Mark Jackson, Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry says Mark Jackson just protecting his players

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Mark Jackson had to know he sounded like a hypocrite saying the Nuggets were being too physical with his players. Jackson was the guy who sent out his players to commit hard fouls on Rockets players when Houston threatened to set a record for most three pointers in one game. This is Mark Jackson, former 1990s Knicks point guard. He knows what playoff basketball is like.

But Jackson is a coach now and his role is to protect his star players and work the referees a little, so he came out after the Warriors loss to the Nuggets in Game 5 Tuesday and said Denver had sent “hit men” after his players.

Stephen Curry appreciated his coach having his back.

Curry went on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio channel with host Adam Schein and appreciated what his coach did.

“For sure, you appreciate your coach sticking up for you and his opinion. You don’t know what his motives were, if he [was] just trying to get his voice out there in the series as to what should be looked at. We have a big game coming up, Game 6 at home, to try to close this thing out. He spoke about it, I’m sure it’s going to be talked about, but in our locker room we’re not worried about nitpicking those plays that he was talking about. We’re just going to make the adjustments that we need to make on the defensive end and get back to winning ways hopefully in Game 6.

So Curry, you think some of those players were dirty?

“Um, there was a couple of plays in the first quarter where you started initiating a play and you’re not involved with it and kinda elbows come out of nowhere and he’s chucking cuts and things like that, which, that’s playoff basketball. I understand there are going to be some hard fouls and I’m not going to complain or whine about that at all. But there are situations where you notice they are going out of their way to make a point. And we had a couple of flagrant fouls as well. Andrew Bogut hit Faried one time. Draymond Green hit him one time on a rebound. So I’m not going to say they’re the only team making plays. You just gotta go with the flow of the game. Whatever happens, it’s not going to faze me on the court.”

The physical play did faze Golden State for much of Game 5. Golden State needs to get past this and close it out at home on Thursday night, because what they don’t want to do is have to go back to Denver to win a Game 7. The Nuggets aren’t going to lose two in this series at home.

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.