has played three games because of left wrist soreness. Sergio Rodriguez has stepped into the starting spot in his first season back from Spain.

Ball handling and court vision are two of Simmons’ biggest strengths. During Summer League he demonstrated how he could use his size to grab the rebound and then push the ball on the fast-break. The Sixers believe his stature will cause mismatches with defenders.

On the opposite end of the floor, Simmons will be tasked with stopping some of the league’s craftiest and quickest. He will have to counter his opponents using their smaller size as an advantage. Simmons already has been studying game film, including that on Chris Paul, to prepare.

“I think it is a hundred percent me realizing what we have,” Brown said recently. “Understanding that Jerryd Bayless could comfortably play a two, to talking with Ben more, to understanding the opportunity that we have to try this and to grow this. This is something that I’d think would be a mistake if we didn’t try it. I think the more I studied him and studied film and talked with him — I spent a lot of time with him since his injury — the more comfortable I feel, like this is the right path.” – by Jessica Camerato

HIP INJURY LIMITS MILLSAP AS HAWKS STRUGGLE

A left hip injury to Paul Millsap has slowed down the Hawks, who were .500 entering the weekend, and they’re trying to make it having used Thabo Sefolosha and Mike Muscala in the starting lineup in his place. 

The winner of the Southeast Division the least two seasons, the Hawks have lost nine of 10 games. – by J. Michael

VUCEVIC OFF THE BENCH NOW, OUT OF O-TOWN SOON?

Nikola Vucevic is out of the starting lineup in Orlando, which has one of the league’s most disjointed offenses.

In his first four games off the bench, Vucevic is averaging 13.8 points, 12 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 blocks.

Is this a permanent role for Vucevic and will this ultimately lead to one of the Magic’s bigs being put on the trading block?

Bismack Biyombo, Orlando’s biggest free-agent acquisition this summer, has taken the starting job at center. His arrival instantly made such a scenario with Vucevic on the table. – by J. Michael

BLAZERS AMONG TEAMS INTERESTED IN NOEL

Portland’s defense has been among the NBA’s worst most of this season, so the idea that they’re interested in adding a big man whose strength lies in his defense really isn’t all that surprising. That’s why the Blazers reportedly being interested in acquiring the 6-foot-11 Nerlens Noel from Philadelphia makes sense. He had surgery on his left knee last month and has not played in a single game this season but is making progress. He was recently assigned to the Sixers’ D-League affiliate as part of his rehabilitation from the injury. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' loss to Spurs]

WARRIORS TAKE BARKLEY CRITICISM IN STRIDE

TNT analyst Charles Barkley’s fixation on the Warriors and their style of play has lingered on for nearly a decade, through four coaches, with no sign of abating.

In his most recent salvo, Barkley said the Warriors were playing “little girly basketball,” which amused some but outraged many who couldn’t help but see it as a knock on females.

The Warriors, for their part, shrug off everything Barkley says and does, considering it more entertaining than informative. No one shrugs harder than coach Steve Kerr, a former TNT colleague, who carefully offered to educate Barkley.

“I still believe you have to be strong defensively to win,” Kerr said. “That’s an area where people who follow the game know we were No. 1 in the league in defense the year we won the championship (2015) and we were No. 4 or 5 (actually No. 3) last year, when we came within a minute or so of winning the championship.”

Your move, Chuck. – by Monte Poole

WIZARDS’ MAHINMI (KNEE) IS BACK … SORT OF

The issue of Ian Mahinmi’s right knee has complicated the big picture for the Wizards as they try to find answers for their second unit.

After playing one game, his debut in his first season with the franchise this past week, Mahinmi has been a question mark each day going into Monday’s game with the Brooklyn Nets. He missed the first 14 games of the season because of surgery to remove cartilage in his left knee. 

His availability complicates any potential moves for the Wizards when teams become active in the trade market by mid-December. – by J. Michael

HILL CLIMBING LIST OF NBA’S MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS

The Utah Jazz are playing like a team poised for the playoffs after a four-year drought, and a big part of that optimism lies in the play of George Hill whose play thus far makes him a legit candidate for the league’s most improved player award. Typically this goes to a young player on the rise, not a 30-year-old veteran like Hill. But the numbers don’t lie. A career 11.5 points per game scorer, Hill is averaging 20.0 points per game this season. Figuring out what the change has been is simple: he’s making more shots. A 45.2 percent career shooter, Hill is making a career-high 52.4 percent of his shots which includes career highs in three-pointers taken (5.2 per game) and three-point percentage (.456). He continues to play like this and gets Utah into the postseason, look for Hill to emerge as one of the big winners next summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

[RELATED: Failing to close out quarters adds up for Wizards]

RAPTORS (STEAM) ROLLING OVER FOES

The Raptors head into the week having won six straight, which is a nice little win streak. But what makes their recent run of success so impressive is the dominant nature by which they are beating teams.

During their streak, opponents have come up short by an astounding 23 points per game. That includes a 128-84 win over Atlanta, with the 44-point margin being the biggest win in franchise history.

“Like I always say, it's clich√©, but it's a make or miss league," Toronto head coach Dwane Casey said after the record-setting victory.

 And right now, they are making everyone on the schedule look inept. However, the one knock against them during their recent run has been the teams they have faced are not exactly among the elite of the NBA. That will change on Monday when they take on the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

RIVERS’ EJECTION A GOOD THING FOR THE CLIPPERS? 

The Clippers went from fabulous to desperate to whole again in a matter of days, and maybe they got a spark from head coach Doc Rivers who was ejected after throwing a full tantrum in the first of two overtimes in a loss at Brooklyn.

Rivers was having a conversation with official Lauren Holtkamp when lead official Ken Mauer assessed a technical foul and then, another technical, which is automatic ejection.

“I don’t think an official that has nothing to do with the play, should be giving someone a tech,” Rivers said.

That was the third straight loss for LA, which immediately rebounded with wins at Cleveland and at New Orleans. – by Monte Poole

LEBRON: “HONEYMOON OVER” FOR CAVS

It appears now the Cleveland Cavaliers have some self-inflicted adversity after an early cruise through the start of the season, prompting LeBron James to go into full dad-mode after a 111-105 loss at the hands of the Chicago Bulls.

It’s the third straight loss for the champs and despite James’ Magic-like numbers, the Cavs have slipped into a little malaise right before the holiday season.

"We've got to get out of the honeymoon stage," James said Friday night. “"That's y'all's headline for tomorrow. I know y'all going to use it."

The night began with a spectacle, as James showed up to the United Center in Chicago wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey after losing a bet to Bulls guard Dwyane Wade from last month.

Walking the green mile in the bowels of the United Center would’ve been the headline if not for the Cavs’ inability to handle a charged-up Bulls team that went shot-for-shot with the Cavs—leading to LeBron’s postgame comments.

"You've got to play the game the right way," James continued. "You've got to battle every night like we ain't won nothing. Last year is last year, and after ring night, it's over with. Now it's a new season and everybody is gunning for us every night, and we have to understand that. The honeymoon stage is over.” – by Vincent Goodwill 

MOTIEJUNAS BROOKLYN-BOUND? 

It looks like the Donatas Motiejunas situation will be reaching a resolution. The Nets signed the restricted free agent to a four-year offer sheet, according to multiple reports.

The Rockets have until 11:59 p.m.on Monday (72 hours) to match the Nets’offer. They could consider doing so given the structure of the offer. ESPN.com reported it is only fully guaranteed for $5 million and would increase to $17.5 million if he earns his 2017-18 season option by a March 1 deadline.

Motiejunas has been hampered by back problems, which included surgery for a ruptured disk in 2015. According to The Vertical, the offer sheet includes protections against such issues. 

Last season Motiejunas appeared in 37 games, averaging 6.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 14.8 minutes. – by Jessica Camerato 

LAKERS WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE?

Though the Lakers so far have exceeded all reasonable expectations, they hit a wall last week in taking a 113-80 loss to Toronto that left power forward Julius Randle criticizing himself and his teammates.

“We played too soft,” Randle said.

They also played horribly, as that game is, according to the statistical folks at Elias, only the second time since the 1970-71 season that the Lakers shot below 35 percent for the field, below 60 percent from the line and committed at least 15 turnovers. – by Monte Poole. 

[RELATED: Hoops Chase: Someone should pay attention to Jason Smith]

COUSINS: I’M A KING, I’M GOOD

The Kings’ six-game road trip was reduced to five after a bizarre condensation issue in Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon. The NBA would like to squeeze the makeup game into Sacramento’s seven-game road trip in late January, but Sacramento wants no part of an eight-game swing with three sets of back-to-backs.

DeMarcus Cousins was grilled about his future during Sacramento's stop in Washington and then again Friday in Boston, but he has yet to break. “I’m a King, I’m good,” Cousins told reporters in Boston.

“Most of the rumors come from people that want me on their team,” Cousins added. “So, I’m not really bothered by that.”

Sacramento continues to struggle early in games, falling behind big in the first quarter and then fighting the rest of the night to recover. More often than not, it hasn’t worked, which is why the Kings sit at 7-12 on the season. – by James Ham 

BULLS, BENCH SEARCHING FOR A SPARK

Speaking of a team in desperate need of something, anything, presenting the Chicago Bulls. Not only do they follow up an inspiring win over the Cavaliers with a 25-point loss to a three-win Dallas team, but there’s an SOS being sent out to their bench.

Perhaps Doug McDermott can be the one to bring this group off life support. McDermott has missed the last nine games with a concussion and only recently did he pass the next step of the concussion protocol to be cleared for contact practices, as he could be back to action later in the week.

With Nikola Mirotic shooting 28 percent from three and Isaiah Canaan at 30 percent, the Bulls have gotten off to a decent start without being a good 3-point shooting team—but it can’t last too long.

Presumably if McDermott doesn’t suffer a third concussion this season, that one quality he provides will be consistent enough to keep the Bulls’ stars from losing their minds with the inconsistency of their teammates. – by Vincent Goodwill 

SUNS RUN HOT AND COLD … MOSTLY COLD ACTUALLY

When the Suns are hitting their perimeter shots, they’re tough to beat. Unfortunately for coach Earl Watson, the hot nights are few and far between and the Suns defense is ranked 28th in the league. 

Brandon Knight is showing signs of life after a slow start. Still adjusting to his role off the bench, the 25-year-old point guard scored 14 points of his 23 points in a five minute first quarter burst in Wednesday night’s win over the Atlanta Hawks.  

After a breakout start to the season, T.J. Warren continues to miss games with a head injury. – by James Ham

YOU DA REAL MVP, RUSS 

Russell Westbrook just landed the Western Conference Player of the Month honors for November and he already has his hand out waiting for the NBA MVP trophy.

OKC’s Mr. Everything has posted four straight triple-doubles, giving him 46 for his career. He’s averaging a triple-double on the season and has the Thunder riding a four-game win streak. 

Westbrook and Co. welcomed back former head coach Scott Brooks Wednesday night and then sent him and his Wizards team home with a gut-wrenching overtime loss. – by James Ham 

PISTONS AVOID SINKING IN JACKSON’S ABSENCE

Speaking of a return, the Pistons didn’t let their boat capsize without point guard Reggie Jackson being in action, and he’s slated to return Sunday, albeit on a minute restriction while he continues recovery from a knee injury that halted the start to his season.

The Pistons are now winners of three in a row after starting 8-10, and Jackson’s 19 points and six assists will be welcomed whenever he gets back to form, which could take a couple weeks.

“I woke up feeling pretty good so I was ready to get out here and compete with my teammates,” Jackson told reporters. “It was just getting confidence and continuing to sit down and make sure I felt comfortable where I was…the time is now.”

While Ish Smith has done a more than admirable job filling the spot, one wonders if Jackson’s return will spark Andre Drummond to being more productive offensively. Drummond’s scoring and minutes are down from last year, and if Jackson can settle things as opposed to Drummond trying to force his own action, it’ll make Detroit the dangerous outfit many expected them to be going into the season. – by Vincent Goodwill

LEONARD KEEPS GETTING BETTER AND BETTER AND …

The Spurs have strung together 11 wins in their last 12 games and are once against considered a Western Conference power.

Kawhi Leonard continues to develop into the game’s best two-way player. He’s adding new elements to his game all the time. His 21-footer in the final 10 seconds against the Wizards on Friday night was clutch and sealed the win.  

San Antonio allocated Davis Bertans and Dejounte Murray to the Austin Spurs of the D-League for more seasoning on Saturday. Bertans has seen plenty of action for Gregg Popovich, including a start in his first 16 games with the club. His 45.5 percent shooting from long range has been a nice surprise.

Murray has a ton of potential, but he’s played just 46 total minutes for Pop. Taken with the 29th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the 20-year-old Murray needs all the playing time he can get with the Spurs minor league affiliate. – by James Ham

[RELATED: Beal takes Wizards' losses hard]

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Redskins release Dashaun Phillips, again

Redskins release Dashaun Phillips, again

Cornerback Dashaun Phillips had a very short return to the Redskins’ active roster.

Phillips, who started the season as the nickel cornerback before being benched and eventually released and moved to the practice squad last month, was re-signed to the roster on Friday. He made the trip to Arizona but he was inactive for the game. The Redskins announced today that he has been released again.

It is possible for Phillips to return to the practice squad if he clears through waivers.

The transaction clears a roster spot for the return of offensive tackle Trent Williams, who has been suspended for the last four games.