Getting obsessive with Josh Smith's game-winning dunk

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Last night, Josh Smith won the internet with a game-winning tip dunk as time expired. This everyone agrees on. What isn’t as clear is which Magic player screwed up to give Smith a clear run to the rim for the game-winner. The general consensus is that Rashard Lewis, the Magic player closest to Smith, messed up by failing to box him out. 

However, there have been some dissenting opinions. In response to David Thorpe’s opinion on TrueHoop, Stephen Danley noted that Lewis and Jameer Nelson were responsible for boxing out three guys on the weak side because Dwight Howard had rotated over to play help-side defense. This fellow directly blames Howard for the mistake, and he uses tables to illustrate it. On NBA Playbook, one of Sebastian Pruiti’s stills of the play makes it look pretty clear that Rashard should have found Josh Smith and boxed him out. 
After looking at the video many, many times, here are some of my conclusions:
-First of all, this was a bit of a freak occurrence. Not only does the ball carom off the rim perfectly for Smith’s dunk, but almost nobody else in the league is capable of making that play. When the shot went up with 1.9 seconds to play, Lewis is standing with his toes on the charge circle as Smith stands at the three-point line. When it hits the rim with 1.3 seconds away, Smith is still a good two to three steps outside of the paint. A second later, game over. Of the thousands of times Rashard Lewis has boxed a man out in his life, he’s probably faced very few opponents capable of swooping in that quickly for a tip dunk after starting at the three-point line. Yes, Smith already has one tip-dunk game winner this season, but Lewis had about a half a second to remember this and override his instinct, which is that there was no chance Smith was going to be able to get to that rebound. Like the victims of a LeBron James chase-down block, Lewis got burned by letting instinct take over and forgetting the athletic capabilities of the player behind him. 
-Second, when the shot goes up, Lewis and Nelson aren’t actually responsible for three men, because Marvin Williams is hanging out beyond the three-point line and never comes inside of it. In this case, Jameer’s responsibility should have been to box out Mario West while Lewis makes sure he puts a body on Smith. Nelson is the smallest man on the floor anyways, and doesn’t quite get over to box out West, who is on the charge circle when the ball hits the rim. Lewis moves ever so slightly to his left towards West, giving Smith the window he needs to blow by Lewis’ right shoulder and dunk it through. 
Ultimately, my final opinion is that there’s no one mistake that made this possible for the Hawks. Howard ended up roaming a little too far over. Nelson didn’t box out his man as well as he could have. Lewis didn’t make it a priority to know where the best athlete on the Hawks was when the ball went up. The ball bounced perfectly to one of the few guys capable of making the game-winning play. It’s one of those things that will happen over the course of an 82-game season. Unfortunately for the Magic, it happened to them this time. 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.

Clippers win likely playoff preview 108-95 over Jazz

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West. The teams are likely to face in the first round of the postseason.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles’ lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend.

But Los Angeles turned things around in the fourth, scoring the first eight points for an 80-70 lead. Crawford had 17 points in the quarter, scoring six in a row to push the Clippers’ lead to 103-84. He was 9 of 9 at the free-throw line for the game.

The Clippers grabbed control early on, shooting 52 percent in the first quarter while building a 15-point lead.

The Jazz got within seven to start the second before the Clippers restored their 15-point margin and eventually led 49-41 at halftime.

Utah’s top two scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, struggled. Hayward, who averages 22 points, had 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Hill, who averages 17.1, had nine points while shooting 4 of 11.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Gobert was coming off a career-high 35-point, 15-rebound performance against the Knicks on Tuesday. … G Sheldon Mack missed his 11th straight game with a left ankle sprain. … F/C Derrick Favors remains out with a left knee bone contusion.

Clippers: Their six-year playoff run is the longest in franchise history. … They have won 18 of 20 against the Jazz dating to Feb. 1, 2012. … They won the season series 3-1.

 

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Sixers’ Joel Embiid officially has knee surgery, expected to be back on court in summer

Associated Press
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“The… follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid‘s left knee appears to reveal… the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

When Philadelphia’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said that in a statement announcing Joel Embiid was being shut down for the season, the chance of knee surgery to clean up that meniscus was possible. Friday it became a reality, the team announced.

CSNPhilly.com had the details.

The team expects Embiid to resume basketball activities during this summer, according to Sixers director of performance research and development Dr. David T. Martin. Embiid will begin his rehab in Los Angeles with specialists and Sixers medical and training staff members.

“The overall status of Joel’s lateral meniscus and his cartilage is very good,” surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D., who performed the surgery, said in a statement. “Today’s procedure focused on removing a small portion of the meniscus that was responsible for his symptoms.

“The recovery program that has been established targets Joel transitioning back to full weight-bearing in approximately two weeks, at which point a conservative approach to his rehabilitation will be introduced.”

After Embiid missed two seasons with foot issues, there is a tendency to lump everything together and call him injury prone. This, however, was a minor surgery with a relatively short recovery period, even as the Sixers bring him along slowly. There is reason for concern, but this shouldn’t be an issue by next training camp.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.