Raiders

Heat win NBA title in dominant fashion

799064.jpg

Heat win NBA title in dominant fashion

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Music blared and confetti fell, the only celebration LeBron James really wanted in Miami. Not that one two summers ago, the welcoming rally where he boasted of multiple titles, perhaps without realizing how hard it would be to win just one. He dreamed of this moment, with teammates surrounding him and the NBA championship trophy beside him. "You know, my dream has become a reality now, and it's the best feeling I ever had," James said. James had 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, leading the Miami Heat in a 121-106 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night to win the NBA Finals in five games. Ripped and ridiculed for the way he announced he was leaving Cleveland and taking his talents to South Beach, it's all worth it now for James. Best player in the game. Best team in the league. And now, NBA champion. "I'm happy now that eight years later, nine years later since I've been drafted, that I can finally say that I'm a champion, and I did it the right way," James said. "I didn't shortcut anything. You know, I put a lot of hard work and dedication in it, and hard work pays off. It's a great moment for myself." And for his teammates, who watched the Dallas Mavericks celebrate on their floor last year. James left the game along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for good with 3:01 remaining for a round of hugs and the start for a party he's been waiting for since arriving in the NBA out of high school as the No. 1 pick of the 2003 draft. James hopped up and down in the final minutes, shared a long hug with opponent Kevin Durant, and then soaked in the "MVP! MVP! chants during the raucous postgame. "I wanted to become a champion someday," James said. "I didn't know exactly when it would happen, but I put in a lot of hard work." He was a choker last year, the guy who came up small in the fourth quarter, mocked for "shrinking" in the moment while playing with what he called "hatred" in trying to prove his critics wrong. He came to Miami seeking an easier road to the finals but found it tougher than he expected, the Heat coming up empty last year and nearly getting knocked out in the Eastern Conference finals this time by Boston. Facing elimination there, James poured in 45 points on the road to force a Game 7 and the Heat won it at home. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done as a basketball player," James said. "You just put a lot of hard work into it and you hope that one day it will pay off for you." This time, with a chance to clinch, the Heat took control in the second quarter, briefly lost it and blew the game open again in the third behind their role players, James content to pass to wide-open 3-point shooters while the Thunder focused all their attention on him. The disappointment of losing to Dallas in six games a year ago vanished in a blowout of the demoralized Thunder, who got 32 points and 11 rebounds from Durant. Bosh and Wade, the other members of the Big Three who sat alongside James as he promised titles at his Miami welcoming party, both had strong games. Bosh, who wept as the Heat left their own court after losing Game 6 last year, finished with 24 points and Wade scored 20. The Heat also got a huge boost from Mike Miller, who made seven 3-pointers and scored 23 points. That all made it easier for James, the most heavily scrutinized player in the league since his departure from Cleveland, when he announced he was "taking his talents to South Beach" on a TV special called "The Decision" that was criticized everywhere from water coolers to the commissioner's office. James has said he wishes he handled things differently, but few who watched the Cavs fail to assemble championship talent around him could have argued with his desire to depart. In Miami he found a team that didn't need him to do it alone, though he reminded everyone during this sensational postseason run that he still could when necessary. He got support whenever he needed it in this series, from Shane Battier's 17 points in Game 2 to Mario Chalmers' 25 in Game 4. In the clincher it was Miller, banged up from so many injuries that he limped from the bench to scorer's table when he checked in. He made his fourth 3-pointer of the half right before James' fast-break basket capped a 15-2 run that extended Miami's lead to 53-36 with 4:42 remaining in the first half. The Thunder were making a remarkably early trip to the finals just three years after starting 3-29, beating the Mavericks, Lakers and Spurs along the way. With Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden all 23 or younger, the Thunder have the pieces in place for a lengthy stay atop the Western Conference. But their inexperience showed in this series, a few questionable decisions, possessions and outright mistakes costing them in their franchise's first finals appearance since Seattle lost to Chicago in 1996. Westbrook scored 19 but made only four of his 20 shots, unable to come up with anything close to his 43-point outing in Game 4, and Harden finished a miserable series with 19. "It hurts, man," Durant said. "We're all brothers on this team and it just hurts to go out like this. We made it to the finals, which was cool for us, but we didn't want to just make it there. Unfortunately we lost, so it's tough." Nothing they did could have stopped James, anyway. Appearing fully recovered from the leg cramps that forced him to sit out the end of Game 4, he was dominant again, a combination of strength and speed that is practically unmatched in the game and rarely seen in its history. Wade skipped to each side of the court before the opening tip with arms up to pump up the fans, then James showed them nothing wrong with his legs, throwing down an emphatic fast-break dunk to open the scoring. He made consecutive baskets while being fouled, showing no expression after the second, as if he'd hardly even known he was hit. Drawing so much attention from the Thunder, he started finding his wide-open shooters, and the Heat built a nine-point lead before going to the second up 31-26. Oklahoma City got back within five early in the third before consecutive 3-pointers by Chalmers and Battier triggered a 27-7 burst that made it 88-63 on another 3-pointer by Miller. James didn't even score in the run until it was almost over, hitting a pair of free throws after he was flagrantly fouled by Derek Fisher while powering toward the basket. Gone was the tentative player who was mocked for shrinking on the big stage last year, too willing to defer to others who didn't possess half his talents. This time, he was at peace off the court and attacking on it, vowing to have no regrets and playing in such a way they wouldn't be necessary. Miami had outscored Oklahoma City by just 389-384 over the first four games, but the Thunder were buried under a barrage of 14 3-pointers, tying the NBA record. "They just hit 3s after 3s. They got it going and we couldn't stop them," Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said. "Things just didn't go our way." Notes: Miami became the third team to sweep the middle three games at home in the 2-3-2 format. The Detroit Pistons took all three from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 before the Heat did it against Dallas in 2006. ... Coach Erik Spoelstra tied Pat Riley for the Heat franchise record with his 34th postseason win. He is 34-22, while Riley was just 34-36. ... The four-game losing streak that Oklahoma City finished the season with was its longest of the season. The Thunder had dropped three straight games to Memphis, Miami and Indiana from April 2-6.

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 31-30 victory over Chiefs

cooper.jpg
USATSI

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 31-30 victory over Chiefs

OAKLAND – Three things you need to know about the Raiders’ 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night:

1. Back from the brink

The Raiders are still under .500. They face an uphill climb getting back into playoff consideration following a crippling four-game losing streak.

Still. 3-4 is a whole heck of a lot better than the alternative.

“Yeah, 2-5 did not sound good,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “That made our stomach hurt. We wanted to come out here and get a big win. This is a big win. For our team, especially with the adversity we’ve gone through.”

The Raiders looked lost during their downturn, when a loaded offense averaged 13.1 points per game. They fell to 14th in the AFC and last in their division. Perceived strengths proved suspect. Everything was called into question.

If the Raiders were drowning, Thursday was that point in the movie where the hero reappears taking a huge, dramatic breath.

The Raiders are alive again, especially in beating the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs. There’s work ahead to make it more than a really fun night, but Thursday proved their survival instincts are still keen.

“It felt good,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I wish it would have happened a few weeks ago. We wouldn’t be sitting here like that. You all would have been talking like ‘OK, we’re on a run.' I’m glad to get things going.

“I told them today I was going to go out there and let it rip. I told some other guys to go out there and let it rip. This offense was trying to be too perfect. We had high hopes going into the season when we started, then we hit adversity. We couldn’t find a way to get out of there fast enough. Now we’re getting out of this, but we have to keep it going. One thing we have been doing is we’ve been working as hard as we do every week. It’s starting to pay off.”

2. Dormant volcano erupts

The Raiders offense was horrible four straight games. The season’s first two games proved what a loaded unit can do when functioning well, but those efforts got lost in a wash of bad play.

An MVP-caliber quarterback’s play was openly questioned for the first time. So was a bright young coordinator taking shrapnel for the team’s misgivings. Averaging 13 points per game will make a fan base an angry mob. The offense grossly underperformed, but raw talent didn’t diminish.

Production was hot lava, bubbling underneath the surface. It erupted on Thursday night, with the previously cautious Raiders offense opened up and consistently took yards in chunks.

In doing so, a lost offense may have found an identity, a fallback: The Raiders can flat out sling it.

Quarterback Derek Carr was throwing darts all over the field, completing 29-of-52 passes for 417 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 8.0 yards per pass play and, at times, threw people open or allowed receivers to make a play in tight coverage.

Pass catchers certainly did that. Amari Cooper had 11 catches for 210 and two scores. Tight end Jared Cook had six receptions for 107 yards. Michael Crabtree only had 24 yards, but snagged the game-deciding touchdown.

It felt and looked like the Raiders offense everyone expected each week, finally back on track. That was clear after Carr threw Amari Cooper a touchdown pass the first two drives.

“We struggled to do a lot of things over the last month,” Carr said. “To start fast, again I think that gives life to a team. That’s a sense of hope, which we always have and belief and those kind of things, but to start fast, it always just gives your team a little boost at the beginning that you have to have.”

In previous weeks, the Raiders were wound too tight. They strived for perfection and failed to attain anything close. They just let loose, and went for it. An offense with no TNT blew up, to the tune of six explosive plays.

“We got so many weapons, we got so many explosive athletes on our offense but just in these last four games that we loss we were just so out of whack,” running back Jalen Richard said. “It was little stuff here and there, technical, maybe a missed assignment here and there. Guys were doing their thing, guys were playing hard. We believed the whole game even when we got down a little bit. We pulled through and got the win.”

3. Return of the 2016 Raiders

Last season’s Raiders owned the fourth quarter. They generated seven come-from-behind victories last season thanks to offensive magic and timely defense.

That’s how they erased a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Kansas City. They never wavered, even in tough times. The defense provided opportunity. With two minutes remaining, the offense got it done.

Derek Carr orchestrated an 11-play, 85-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Crabtree on the second straight untimed down brought on by defensive penalty.

That moment produced great emotion. It should’ve after completing one of the wildest comebacks in franchise history. The drive itself, however, was clinical.

The Raiders believed they would score. They expected it.

"There was no panic, or anxiety or anything like that,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “We were going to get the job done. There was never, ever any doubt.”

That’s exactly what last year’s Raiders did. On the regular. They couldn’t respond well to adversity in recent games. They found their magic on Thursday night.

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

ratto.jpg
USATSI

Mark your calendars right now for Raiders-Chiefs 2.0 in December

In case you were asking, and you shouldn’t have been because this game deserves to be savored a bit longer, it’s December 10.
 
That’s when the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders play each other again, in case Thursday night wasn’t good enough for you.

You philistines.

And while there are some folks who won’t be happy (those who like the Chiefs or bet the Chiefs), there won’t be a more magnificently bizarre game this NFL season – because these two teams are exactly that.
 
Bizarre.
 
The Chiefs, who two weeks ago were the best team in football as voted on by the instant punditocracy, made enough mistakes in the last two minutes of Thursday’s 31-30 defeat to lose 47-10.
 
And the Raiders did the same, capped off by Marshawn Lynch’s gloriously Oaklandish reaction to fellow citizen Marcus Peters’ late hit on Derek Carr – namely, “I got your rules and your respect for officials right here!”
 
But in the end – the glorious, bizarre, untimed end – the Raiders saved themselves from pre-Halloween doom, the Chiefs reverted to the team you can never fully trust, and the rest of the NFL can only shake its collective neckless head in wonderment at the power of the old American Football League.
 
Because that, ultimately, is what this was – a game out of time. This was a throwback game, all the way back to the mid- to late-60s, when the Raiders and Chiefs hated each other not out of historical duty but out of genuine solar-generated animosity. When they both played as though their cars were being looted in the parking lot, and when 750-yard combined passing nights were actually not that unusual. They were hell-bent then, and Thursday showed that they still have that bent in their DNA even now.
 
This was that era, played out in a way that old Raider and Chiefs fans can tell their grandchildren, “Now you’re sitting there scratching your head and all, but I’m telling you that used to happen all the time. You think Marcus Peters was bad? Google Ben Davidson on Len Dawson, little Tad.”
 
And it ended the only way it could for the good of the rivalry – with Oakland winning, and in the most staggeringly improbable way.
 
Not because the Raiders are more noble human beings or a superior life form from a time long ago, but because that December 10 game needs to mean something. The Raiders needed to win Thursday because losing meant their playoff hopes would be deservedly dead, and their remaining nine games would be reduced to competitive afterthoughts, and the year would be reduced to wondering why what should have been never came close to happening.
 
And the Chiefs needed to lose because running away with a division this difficult just seems wrong. There is nothing that says Kansas City isn’t better than Denver, or Oakland or the Fightin’ StubHubs, but it shouldn’t be this easy. The Patriots may have eaten the AFC East and spit the bones into a dumpster long ago, but the AFC West clung harder to its AFL roots than the East ever did.
 
And Thursday was the evidence required to show that, at least for the Chiefs and Raiders, the old days can be recreated with a keen eye for the most malevolent details and the most bizarre turns of fortune.
 
Call it nostalgia on crank – seemingly the only thing we have left that can bond the generations in these otherwise mean-spirited days.