Brandon Jennings

Three Stars of the Night: No conscience edition

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Every team has at least one of them. You know, the guy that has no conscience and won’t stop taking shots regardless of the circumstance. When things are going bad, these guys will shoot you out of a game with nary a second thought. But when they have it going and start to hit them, there’s nothing better than watching these guys do what they do best. Tonight’s three stars is a tribute to the guys who just love to put up the FGA’s in pursuit of the points…

Third Star: Kobe Bryant (30 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds)

Kobe didn’t have the most efficient night (11-24 from the field) and he took a few of those forced shots that leave you shaking your head (including one on the last offensive possession of the game). But, overall, he took the shots that the defense gave him and was aggressive in getting into the paint for his looks. Six of his eleven made field goals came right at the rim as he slithered his way to the basket off the pick and roll for lay ins. In the fourth quarter he wasn’t shy in taking shots (10 total FGA’s in the period), but he hit several big ones in the final 12 minutes, including a three pointer that put the Lakers up 4 with under 6 minutes, and back to back shots (one lay-in, one pull up jumper) that were the Lakers’ last two baskets of the game. Add in his playmaking for his teammates and Kobe had a very good night on offense in a game that was closer than he would have liked, but still produced a win.

Second Star: O.J. Mayo (26 points, 8-12 shooting, 8 assists)

Mayo has been the Mavs’ best player this year with Dirk out and it’s not really been close. His offense has carried them this year and, against an undermanned Sixer team, it was true again. With the Mavs clinging to a two point lead heading into the final period, it was Mayo’s combination of scoring and playmaking that really were the difference. In the 4th quarter Mayo scored 9 of his game high 26 points (3-3 from the field, 3-4 from the foul line) and dished out 3 assists too. Mayo did get some help from Kaman down the stretch, but without his big game they probably lose to a Sixer team that fought hard without their top two players.

First Star: Brandon Jennings (34 points, 13-22 shooting, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)

Jennings, who shoots under 40% on the year, has a habit of taking some poor shots. Tonight was no different, except for the fact that he was knocking them down. Jennings used the pick and roll to create space and then hit a myriad of pull up jumpers. He’d dart into open spaces with a crafty dribble and hit a floater. He even snuck into the lane and turned a couple of offensive rebounds into made baskets. All game he just hit shots. And, in the 4th quarter, with the Pacers trying to make their final push and get over the hump, there was Jennings scoring 13 points in the period, including a big step back three pointer that thwarted Indiana and gave the Bucks a bit of breathing room. Just a huge night for the southpaw point guard.

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.