Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

OT win gives Spurs rematch with Heat

OKLAHOMA CITY — San Antonio and Miami, get ready for an encore.

It's the Spurs and the Heat in the NBA Finals for the second straight season, with San Antonio punching its ticket by beating Oklahoma City 112-107 in overtime in Game 6 of the Western Conference final Saturday night.

Miami eliminated Indiana in Game 6 of the East series Friday night. The Heat topped the Spurs in a classic seven-game series a year ago for their second consecutive championship.

The last Finals rematch came in 1998, when Michael Jordan and the Bulls topped the Jazz for the second straight season.

Game 1 is Thursday night in San Antonio.

Heat sets winning tone in training camp

MIAMI — Erik Spoelstra said he mentioned how daunting the task would be only once.

Back in September, when the Heat assembled to begin training camp, Miami's coach addressed his team about furthering its championship legacy and how rare it is for a team to find its way to the NBA Finals in four straight seasons.

"We've never brought it up since then," Spoelstra said.

It'll get brought up now. The seed the Heat coach planted in the Bahamas at that training camp took root. The Heat is Finals-bound — for the fourth straight time.

Spoelstra spoke of luck when he gathered his team for a locker room huddle moments after the celebration started Fridat, after Miami wrapped up its fourth straight East crown, defeating Indiana 4-2 in the series. His words were interrupted twice by LeBron James.

"We don't take this for granted," Spoelstra said.

"No, sir," James added, nodding.

"We do not take it for granted," Spoelstra repeated.

"No way," James interjected.

Miami is 12-3 in this season's playoffs, 8-0 at home, and has won a road game in 15 straight postseason series. The Heat will need to extend that streak to win the Finals where the Spurs will hold homecourt advantage.

"Obviously, going through the weeks and weeks and weeks and grinding months of a regular season, it was a toll on all of us," James said.

"But I felt like down the stretch, if we could get healthy, we could get everyone in uniform and have our full strength, it didn't matter what seed we were. I felt like we can represent the (East) in the Finals if we had the health, and we were able to accomplish that."

The Pacers' bizarre season came to a familiar end. Now team president Larry Bird must spend the offseason trying to figure out what went wrong and what must be fixed to finally beat the Heat in the playoffs.

Bird acknowledged the Pacers were going "all in" this season when they re-signed David West, gave Paul George a large deal and traded away their first-round pick to get Luis Scola from Phoenix.

Free agent Lance Stephenson could be the next Pacers player to strike it rich. But after calling out James publicly before Game 4, blowing in his ear in Game 5 and tapping James on his chin early in Game 6, some wonder if the Pacers even want Stephenson back. "I don't know what the future holds for us," West said. "Obviously, everything starts and ends with the Miami Heat.''

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