Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat

Game of the night: Miami looks good, but not Dallas good

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The first time the Miami played Dallas back in November, the Heat players were still figuring it out. They seemed to be taking turns on offense more than working off each other, they were playing slow, it wasn’t outright confusion but they looked uncomfortable.

But after winning a dozen in a row they were past that, right? RIGHT?

Maybe not completely. On some key possessions late in the Monday night rematch with the Mavs LeBron James passed the ball to Dwyane Wade, ran through to the corner and stood there. The pace was slow. It all seemed a little too familiar. The Heat may be better but they still got sucked into a lot of bad habits when faced with the Mavericks defense, and the result was a 98-96 Dallas win in Miami. Miami’s 12-game win streak is snapped.

That’s not to say this game wasn’t fun to watch — 23 points in the last 90 seconds. A game of runs where the Mavs start out up 23-10 then pretty soon are giving up a 17-0 run. A lot of times in the final 6 minutes the Heat got within one, but could never get over the hump.

Miami had chances late — LeBron had the three-point play and Chris Bosh missed three could have tied it (at that point it was all over but the free throws). It didn’t work out.

Besides, that’s not where the Heat lost this one.

In a brilliant breakdown at ESPN, Tom Haberstroh noted that the way to beat Miami is to get them to take the long two. It’s a risk because LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Mike Miller — who was back but was 0-4 in limited minutes — James Jones and others can bury the shot. But if you can entice them into taking it and contest you can slow their offense.

That’s what Dallas did very well. They trapped and protected the paint and gave the Heat the least efficient shot in basketball. Miami — Wade and LeBron in particular — need to attack and not settle for that shot. But settle they did Monday.

Meanwhile the Mavericks kept doing what they do. Jason Terry was scoreless for three quarters then put up 19 in the final frame. Dirk Nowtizki had 26.

This is not a bad loss for the Heat — Dallas is proving to be an elite team in this regular season — but it is a reminder they can still be suckered into bad habits. A healthy Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem might help with a few things, but there are places to attack.

Meanwhile Dallas is attacking everyone. They are trapping. They are entertaining. And people are starting to believe that this year is different than other years, that there will not be a wall they can’t climb after the first round of the playoffs. That’s a long way off, but they looked good again vs. the Heat.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

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.