Kevin Durant

Should the “rip” move be legal?

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Kevin Durant may be the nicest superstar in the NBA, and he certainly has the most squeaky-clean public image. He doesn’t say the wrong things, he’s a quiet assassin on the court, he’s young, he’s exciting to watch, and he plays for a small-market team with great fans.

In fact, the only time you’ll ever see a casual fan actually get mad at Kevin Durant is when he uses his “rip” move, the sneakiest offensive maneuver in the game. When Durant has the ball in the triple-threat position, he likes to bring it down low and dare the opposing defender to stick their hand out instead of giving him space. If the defender takes the bait, Durant swings his arms up in a quick modified shooting motion, and more often than not is awarded with three free throws.

There’s no doubt that the rip move is a key part of Durant’s game. Durant averages 3.7 attempts at the rim per game (data courtesy of HoopData.com) and 8.7 free throws per game, which means he averages 2.35 free throws for every attempt at the rim. Let’s look at that in comparison to other high-volume perimeter scorers:

– LeBron James: 1.48 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Dwyane Wade: 1.25 free throws per attempt at the rim

-Derrick Rose: 1.03 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Russell Westbrook: 1.13 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Kobe Bryant: 2.00 free throws per attempt at the rim

As you can see, Durant is getting fouled on jump shots a LOT more than most high-volume perimeter scorers. Some of that can be explained by the fact that Durant is an extremely dangerous jump shooter — there’s a reason why Kobe Bryant also has a very high FTA/shot at the rim ratio. Still, Durant’s ratio is significantly higher than Kobe’s, and Kobe’s had nearly an extra decade to develop tricks to fool defenders.

So Durant’s “rip” move is clearly effective. But is it underhanded? Daily Thunder’s Royce Young chimes in:

Last night against the Warriors, Durant got two calls with [the rip move]. One in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer on Dorell Wright and then a big one in overtime on David Lee which gave KD three shots and put OKC up one with a minute left.

So as you might imagine, Golden State Warrior coach Keith Smart was not a fan of the move. He told the AP: “That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player,” Smart said. “If the player’s going to bait you into a foul—and I understand it’s a rule, so there’s nothing we can do about it—but … who has the right to the space? We’ve got to come to a conclusion.”

Who has the right to space? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? If Thabo gets up super tight on Monta Ellis — like really tight, touching even — and Ellis puts the ball on the floor and drives hard around him and Thabo can’t move his feet fast enough, thus picking up a blocking foul, is Keith Smart saying that shouldn’t be a foul? I mean, who has the right to the space? Ellis created the contact, Thabo was just playing defense. Right?

Young certainly has a point — players exploiting the rules to draw fouls is certainly not new, and it’s commonplace in many situations. Just like all professional athletes, basketball players do all they can to get any sort of advantage within the official rules. However, there is a difference between the “rip” move and drawing a foul off of a pump fake or a blocking charge — those defenders are, in theory, moving.

Everyone agrees that a defender who creates contact by moving into an offensive player attempting to score should be a foul. We’ve also come to accept that an offensive player who tricks a defensive player into creating contact — think Kobe Bryant up-faking and jumping straight up into a defender flying at him, Dwayne Wade getting a help defender to lurch towards the rim before jumping into his chest, or Chauncey Billups selling contact with a perimeter defender who didn’t get above the screen quickly enough.

The rip move, however, is an offensive player creating contact with a stationary defender that put himself in what is perhaps a bad position. Maybe that’s a small distinction, but it seems to me that it’s what makes the “rip” move just a little bit different than the rule exploits we’re already familiar with.

Still, one thing is for certain: Durant is going to use that rip move, and use it well, until the refs stop calling it, so defenders should be careful where they put their arms while guarding Durant.

Warriors’ defense, Klay Thompson take over fourth quarter, earn Game 2 win

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Only one team in this series can crank up their defense enough to  win them games.

The Warriors’ offense feeds off that stingy defense — with or without Stephen Curry in the lineup, again Tuesday it was without — and the combination can lead to big runs.

Such as a 34-12 fourth quarter. It was historic, as our own Dan Feldman pointed out on twitter.

Golden State trailed by 17 at one point but came on in the fourth with a defensive energy that held Damian Lillard to 0-of-3 shooting and his entire Portland team to 26.5 percent shooting. Those miss shots fueled transition buckets and opportunities — Klay Thompson had 10 of his 27 points on the night in the fourth — and the Warriors roared back for a 110-99 victory.

Golden State now leads the series 2-0 as it heads to Portland, with Game 3 not until Saturday. The biggest question is whether Curry will play in that game, or will the Warriors use their position of strength to get him more rest (as they did in the Houston series up 2-0)?

The best player on the floor in Game 2 was Draymond Green, who finished with 17 points (on 20 shots), 14 rebound and seven assists. But that’s not where the damage he does starts — it’s on defense. His ability to defend the five, then show out high on pick-and-rolls to cut off Lillard or C.J. McCollum and take away their shots from three. With Curry out, Green also spends a lot of time as the guy initiating the Warriors offense. He crashes the boards. He protects the paint, including a key block late on Mason Plumlee. Green did it all.

Portland raced out to a lead using their vintage style — their defense wasn’t that good, but it was good enough (especially with a cold Thompson who kept missing open looks), and their offense was hitting everything. With the Warriors missing shots it was Portland using the opportunity to run — and it was the Warriors defenders doing a poor job of recognizing the shooters and closing them out. So the opposite of Game 1.

Portland was also getting buckets from Al-Farouq Aminu — 10 first quarter points — and that’s always a good sign because he’s the guy (well, him and Maurice Harkless) that the Warriors will live with shooting.

Still, you knew the run was coming. The Warriors went on a 14-2 run to make it close as the second half started to wind down. But then Portland responded with some real poise and an 8-0 run of their own. Portland was getting their buckets and had a 59-51 run at the half. They continued to hold that lead through the third quarter thanks to a red-hot Damian Lillard, who had 16 points in the quarter.

But again, you knew the run was coming — and this time it was fueled by the Warriors defense. Festus Ezeli was a big part of that, his defensive presence in the paint helped turn things around, he was setting big screens to free up Thompson and others, plus he had eight points of his own in the quarter.

When the game got tight Portland missed seven in a row down the stretch, and that sealed the Blazers fate. Meanwhile, the Warriors kept hitting shots, and the Blazers have no great options to change up the defense and alter that dynamic. Even without Curry, the versatility of the Warriors makes them tough to slow, let alone stop. 

Going home, maybe the Trial Blazers can hit some difficult shots and hold off a Warriors charge in the fourth quarter.

Or, maybe Stephen Curry is back, and the Warriors just get better.

Dwyane Wade’s determination outlasts Kyle Lowry’s buzzer beater

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade controls the ball as Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry (7) defends during the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Dwyane Wade was helpless as Kyle Lowry‘s halfcourt heave sailed through the air (though Wade cocked his head back and leaned to the side, as if changing his view could alter the ball’s trajectory).

Wade was helpless as the referees swallowed their whistles despite Cory Joseph crashing into him on an inbound. (Haven’t we had enough incorrect no-calls on late inbound plays?) That led to a Heat turnover that preceded Lowry’s miracle shot.

Wade was helpless as the referees again swallowed their whistles despite DeMarre Carroll tugging his jersey on an overtime inbound. (Haven’t we really had enough incorrect no-calls on late inbound plays?) That also created a turnover and gave the Raptors another chance to tie.

So, Wade took matters into his own hands.

Wade snatched the ball from DeMar DeRozan, went to his knees to recover it and charged for a three-point play with 1.8 seconds left – finally clinching a 102-96 Miami Game 1 win in a second-round series Tuesday.

The game went to overtime on Lowry’s long-distance buzzer beater. When the shot fell, Wade dropped to one knee and buried his face in his hand. But he didn’t stay on the mat for long.

The Heat scored first eight points of regulation, and Wade (24 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks) outscored the Raptors himself in the extra period, 7-6.

This is Toronto’s seventh straight Game 1 loss, including four at home the last three years with largely this group of players. But as the Raptors’ first-round win over the Pacers showed, this series is far from over. Road Game 1 winners have taken the series 53% of the time, hardly an overwhelming clip.

Toronto must better stay in front of Goran Dragic, who led Miami with 26 points. Dragic, who had 25 in Game 7 against the Hornets, had never scored so much in consecutive games with the Heat. They’re thrilled to run their offense through him more often.

The Raptors should also more resolutely attack Hassan Whiteside, who scared them away from the basket. Beyond Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals), the Raptors were 8-for-20 in the paint with Whiteside in the game. It’s not so much the shooting percentage – which isn’t great – but the low number of attempts in 39 minutes. Whiteside is a premier rim protector, but he’s not invincible. That proclivity for the perimeter failed especially with Toronto’s star guard struggling so mightily.

Aside from his halfcourt highlight, Lowry scored four points on 2-of-12 shooting, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. More than anything, the Raptors need him to play better.

Otherwise, the shot of the playoffs will only delay the inevitable.

Kyle Lowry sends Raptors-Heat to overtime with halfcourt buzzer beater (video)

Toronto Raptors' Kyle Lowry makes a pass as Miami Heat's Luol Deng (9) and Goran Dragic (7) defend during the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in Toronto.  (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Kyle Lowry was 2-for-11, including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers.

Didn’t matter.

He hit the big one to stave off yet another Raptors Game 1 loss.

Video via Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated

C.J. McCollum on Warriors: ‘They set a lot of illegal screens’

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, center, reaches for the ball between Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, top, and forward Andre Iguodala during the second half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, May 1, 2016. The Warriors won 118-106. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts accused Anderson Varejao of being dirty on a particular play.

C.J. McCollum says the Warriors cross the line much more regularly.

via Jason Quick of CSN Northwest:

“They set a lot of illegal screens,’’ Blazers guard CJ McCollum said Tuesday at the team’s shootaround at The Olympic Club. “They are moving and stuff. That’s the respect you get when you are champions, you get a lot more respect from the referees. You have to figure out a way to get around those screens and make it difficult.’’

One underappreciated element of the Warriors’ success is their excellent screening. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut are two of the NBA’s best. Even the diminutive Stephen Curry wreaks havoc with his screens, leveraging his shooting ability to befuddle defenders.

Do the Warriors sometimes set illegal screens? Yup. Do they do so more than other teams? Yup. Do they do so more than every other team? Anecdotally, probably, though I’d love to see numbers.

But that’s part of Golden State’s strategy. The Warriors screeners so often straddle the line, they move it. It’s a fine line between a good legal screen and an illegal one, and Golden State dares the refs to blow the whistle.

McCollum can campaign for that to change, and his statements might cause the league to instruct referees to watch Warrior screens more closely. But even if Golden State has to harness its movement and arm extensions on picks, the team is more than capable of setting quality clean screens.