Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill

Nash calls Kobe’s 48 against the Suns “one of the best performances” he’s seen

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By now you’ve surely heard about Kobe Bryant’s 48 points he put up in a win over the Suns on Tuesday. You likely are also aware that Bryant is playing through torn wrist ligaments in his shooting hand, and that perhaps he’s been shooting too much, to the detriment of this Lakers team.

The fact that you are thinking it is probably one of the reasons for Bryant’s most recent streak of domination.

In the five games since that fateful 6-for-28 shooting performance in Denver, Bryant has averaged 36 points per game, while shooting better than 51 percent from the field. But the pinnacle came in the performance against Phoenix, and Steve Nash was as impressed as anyone with what he saw.

“It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen,” Nash said after Wednesday afternoon’s practice. “Not only because he had 48 points, but I thought Grant [Hill] guarded him incredibly well. He still made just shot after shot — contested and difficult shots. It was incredible.”

Hill actually did a decent job on Bryant to start the game, as Suns head coach Alvin Gentry was quick to point out.

“Grant guarded him the first eight minutes and he had four points,” Gentry said. “The last three minutes of the quarter he had 13. Obviously once you get a guy going like that, he gets in a comfort zone.”

Bryant has said that it’s personal when it comes to the Suns, and ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande took it a step further by speculating that Bryant’s ire might be directed specifically at Nash:

Kobe keeps saying how much he hates the Phoenix Suns.

But there’s almost nothing left from the Suns teams that knocked the Lakers out of the first round of the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. The coach is gone, the general manager is gone, every other player is gone … there’s even a different guy doing tricks in the gorilla suit. The only one who remains is Steve Nash. The same Steve Nash who won the Most Valuable Player award over Bryant in 2005 and 2006.

“I don’t like them,” Bryant said of the Suns. “Plain and simple, I do not like them. They used to whip us pretty good and used to let us know about it, and I. Will. Not. Forget. That.”

If it is personal for Bryant, Nash certainly wasn’t willing to add anything to that internal fire Bryant already has burning for the Phoenix organization.

“I don’t know what to say about that,” Nash said. “I don’t know what his thought process is there. He had a great game, so if it’s personal, it was very, very ‘personally’ great.”

Nash said after Tuesday’s game that Bryant is “the best player in the world.” He stood by that assessment on Wednesday, while specifically giving Kobe the edge over LeBron James.

“I didn’t change my mind over night,” he said. “I mean, LeBron’s neck and neck with Kobe. But Kobe just, time and time again, has proven what he can do. He’s a finisher, he’s a scorer, and he’s a great competitor.”

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.