By John Harris |@JHBasketball
Durant and Lebron huge as Thunder recover to top the Heat in Game 1:
The Miami Heat had 5 players in double figures but were outscored in the second half by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as they dropped an electrifying Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Oklahoma City. With Chris Bosh again starting the game on the bench and James Harden enduring a quiet night, it was the battle of the big two’s as Durant and Westbrook put on a clinic to defeat Lebron and Wade.
The game looked like it was heading to Miami early as the Heat raced to a 10-2 lead behind James and Shane Battier. Durant busted the Thunder back into the game with a couple of treys but it was the Heat who sat on a lead for most of the first half. Durant was at his best as a scoring machine and dropped 36pts (17 of which came in the 4th quarter) on driving dunk, mid-range Js and killer threes. With Harden struggling, Westbrook stepped up and finished 2 boards short of a triple double with 27pts, 11 dimes and 8rbs.
Apart from Mike Miller and Joel Anthony’s combined 12 minutes, the Heat ran with a 6-man rotation in a move that will concern Miami fans, given Lebron and Wade’s big minutes vs Boston in the Eastern Finals. Lebron once again stepped up for the Heat and he is more important than ever for Erik Spoelsta’s team as Wade continues to endure some shaky shooting performances. On the evidence of Game 1, this series is going to be a hard-fought, athletic battle between two of the NBA’s elite performers and should go down to the wire.
“We’ve demonstrated for however long that we’re just going to play the game until it’s over. … We’ve got a locker room full of guys that are extremely competitive and fearless and not afraid of the moment.”
- Derek Fisher
Legendary coach Ettore Messina leaves the Lakers; returns to CSKA Moscow:
Two-time Euroleague coach of the year Ettore Messina has left his role as a consultant to the Los Angeles Lakers to return to CSKA Moscow as their new Head Coach. CSKA are coming off a hugely successful domestic and European season that faltered at the final hurdle as they were beaten at the buzzer in the Euroleague title game by Olympiacos.
Messina — whose return was confirmed by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress — previously served as a Head Coach for CSKA from 2005-2009 and led them to four consecutive Final Four appearances, taking the title in 2006 and 2008. The Italian also has 2 Euroleague crowns from his time with Virtus Bologna and won a Silver medal at Eurobasket 1997 as Head Coach of the Italian national team.
Messina is widely-regarded as one of Europe’s greatest coaches and has long been touted for a move to the NBA. After resigning from his position at Real Madrid in March 2011 he looked at a number of opportunities in the league before signing on with the Lakers as a consultant to new coach Mike Brown. Messina enjoyed his time at the Lakers but was disappointed with their early exit and will now return to familiar surroundings on the European benches as a Head Coach once again.
“I had higher expectations. It was a season of transition. There were many things that we could have done better to have a more balanced game.”
Owner Michael Heisley agrees sale of Memphis Grizzlies:
Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has agreed to sell the team to IT billionaire Robert Pera, subject to ratification by the NBA board. Heisley is 75 and has suffered health problems recently, prompting him to move the team for an estimated $350 million.
“I have enjoyed my ownership of the Grizzlies and the support for professional basketball in Memphis. I am confident that the franchise will continue its development toward being a perennial championship contender and an important member of the Memphis community. I am particularly gratified that we have put together a team which is poised to continue its improvement.”
- Michael Heisley
The Grizzlies are in the middle of their best stretch since Heisley moved the team from Vancouver in 2001, having made the playoffs five times and performed strongly in their postseason appearances (including knocking out the Spurs last season as the 8th seed).
“I am excited about the opportunity to build on the work that has made the Memphis Grizzlies a highly competitive NBA team. I look forward to getting to know the Memphis community and to continuing the team’s success in Memphis.”
- Robert Pera
What do the Heat need to do in Game 2? Would you like to see Messina given the reins in the NBA? Can the Grizz continue their strong play from the last 2 seasons? Let us know in the comments!
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