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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What should Cavs do with Kyrie Irving? Decision will have major impact on East

What should Cavs do with Kyrie Irving? Decision will have major impact on East

Entering this offseason the biggest question for the Wizards was whether they would re-sign Otto Porter to what was almost certainly going to be a max contract, which it ultimatley was, or let him go and risk acquiring someone else. The latter option, letting him walk in free agency and taking the longview or the unlikely scenario of a sign-and-trade, may have been enticing to some who wanted the Wizards to strike now for a third star, one even John Wall has publicly admitted they may someday need to win a championship.

Taking risks can be fun for fans and are sometimes completely necessary for a sports front office, but by just standing pat the Wizards appear to be in good shape moving forward into 2017-18. They kept a steady course while turmoil and change affected just about every team around them in the Eastern Conference. The conference has already been shaken up significantly and Kyrie Irving hasn't even been traded yet.

Irving right now represents a major catalyst in the East. If he goes and where he goes could indirectly determine the outlook of the Wizards and many other teams.

[RELATED: John Wall's new contract with Wizards, by the numbers]

Reports out of Cleveland have Irving almost certainly to be dealt after Irving told the organization he wanted out from LeBron James' shadow. Despite making it to three straight NBA Finals and reaping the reputational benefits of those playoff runs, Irving would like a fresh start in a city where he can be the No. 1 guy. Though one could argue he is better off both on and off the court by playing with James than without him, his mind seems to be made up.

Unfortunately for the Cavs, all of this is coming after free agency has played out and after many NBA stars were already dealt. Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Paul George, the most available stars entering this summer, have all found new homes. All three would have made at least some sense in a potential deal with Irving, though the Cavs did reportedly turn down an Irving-George deal.

The question is which stars are available, knowing the Cavs are in win-now mode and Irving is a very attractive trade piece. Not only is he a 25-year-old NBA All-Star who scores 25.2 points per game and shoots 40.1 percent from three, but he's making $39 million over the next two seasons. His $18.8 million salary for 2017-18 isn't even in the top 40 among NBA players. Even if he opts out of the third and final year of his deal, which he likely will given the money, that's a solid contract for a player of his caliber. 

[RELATED: Timeline of the Wizards' creation of a G-League team]

As for whom the Cavs could net for Irving, there are a few obvious names that come to mind: Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Both are good enough to be worthy of such a trade, have been involved in rumors and New York is in transition mode as a franchise. There are also probably a few wild card candidates people could speculate about like DeMarcus Cousins or LaMarcus Aldridge, guys who may not fit into the long-term picture in the places they are currently at.

No one truly represents a perfect option, which leaves Cleveland in an interesting spot. They remain the best team in the East given how they plowed through the playoffs, but trading Irving represents a major risk, one that could put James' run of seven straight NBA Finals in jeopardy. And if they keep Irving, who's to say they can get over the drama and discord that appears to be quite serious at this point?

There is also the longterm uncertainty with James they need to consider. Do they trade Irving for a veteran like Anthony to win now or shore up their future with a younger player just in case James leaves next summer in free agency? Title chances like they have this coming season are fleeting, but they don't want to go from James and Irving to rebuilding in a short period of time.

The Celtics made some major additions this summer with Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward, but lost defensive star Avery Bradley in their trade to net Marcus Morris. Like the Wizards, the Raptors and Bucks mostly stood pat, hoping to gradually improve year-over-year. Those four teams represent the second tier in the East behind the Cavs, but whatever Cleveland decides could have a major domino effect on their chances for next season.

James' run of dominating the East with consecutive NBA Finals appearances will come to an end eventually. The Irving situation represents a real threat to that continuing.

[RELATED: Wall and Wizards' union is a display of rare commitment]

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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

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An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 

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