Gerald Henderson, Paul George

Three Stars of the Night: Two All-Stars and a guy who should have been

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I wanted to do an all All-Star edition of three stars tonight, but I couldn’t leave Josh Smith off (representing he and Al Horford, who alone almost beat the Magic)… but he should have been one. So I’m calling this the All-Star edition anyway.

As always some guys are close but just missed out. Joe Johnson was last guy cut, with 26 points and nine assists. Derrick Williams had a career night with 24 points and 16 boards. Ricky Rubio had a nice line (18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds) but if you shoot 3-for-13 you don’t make the cut. Nice to see the recently slumping Anthony Davis bounce back with 21 and 11. Monta Ellis had 27 points but needed 24 shots to get there. Jason Terry had a game-winning block and just the oddity of that almost got him in.

Third Star: Tony Parker (24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists)

While we’ve been talking about that LeBron guy and his nice little run Tony Parker has been tearing it up, too. In his last 10 games he is averaging 25.4 points a game on 60 percent shooting, plus 9.1 assists per game. He had another big game in this one — 8-of-14 shooting and that seventh assist was to Kawhi Leonard for the game winner with 1.5 seconds left. It was a final smart decision in another night of smart decisions by Parker.

Second Star: Josh Smith (30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists)

Smith gets his name up here but it was really him combined with Al Horford (26 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) that together overwhelmed the Magic. And I mean overwhelmed — at one point in the third quarter Smith/Horford alone had a five-point lead over the Magic. Smith was very efficient on the night shooting 13-of-20 from the field plus 2-of-3 from three. It has been a few games in a row where his outside shot has fallen and with that comes big numbers.

First Star: Paul George (23 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists)

Yes, it was against the Bobcat’s “defense” but it was still a career first triple-double for Paul George and he’s not giving it back. He has literally had an All-Star first half of the season but had not played well against the Nets last game. So this time he came out aggressive from the start and the Cavaliers had no real answer. In the second half when the Pacers pulled away for the win George was doing the little things — 10 of his rebounds and 7 assists came after halftime. That’s what a team leader does: Whatever is needed to win.

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.