OFFSEASON

Battier comes up big for Heat in Game 1

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Battier comes up big for Heat in Game 1

MIAMI The Boston Celtics have seen their share of X-factors come to life in the playoffs thus far.

In their first-round series against Atlanta, it was Jeff Teague. Against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was rookie big man Lavoy Allen.

Against the Heat?

It's still early, but the X-factor on Monday night was Shane Battier who had a rare double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in helping Miami defeat Boston, 93-79, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Shane is everything, man," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "He does it all for our team."

It certainly looked that way in Game 1.

While LeBron James (32 points, 13 rebounds) and Wade (22 points, seven assists) were racking up all the stats, it was Battier doing the dirty work that in a playoff series like this, could literally mean the difference between winning and losing.

And it was Battier who in hindsight, came up with arguably the biggest play of the night.

Boston spent the entire game playing from behind, but in the third quarter they finally had a chance to take the lead.

With the score tied at 50, Ray Allen got a steal and began to dribble up-court and seemingly had a potential fast-break in the works.

Rajon Rondo was filling the middle of the lane, and was calling for the ball.

Allen didn't initially see him. By the time Allen did, Battier was on the move and was able to block Rondo's lay-up attempt from behind.

Moments later, Battier drilled a 3-pointer that put the Heat ahead for good.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding - it was his first playoff double-double ever - he also managed to keep a bigger, stronger Brandon Bass from having his way on the perimeter or around the basket.

Bass had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting.

The play of Battier certainly caught the attention of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. If only the same could be said for the Celtics defense, which seemed a bit too giving to Battier all game.

When asked how to compensate for Battier when he's having a game like he did on Monday night, Rivers responded, "We guard him. That would be nice. Take away some of the easy shots."

Battier was 4-for-11 shooting just like Bass, with most of his shots coming "too easy."

Said Rivers: "Shane had three or four easy shots that hurt us."

Despite James and Wade (22 points, seven assists) being the central figures in the Miami Heat offensive attack, Wade understands Miami will need players like Battier and Mike Miller (eight points off the bench) to continue contributing if they are to move on to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row.

"He (Battier) does all the little things," Wade said. "He's pesky. He gets under other guy's skin a little bit. He does a great job of blocking out. Like I said, we love him. And we want him to continue to be comfortable, the way he was tonight and continue to shoot. He's going to have a game where he's going to score more because he's going to be able he's going to get those shots, he's going to knock more down."

OFFSEASON

Michael Jordan: ‘I can no longer stay silent’ on racial issues

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Michael Jordan: ‘I can no longer stay silent’ on racial issues

By Dan Feldman, NBCSports.com Pro Basketball Talk

Michael Jordan might have never said “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

But that quote has defined him politically.

Whether the perception has been fair or not, he’s clearly trying to change it.

Jordan in ESPN's The Undefeated:

As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.

I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.

Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.

To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

You can read Jordan’s full statement here.

 

OFFSEASON

Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

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Durant leads U.S. to second exhibition rout, 106-57 over China

LOS ANGELES - Just two games into the U.S. basketball team's pre-Olympic tour, coach Mike Krzyzewski already sees the start of something big.

Kevin Durant scored 19 points, Klay Thompson added 17 and the Americans rolled to a second straight blowout exhibition victory, 106-57 over China on Sunday night.

DeMar DeRozan scored 13 points in his hometown, and DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points and seven rebounds in the second stop on the five-city tour leading the Americans to Rio de Janeiro. The victory over an overmatched opponent was impressive, but Krzyzewski liked it more for the composed, cohesive manner in which the new teammates worked together.

"We should have won, but the way we won was excellent," Krzyzewski said. "We're really growing together as a group."

After opening their showcase tour by trouncing Argentina in Las Vegas on Friday night, the U.S. team posted another rout at a packed Staples Center. Krzyzewski is finding it difficult to disguise his early optimism, praising his team's work in their brief practice time together.

And while they're still learning their teammates' tendencies and solidifying player rotations, the U.S. team looked remarkably connected for long stretches against China, which has no current NBA players.

Durant noticed it, as did Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who kicked off the festivities by blocking a shot on China's first possession and throwing down an alley-oop dunk on the Americans' first possession.

"We've only been together a week, but it seems like we've been teammates for years," Jordan said.

Jordan scored 12 points and led a strong defensive effort with three blocks for the Americans, who held the Chinese to 30.9 percent shooting. Krzyzewski believes the American team will excel at defensive switching because of its abundance of versatile players.

"I think we're learning more about one another, and our defense was there pretty much the whole game," Krzyzewski said.

The Americans haven't lost a game since the 2006 world championships, winning 65 straight games. They're 47-1 in exhibitions since NBA stars took over the roster in 1992, going undefeated since 2004.

While LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard all declined the chance to play in Rio, the Americans who accepted the opportunity appear to be serious about winning without some of the nation's top stars.

"We're young, but we've got a bunch of seasoned pros," said Kyrie Irving, who had 10 points and four assists. "We've been on a lot of journeys, and we've crossed paths before, but now we're all coming together at the right time."

Anthony was the only holdover in the Americans' starting lineup from Las Vegas while Krzyzewski works on chemistry and coordination. He put Paul George in with the starters alongside Anthony, Jordan, Kyle Lowry and DeRozan, whose family watched from courtside.

Both teams had early shooting struggles, but the Americans took charge with impressive speed late in the first quarter.

Durant, one of the two returning American gold medalists from London, heard boos from the LA crowd during pregame introductions. He quickly found his outside stroke with 14 points and four assists in the first half, and Cousins overpowered the Chinese down low for 12 first-half points on the way to a 55-29 halftime lead.

The Chinese team's most recognizable name to North Americans is Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks' choice with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He spent five seasons with four NBA teams before heading back to the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Yi led the Chinese with 18 points. Zhou Qi, the 7-foot-2 center drafted by the Houston Rockets in the second round last month, scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Exciting guard Zhao Jiwei scored 14 points.

The teams meet again Tuesday in Oakland, where Durant will play in front of his new home fans for the first time since defecting from Oklahoma City to the Golden State Warriors earlier this month.

They'll also meet Aug. 6 in the opening game of Olympic competition in Brazil.