Carmelo Anthony

New York 104, San Antonio 100: Yes, the Knicks are for real.

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You know how announcers talk about Shane Battier? How they say he “does things that don’t show up in the boxscore” and how his value can’t really be defined by common statistics? Well, no one ever really says those things about Carmelo Anthony. Ever. And that’s fair. Anthony’s entire career has been defined by the column in the boxscore furthest to the right. That’s where his performances live in their entirety, right underneath that points column, where he hangs bigger numbers than just about everyone. For better or worse, that’s what has defined Carmelo Anthony. The pursuit of points.

By that very definition, tonight could be described as an individual failure for Anthony. Even in victory, Anthony scored just 9 points in a 104-100 thriller in San Antonio that kept the Knicks undefeated.

But obvious team success aside, this wasn’t an individual failure for Anthony at all. This was probably the best worst game of Anthony’s career.

Sure, Raymond Felton (25 points) was a scoring machine. Yes, Jason Kidd (4-for-6 from deep) was on fire from behind the arc. But let’s be clear — none of that happens without Anthony doing the things he did tonight. The Spurs threw the kitchen sink at Anthony. If he was lucky enough to actually get the ball through strong ball denials, every off-ball Spurs defender pulled towards his side of the floor like metal to Magneto. DeJuan Blair beat up on him to start, then came Stephen Jackson, then Kawhi Leonard. And on and on it went like that — fresh body after fresh body to bang on Melo.

It almost worked. The Spurs built an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter after Tiago Splitter (who else, right?) went on a one man scoring run with 13 (!) straight points. But even with that happening on the Spurs’ home floor, where they’re almost impossible to beat, the Knicks stayed calm and never started pressing or forcing the action. Anthony was still thoroughly accounted for on every possession, but he crashed the offensive glass with relentlessness once the Spurs turned their backs. He hustled after loose balls, saving a few from going out of bounds. He stuck his nose in the middle of the paint and mixed it up, never waving the white flag by running out to the perimeter and demanding the ball.

Ultimately, it paid off, and there was one defining possession for this Knicks team down the stretch. Down 95-94 with less than two minutes, Anthony had a lane to the rim on the fastbreak. But instead of keeping his blinders on and bowling his way to the rim, or pulling up for a jumper, Anthony spotted Felton in a better position on the other side of the floor. Felton, who was really feeling it, turned and kicked it out to an even more wide-open J.R. Smith, who nailed the 3 to give the Knicks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It was a hockey assist for Anthony — another thing that doesn’t go in the boxscore.

We know Anthony can fill it up. But what we didn’t know is how he would react in the middle of a poor scoring night with these particular teammates. He trusted them, and there was no panic or pouting along the way. There was only passing — of the ball, and of the test.

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.