DeAndre Jordan

Clippers 103, Blazers 90: DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford get the job done

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After dismantling the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Clippers trip to Portland the very next night would seem to be a vacation by comparison — and it certainly started out that way. But Portland fought back from a 26-point first-half deficit to get within four in the final period, before L.A. stabilized and pulled away to take it by a final of 103-90.

The Clippers entered Thursday night’s game in Portland with one of the top four offenses in the league, while the Blazers were in the bottom four in team defense. The numbers certainly didn’t lie early, as L.A. seemed unstoppable in the first half, putting up 60 points by the break and leading by as many as 26 in the process.

Portland just came out with a lack of energy and zero urgency against a Clippers team that has much more talent and is built to score at will, especially when they aren’t challenged in the slightest. The Blazers settled for jumpers and three-pointers possession after possession, while being slow to get back in transition and rotate defensively.

Things changed a little for the Blazers during the big third-quarter run that got them back in it, but only in the sense that the outside shots started to fall, which fueled the energy to play defense on the other end. Portland shot 53 percent from the field in the second half to make up for the 35 percent it shot in the first, but the team isn’t deep enough to dig its way out of that kind of a hole against one like the Clippers, who are loaded with veteran depth and talent.

DeAndre Jordan had a monster game for L.A., and finished with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while grabbing eight rebounds in just 28 minutes of action. He showed excellent footwork inside, and seems more comfortable playing within his athleticism this year than last.

Former Blazer Jamal Crawford really killed Portland in this one, and led all scorers with 25 points off the bench. He was attacking and aggressive all night long, and the boos from the crowd in Portland he was hearing likely had something to do with that.

The Blazers continued to see good things out of rookie Damian Lillard, who plays under control with confidence and poise while initiating his team’s offense. Myers Leonard got loose for a couple of nice lob dunks at the rim, one of which came as he cut baseline and threw it down over Ronny Turiaf late in the game.

But any effort from the Blazers came far too late to matter. L.A. showed why it’s an upper-echelon team in the Western Conference, and Portland will need to play with maximum intensity from the opening tip to have a legitimate chance most nights this season.

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.