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NBA Playoffs: Dallas, Los Angeles finally meet in postseason

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Seriously, how has this not happened before?

The Dallas Mavericks have been to the playoffs 11 consecutive years reaching all the NBA finals one time. The Lakers have been the Lakers in that same time, having been one of the most dominant teams in the NBA.

Yet there has been no playoff meetings between these teams since the 1988 Western Conference finals, when Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman were leading the Mavs.

In recent years, the Lakers have dominated regular season meetings, winning 2-of-3 this season, because like everyone else the Mavericks have struggled to deal with the Lakers length up front.

Which makes Tyson Chandler the biggest key to this series for Dallas. He is arguably the best defensive center in the game and he will play the role of Sisyphus in this series, given the task of slowing the Lakers in the paint. Sure, he will get Andrew Bynum primarily while Dirk Nowitzki will get time on Pau Gasol, but in the end Chandler is the backstop. He has to alter shots from whomever is hot and clean up the glass or Dallas is in trouble.

Dallas has another problem — Kobe Bryant. Another problem no team has an easy time with, but Dallas has the added issue of not having a good defensive matchup for him. Not the older Jason Kidd for sure, and if Jason Terry is on him Kobe will go straight to the post and attack him. (Portland went at Terry and they don’t have a Kobe-like talent.) Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson will split time, but both of those are not ideal either (because of matchup problems for Marion and offense problems for Stevenson).

On offense, Dallas needs to space out the floor by hitting threes, and they have to get to the free throw line. Two things they struggle to do against the Lakers in the regular season, but they have to find a way in this series.

Dallas also is going to need a big series from Dirk Nowitzki, but he will be guarded by the long Gasol and Lamar Odom. He has to get his no matter what, and still be efficient.

Dallas is going to need someone to make plays at the point — that is the Lakers weakness. But can Jason Kidd do that? Is it J.J. Barea off the bench?

The real secret chance for Dallas is Rodrigue Beaubois. He missed most of the season recovering from a foot injury and was never right. He missed the start of the first round of the playoffs and was almost moot. But he is the kind of quick, slashing guard that gives the Lakers trouble. Dallas will need him.

These games are going to be close — they almost always are when these teams meet. But in the end the Lakers pull out the win. Consistently. And Game 1 might be just like that.

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.