Heat celebrate with parade through Miami

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Heat celebrate with parade through Miami

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- The NBA championship trophy was center stage, bathed in white light and sitting on a pedestal. And each Miami Heat player offered it a different greeting. Mike Miller bowed. Udonis Haslem kissed it three times. Chris Bosh hugged it, and LeBron James strolled past before waving at the crowd. Dwyane Wade did something different. In a nod to his preferred postgame fashion style throughout the playoffs, he emerged with a pair of faux eyeglasses and slipped the frames onto the neck of the trophy. Heat president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and team managing general partner Micky Arison all donned the black spectacles as well at various points during the party. The glasses were fake. The sentiments were all real. And with that, two years after Wade, James and Bosh opened their time together with a celebration, they got the party they really wanted on Monday. An estimated 400,000 people filled the streets of Miami for the Heat championship parade, and then 15,000 more got into the arena afterward for a long, loud reception for the NBA's new kings. "It's the best feeling I've ever had. ... This was my dream, right here, to be able to hoist that Larry O'Brien Trophy up, hug it, grab it, never want to let it go," James said. During the parade, players and coaches were on double-decker buses with friends and family, most of them taking photos and video of the crowd. Other Heat staff were on flatbed trucks, as confetti fell and horns blared every step of the way. Wade cradled the championship trophy in his arms for much of the ride. "I appreciate all our fans for sticking with us," said the now two-time NBA champion Wade, adding, "Best fans in the world." And then the party moved inside, with a similar setup to the event that welcomed James and Bosh to Miami to play alongside Wade in July 2010. Music blared for nearly an hour as fans danced for joy, before the arena went dark briefly -- and the trophy was sneaked onto the stage. For nearly 90 minutes afterward, the Heat relived so many aspects of the season, from Haslem's flagrant foul against Indiana's Tyler Hansbrough in the Eastern Conference semifinals ("the greatest flagrant foul in team history," Heat broadcaster Eric Reid told the crowd) to countless highlights from the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City, the Heat left few stones unturned. Juwan Howard -- the first member of Michigan's Fab Five to win an NBA title -- did the Cabbage Patch dance, as teammates broke into absolute hysterics, waving their arms in time with him. Mario Chalmers was asked about why Wade and James yell at him so much on the court, as a montage of some of their more fiery moments played on the giant video screens. And the Miami natives, Haslem and James Jones, got perhaps the loudest ovations of anyone outside of the finals MVP. "Feels great, man," said Haslem, who along with Wade is the lone holdover from Miami's 2006 championship club. "Changing my name from Mr. Miami to Mr. Two-Time. I ain't Mr. Miami no more. I'm Mr. Two-Time. ... It never gets old. But this one is more gratifying because of the way last season ended." Spoelstra had a similar sentiment, talking to the crowd about the team's commitment, especially after Miami lost last season's finals to Dallas. "People from the outside, they criticized this group, this team," Spoelstra said. "They counted this team out. But they never estimated how close this group was as a family. Every single one of these players had to sacrifice something, either money, opportunity, minutes to be a part of this dream. And it was all for a moment like this." After the celebrating was done, there was business. Wade reiterated that he would seek medical advice before committing to play with the Olympic team. Bosh -- who missed nine playoff games with a strained lower abdominal muscle -- said he was "all in, for now" on being part of the London Games. And Miller, who was hobbled by back and foot issues, said on Twitter he planned to meet with Miami neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green on Tuesday, presumably to get checked out and discuss options. Miami won the title by defeating Oklahoma City in five games in the NBA Finals. It was the second title for the Heat and the first for James, who nodded and pointed to fans for much of the parade. James came to Miami after seven years in Cleveland, and after he and the Heat fell in the finals a year ago, he's finally a champion. "It's good being around other people who support LeBron," said Doug Mead of Toledo, Ohio, who came to the parade with his family. "They really don't like him in Ohio. They celebrate when he loses." Everyone was celebrating in Miami on Monday. Arison snapped and tweeted several photos during the parade. Riley shouted "Thank you" to fans over and over, as his wife, Chris, stood to his left and led "Let's go Heat" chants. Some fans began lining up for spots along the parade route Sunday night. "I've been a fan since 89. For me personally I feel like I'm part of the Heat family," said Dexter Pace of West Palm Beach, Fla. "I've been through the goods, the bads, the losses, the trades, and now it's like someone in my family has accomplished something. .... It's going to mean a lot for the city of Miami, winning the championship." As the event ended, Bosh thanked both the fans inside the arena and those outside, saying that without them, nothing would be possible for the Heat. "It feels right," Bosh said. "This is how it's supposed to be ... and I would like to do it all the time."

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”