A legendary performance by LeBron James

768572.jpg

A legendary performance by LeBron James

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The coveted NBA championship, the one LeBron James needs to validate everything, was vanishing. With 18,000 towel-waving fans roaring like the engines at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indiana Pacers had knocked the Miami Heat to the floor and to the edge of elimination. James didn't panic. He simply picked up his teammates and carried them to a win. And this time, Dwyane Wade helped. James scored 40 points with 18 rebounds and nine assists, and Wade added 30 points -- 22 in the second half -- as Miami rallied to even their semifinal series against Indiana with a 101-93 win on Sunday over the Pacers, who had the defending Eastern Conference champions down couldn't keep them there. "I felt like I had to do whatever it took to win," said James, who played all but four minutes. With All-Star forward Chris Bosh injured and back in Florida, the James-Wade tag team saved the Heat, who will host Game 5 on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. "Me and Bron had it going," said Wade, who bounced back from the worst playoff game of his career -- five points on 2-of-13 shooting -- with one of his best, "We played off of each other very well. We both were aggressive at the same time. That's beautiful basketball for the Miami Heat when we play that way." The Heat now head home back in control of the best-of-seven series, which is down to a best-of-three with two of the games on Miami's home floor. "It's still going to be a dogfight," James said. Udonis Haslem, playing with a large bandage covering a nasty cut over his right eye that required nine stitches, added 14 points for Miami. For a while, the Heat's season was slipping away. The underrated Pacers had built a 10-point lead in the third quarter and were threatening to run away as they did in Game 3, when James and Wade took over. They scored 38 consecutive points in one stretch bridging the second and third quarters and combined to score 28 of Miami's 30 in the third when the Heat seemed to be playing with two to Indiana's five. "LeBron had that look," Heat forward Shane Battier said. "And when he has that look and Dwyane has that look, you want to run through a wall." Wade finished with nine rebounds and six assists, erasing the ugly memory of Game 3 when he also had a confrontation with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, a public dispute that turned into a bigger deal than it probably was because of a two-day break between games. The next day, Wade, who has refused to blame injuries for his recent struggles, visited his former Marquette coach Tom Crean, who is now at Indiana. Wade said Crean had film for him to watch. "I was able to be a student of the game," Wade said. "Just figuring out what I needed to do differently to help our team get this win. I just wanted to come out today and affect the game somehow. Obviously, I knew I was struggling a little bit on my offensive game. I wasn't going to let that affect my overall game." James dismissed the idea the Heat were desperate team. "That's a strong word," he said. "It's a team with a lot of veterans and a lot of fighters." Danny Granger scored 20 and Paul George 13 to lead the Pacers. Center Roy Hibbert, so dominant at both ends in Game 3, had just 10 points and was in foul trouble in the second half. Indiana coach Frank Vogel second-guessed his decision to keep Hibbert and David West on the bench for a long stretch after halftime. But it was the Pacers' inability to stop Wade and James that was the difference. "You get the ball out of one of those guy's hands and it gets to the other guy's," he said. "It's not like one superhero and a bunch of role guys." Granger's 3-pointer had given Indiana a 61-51 and the Pacers, outhustling the Heat to loose balls, appeared poised to take a commanding lead in the series. But that's when James and Wade put on a jaw-dropping spectacle, combining for all but two points in a 25-5 run that put Miami up 76-66. During one sequence, Wade lost his balance and fell and was lucky to push the ball toward James near the top of the key. As Wade scrambled to his feet, James alertly passed him the ball and he calmly knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Heat a 64-63 lead. The pair made easy shots, tough ones and did everything in their power to steer Miami away from a 3-1 hole. Only eight teams in league history have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. That's what the Heat were staring at with a loss in Game 4. The Heat took a 76-70 lead into the fourth, and every time Indiana got close, either Wade or James responded. Miami also got a huge lift down the stretch from Haslem, who hasn't been a factor in the series but made four big jumpers in the final six minutes despite having his head split by an elbow by Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough. "Those guys carry a large load," Haslem said of Wade and James. "But sometimes we need other guys to step up and tonight was my turn. Next time it might be somebody else." Granger's 3-pointer got the Pacers within 96-91 with 1:33 left, but Haslem hit another short shot and James closed the Pacers out with three free throws in the last 16 seconds. Following the game, James sat in front of his locker icing both knees and reading a hard copy of "Hunger Games." After finishing a page or two, he set the book down. There'd be time for that later. The Heat were heading home, feeling good about the next chapter. NOTES: James, Wade and Haslem combined for 53 of Miami's 55 second-half points. ... Before the game, Miami F Juwan Howard and Pacers G Stephenson exchanged words. In Game 3, Stephenson mocked James by flashing a choke sign after James missed a foul shot and Howard confronted the Indiana reserve. Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw stepped between the players. ... Granger was slapped with his second technical in two games after getting in Wade's face late in the second quarter. ... James was one rebound shy of his postseason high. ... The national anthem was performed on harmonica by 85-year-old Carl Erskine, who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1948-59. Erskine is an Indiana native. ... Heat owner Micky Arison was asked for his autograph by several fans sitting near the Miami bench. "You must be desperate," he cracked.

CSN's Buckets List: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

cp-college-hoops.png

CSN's Buckets List: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at CSN -- will take a look at the world of college basketball: Games to watch each week, players who might be on the Celtics' radar come draft time, what's going on locally . . . and, of course, power rankings (which will eventually morph into bracketology). Enjoy!

After a Saturday for the ages came and went this past weekend, it's clear offensive efficiency is ruling the college basketball world. Villanova, UCLA, Creighton, Indiana, UNC, Kentucky, and a slew of other teams are shooting the lights out early in the season. In a rare switch, offensive efficiency is proving more valuable than defensive efficiency early on this year. We aren't used to seeing shooting quite like this, but it makes for great basketball watching. We also have some surprise teams making big moves in the rankings, and I'm sure the shake-ups will keep coming week-by-week with no slowing down.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova (8-0) - The defending champs spent a nice week destroying fellow Big 5 teams. On top of that, the Wildcats watched Kentucky fall (more on that later), which moves them up to the top spot. I can make a great case for the two teams behind them to be ahead, but I'll reward a defending champion going undefeated every day of the week.

2. Baylor (8-0) - SURPRISE! The Bears just keep on winning against really good competition. Scott Drew's club has now beaten four top 25 teams in Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville and, most recently, Xavier. (I understand it's likely two of those teams won't be ranked this week, but they're still really good.)  This is the most impressive early season resume in a long time.

3. UCLA (9-0) - It's one thing to put up massive offensive numbers against lowly competition. It's a completely different thing when you go into Rupp Arena and put up 97 points against Kentucky. Lonzo Ball had a rough go in the first half but he was helped by fellow freshman T.J. Leaf, who is absolutely balling.

4. Kentucky (7-1) - I'm keeping the Wildcats right here because I still saw a lot I liked in the loss to UCLA. Mainly, I think De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk make up the best backcourt in the country. This team still has so much room to grow.

5. Kansas (7-1) - Shockingly, Kansas has decided to go with a small, four-guard lineup as of late.  The Jayhawks have benched Landen Lucas and it's working having Lagerald Vick join Graham, Mason and Jackson in the backcourt. I applaud Bill Self for the outside-the-box thinking.

6. Duke (8-1) - Great to finally see the Blue Devils get some of their freshman back, albeit against Maine. The Dukies will probably shoot further up the power rankings next week as they get their fresh legs under them. As of now, I'm still slightly underwhelmed by the overall product (which is being harsh), but I love what I'm seeing from Luke Kennard who -- shhhhhhh -- is a better overall player than Grayson Allen.

7. Gonzaga (8-0) - They haven't missed a beat, putting away frisky Arizona on Saturday.  The Dogs are now on cruise control and have a real shot at being the last undefeated team standing this season.

8. Creighton (8-0) - Speaking of undefeated, the Bluejays of Omaha are maybe the hottest offensive team in the country, led by three of the best guards in all of college basketball.  (They may even be better than Kentucky's backcourt.)  Creighton will be a force in the Big East this year.

9. Indiana (7-1) - The hardest thing about doing rankings is Jekyll-and-Hyde teams like the Hoosiers. What can you say about a team that beat Kansas, lost to Fort Wayne, and then rebounded with a win over North Carolina? You rank them 9. That's what you do.

10. North Carolina (7-1) - Speaking of North Carolina, last week I thought the Tar Heels were the hottest team in college hoops and now they're licking their wounds after being beaten pretty good by Indiana. They're still extremely well-rounded, and should still be in the Top 5 conversation later in the year.

11. Virginia (7-1) - For the first time in years, the Cavaliers lost a home non-conference game. The slugfest with West Virginia went as expected as the two unique defenses went at each other.  Hard to drop UVA too far, as they still boast the nation's second-best defense.

12. Butler (8-0) - Hard to believe we're into December and still have three undefeated Big East teams and none of them are Xavier. Butler has looked really balanced this year in wins over Arizona and Utah. I would still like to see more scoring from the guards.

13. Louisville (7-1) - The Cardinals successfully rebounded from a not-bad-at-all loss to Baylor and took down Purdue in a game they tried very hard to lose. Louisville's biggest issue is offensive consistency, which has grinded to a halt at times this season. Defensively, however, there are no issues.

14. Xavier (7-1) - Hey, look, it's another team that lost to Baylor.  The loss isn't necessarily bad, but the way X is playing hasn't been totally solid.  They're getting almost all of their offense from three players, and their depth hasn't been great. They will still be a really good team, but are starting to look less like a dark horse Final Four team.

15. West Virginia (6-1) - What a win for WVU in Charlottesville. Huggy Bear's press continues to give opponents problems and keeps the Mountaineers in games even when they aren't hitting their shots.  They were 25th in the AP poll last week, but are now No. 9 in kenpom.  Expect a move once the pollsters read this column.

LOCAL FLAVOR 

Providence - What a week for the Friars.  They took out previously ranked in-state rivals Rhode Island and are now 6-2 with a quality win.  Rodney Bullock is carrying the scoring load, and I have to say I'm very surprised by the development of Kyron Cartwright. His ball-handling and passing have been phenomenal. Ed Cooley is doing wonders with this group..

Rhode Island - Speaking of the Rams, they'll be just fine. A true road loss (albeit still in-state) is nothing to worry about. Now they'll hope Providence becomes a Top 50, or at the very least Top 100, RPI team, and the loss won't even look bad. What Rhody does need to worry about is finding a way to beat good teams. They now have three losses -- to Duke, Valpo (road), and Providence (road). They do have a quality win over a very good Cincinnati team, so they'll just need to take care of conference play and find a way to get a little more from their bench.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK

  • Tuesday December 6: Florida vs Duke (at Madison Square Garden)
  • Saturday December 10: Villanova vs Notre Dame (Prudential Center); Michigan at UCLA

POTENTIAL FUTURE CELTICS TO WATCH

Jayson Tatum - Duke finally has a couple of its freshman back, and this is the guy to watch. I was pumped about him prior to the season because he's a 6-foot-7 wing player who does everything effortlessly. Tatum had 10 points and 8 rebounds in his opener despite being very rusty. It's only up from here.

De'Aaron Fox - Kentucky's point guard is the real deal and is so fun to watch.  He's a 6-6 bean stalk, so he doesn't necessarily look like a point guard . . . until you see him pass.  Fox can also get to the rim and play suffocating 'D'.  He's still working on his jump shot, but it's coming along.  NBA teams will drool over this guy.

Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Monday, Dec. 5: Craig Cunningham's recovery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fully getting in the holiday spirit by getting the family Christmas tree this week.

*Very good and very sobering story about Craig Cunningham’s slow recovery, and his large support system with the AHL Roadrunners team he is captaining this season. It sounds like it might be a bit of a long road for him, so he and his family will need that support from those around him.

*Tyler Seguin has his shot back, and that’s great news for the Dallas Stars power play. So is that like Stella getting her groove back?

*A KHL player went into a sliding dab formation in order to celebrate a goal on the ice, and we salute him for that.

*The Maple Leafs are trying to fortify their backup goaltending situation after waiving Jhonas Enroth this week.

*Interesting Bob McKenzie piece about a young man that’s hoping to challenge conventional thinking in the hockey coaching ranks.

*TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at Winnipeg rookie Patrik Laine’s shooting skills as part of his “Statistically Speaking” column.

*For something completely different: the hits just keep on coming for Netflix as they’re going to double their TV series output over the next year.