NBA Playoffs, Suns v. Spurs Game 3: Jefferson's big scoring night was all part of the plan

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In Game 2, Richard Jefferson scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting. For some guys in this league, that’s a walk in the park. For Jefferson this season, it my be closer to a modern miracle. After being touted as one of the keynote acquisitions by any team last off-season, RJ has disappointed time and time again, with his decent scoring performance in Game 2 standing as one of the ’09-’10 campaign’s few comforts.

Or maybe not. Maybe Jefferson was simply doing exactly what the Suns wanted him to do: shoot. From Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News:

But as if to prove Jefferson’s point about aggression having nothing
to do with his involvement in the offense, Phoenix forward Jared Dudley
said it all was by design — Phoenix’s design.

“We hung our hat
on defense, and made the right people shoot the ball,” Dudley said.
“Who we wanted to (shoot were) Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker from
outside, George Hill.”

The Suns game plan has obviously been geared towards stopping Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and although Duncan finished with 29 and 10 on Wednesday night, the Suns made him work for it. Ginobili, on the other hand, had to settle into a role as a distributor, and could manage just 11 points on 2-of-8 shooting to go along with his 11 assists.

Other than Duncan staying effective, the Suns are getting what they want defensively. Jefferson taking 13 shots while Ginobili takes just eight has to be considered a win for the Suns’ defense, even if RJ did show a bit of life and manage to contribute. Likewise, if they can keep Tony Parker out of the paint as they did on Wednesday (Parker managed just one field goal attempt at the rim in Game 2), Phoenix will be wisely playing the odds; Tony, like just about every other player in this league, is much more effective around the basket than he is shooting long, two-point jumpers.

George Hill’s ability to hit the corner three could be a wild card, but thus far the Suns have done a decent job of contesting that particular shot. They may give him pull-up jumpers or various looks from mid-range as part of their defensive scheme, but clearly the lethality of the corner three was not lost on Alvin Gentry and his staff.

Something has to give eventually, though. If San Antonio can put enough pressure on the Phoenix from a few different angles, Hill could be left wide open from the wings with enough room to fire comfortably. Tony Parker could look to catch-and-drive rather than catch-and-shoot when Manu Ginobili kicks it out of a double-team. Richard Jefferson — well, the Spurs will just have to hope that he keeps making the looks that he gets. With a defense geared to take the ball out of Manu’s hands, San Antonio needs another scorer to keep pace with the super-efficient Suns.   

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.

Byron Scott expected to start D’Angelo Russell after All-Star break, but hasn’t talked to him about it

Byron Scott D'Angelo Russell
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Communication.

When we talk about Lakers’ coach Byron Scott’s questioned player development skills with young players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and particularly D'Angelo Russell, it is his old-school lack of communication that comes into question. It’s what is different from what Gregg Popovich or Quin Snyder or other guys developing strong young players have done. From the outside (we’re not in practices/film sessions), we see Scott was not letting Russell play through mistakes — feeling that was rewarding bad behavior — but then not doing a good job communicating what the player is doing wrong.

This comment from Scott, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, sums it up perfectly.

Scott plans to start Russell after NBA All-Star weekend (Feb. 12-14). But Scott said the two have not talked about that issue.

“He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting and discuss, ‘What do you think?’” Scott said.

I would say you should have that meeting — it’s called a teachable moment. “What do you think? Well here is what I see that is different.”

Part of what is going on with Scott and Russell is the concern from some in the Lakers’ camp that Russell is a little too full of himself, that his ego is too big, and it could become a problem. So they are trying to take him down a peg. I would say that for a smart player — and Russell is that — the game is humbling and will take care of the ego issue. But you’ve got to give him run to develop him.

Play him, and then communicate with him. It’s a system that does worth with modern players.