The NBA’s intentional foul rules — you know, the ones that allow the “Hack-a-[blank]” strategy which grinds the game to a halt to send the other team’s worst free throw shooters to the foul line — have been a hot topic in the early part of the season.
You can largely thank Dwight Howard and the Lakers for that, since teams are forcing the starting center of one of the league’s glamor franchises to try to make free throws instead of letting them run their offensive sets.
The strategy is mathematically questionable at best, yet with Howard only converting free throws at a clip of just under 47 percent, it’s something that’s likely to persist until that number begins to rise, or until the Lakers are winning games by a large enough margin to make doing so simply unwise.
David Stern said he’d like to eliminate teams’ ability to do this entirely, because from a watchability standpoint, it isn’t very entertaining. But from a strategy standpoint, it makes sense to minimize your opponent’s chances by making them do something that statistically they don’t do very well at all.
It’s a divisive issue, but at least one prominent team owner, Mark Cuban, likes the rule just the way it is.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t for the rule change for basketball reasons from the professional level on down to little leagues.
“It sends the wrong message to kids every where that it’s OK to not pay attention to basketball fundamentals,” Cuban told FoxSportsSouthwest.com.
“In addition, intentional fouls humanize the game. There are 10 year olds who are watching these amazing athletes who have problems with free throws thinking that they can do something an NBA superstar can’t.”
“You can’t give a player an advantage or reward them for failing to do something that is a basic fundamental basketball skill,” Cuban added. “When a guy can’t shoot a jump shot, whether you are in a church league or the NBA, you do what you can to make them shoot jump shots.
“If a guy can’t shoot free throws, you should do the same thing. Do what you can to send them to the line.”
Cuban isn’t likely the only owner who feels this way. And with so few teams and players on the wrong end of the rules the way they currently stand, don’t expect Stern to get much support in his quest to change things anytime soon.
Three Things We Learned Tuesday: Warriors, Trail Blazers, Heat all help their playoff causes
Tuesday was a big night for playoff chase games, so much so that the Wizards clinching the division title — their first since 1979 — or the bad night for the Pacers dropping them to seventh in the East didn’t even make the cut here. Here are the three big takeaways from the night.
1) In a battle of elite offenses, Warriors’ defense gets them key win in the race for the top seed. Wednesday night comes the game that will get a lot of media attention — Golden State heads into San Antonio in a battle of the two top teams in the NBA. The Spurs are 2.5 games back of the Warriors for the No. 1 seed in the West and all of basketball, any hope they have of catching Golden State requires a win tonight.
Except it may too late for the Spurs — with their win Tuesday night, the Warriors made it tough to catch them. Fivethirtyeight.com now has Golden State with a 93 percent chance to retain the top seed in the West.
Golden State held on to beat Houston on the road Tuesday, 113-106, in a battle of the NBA’s top two offenses. However, it was Golden State’s elite defense that was the difference — the Warriors held the Rockets to 38.8 percent shooting overall and 16.1 percent from three. The Warriors crowd Harden with multiple defenders, and while he still puts up numbers — he had a triple-double in this game — he’s not as efficient.
Rockets guard James Harden totals in three games versus Warriors this season: 19-56 FG, 3-25 3s, 20 TOs.
Not that there wasn’t an offensive show, between Harden’s triple-double and Stephen Curry dropping 32 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Those two put on a show.
Golden State raced out to a fast lead and pushed that margin up to 22 by getting stops (and the Rockets just missing looks, they were 2-of-16 from deep in the first 24 minutes), then turning their defensive stops into transition buckets. Credit the Rockets because they battled back, started getting to the line, grinding a little, and by halftime it was just an eight-point Golden State lead. The game stayed in single digits through most of the second half, but the Warriors always kept the lead, and with a little push late got the win.
Which brings us back to the showdown Wednesday with San Antonio. If the Spurs win, they will be 1.5 games behind the Warriors, one game back in the loss column, with seven to play. The Spurs will have the tie breaker, but San Antonio would still need to win out (and Gregg Popovich has said he will rest players) and hope Golden State loses again (they have now won eight in a row heading into San Antonio). Certainly not impossible, but also not likely. By at least getting a split in their Texas two-step, the Warriors have probably earned themselves the top seed in the West.
2) Portland beats Denver, essentially ending the Nuggets’ playoff dreams. This wasn’t a must-win game for Denver in the purest sense — the Nuggets are mathematically alive for the eighth seed, just one game back of the Trail Blazers.
However, in the practical world, Tuesday night was a must-win game for the Nuggets.
And the Trail Blazers beat them. Beat then because of the guy Denver traded them at the deadline — Jusuf Nurkic had a career-high 33 points plus pulled down 16 rebounds, six offensive. After the game, he wasn’t shy telling his former team to enjoy their summer.
Going into the game Portland and Denver were tied for the eighth seed in the West, the final playoff spot. With the win, the Nuggets are one game up and have the tie-breaker, so it is, in essence, a two-game lead with eight to play. The challenge for Denver is six of their eight games are on the road, while Portland has just two of their eight away from home.
Fivethirtyeight.com now has the Blazers a 92 percent chance to make the postseason, the Nuggets get 8 percent. That’s not impossible, but it’s not likely.
3) Hassan Whiteside’s tip in keeps Heat in eighth seed, all but ends Detroit’s playoff hopes. This one play was the dagger shot to Detroit’s playoff chances. They had what amounted to a must-win game Tuesday against Miami, the Pistons needed one stop at the end, and this happened.
If I’m Stan Van Gundy, what keeps me up is not even the Hassan Whiteside tip-in, it’s little Goran Dragic pulling down the first rebound in and amongst the trees. How do you let him get that?
It was a disappointing ending to a disappointing game that caps off a disappointing season in Detroit. This team should be better than this, but here we are. Detroit is now 2.5 games out of the playoffs with seven games to play. That’s too much. Fivethirtyeight.com has Detroit’s chances of making the playoffs at 1 percent.
Miami, on the other hand, has a 74 percent chance of making the postseason, according to the same site. The Heat’s biggest concern should be they are just one game ahead of Chicago for that last playoff spot, and the Bulls have a softer ending to the season (Miami’s last four games are Toronto, Washington, Cleveland, and Washington, although those teams could be resting guys at that point).
Blazers’ Noah Vonleh posterizes Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic with huge dunk (VIDEO)
Tuesday night’s game between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers was an important one. The two teams are fighting for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. The Blazers have been on the rise as of late, and the atmosphere at the Moda Center was electric.
Vonleh has played much better alongside Nurkić this season, and Portland fans are all hoping he continues to develop going into next year. This kind of confidence and aggressiveness is just part of what the Blazers will need from Vonleh moving forward.
Stephen Curry’s 32 lead Warriors over Rockets 113-106
HOUSTON (AP) Stephen Curry scored 32 points, Klay Thompson had 25 and the Golden State Warriors built a big lead early and held on for a 113-106 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.
The Warriors scored 37 points in the first quarter and never trailed on the way to their eighth straight victory and 60th this season.
Golden State led by eight after a pair of free throws by Curry with just over three minutes left. Patrick Beverley countered with a tip-in layup for Houston, then was fouled when he was knocked to the ground on a screen by Draymond Green seconds later.
James Harden missed a layup on the next possession before Green added a shot on the other end to put the Warriors up 107-99.
Another layup miss by Harden followed, and Curry made a 3-pointer with 1:46 left to send fans streaming to the exits.
Warriors F James Michael McAdoo leaves game vs. Rockets with head injury (VIDEO)
There was a scary moment during the matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. During a change of possession, Houston’s Trevor Ariza and and Golden State’s James Michael McAdoo got tangled up and fell together on the floor.
McAdoo was under Ariza and wound up getting his head slammed into the hardwood. He was immediately taken off the floor and sent to the locker room.