Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers

Tuesday night NBA grades: DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors go to guy

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wishing you had watched the Winter Olympics in a snow fort…

source:   DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors. He is the guy the Raptors go to in the fourth and what’s different than the Rudy Gay era is how he gets his points — it’s not isolations. He’s coming off picks and getting the handoffs, or he’s working off what Kyle Lowry is doing, but the bottom line he is getting it out of sets. Tuesday night DeRozan delivered — he had 16 points in the fourth quarter (33 for the game) including an impressive driving reverse slam and the Raptors beat the Cavaliers because of his play. He may settle for too many jumpers but when they fall good luck stopping him.

source:   James Harden, Houston Rockets. Most players get pumped to play in Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center — James Harden was up for Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. Harden dropped 22 points in the first quarter, pushing the Rockets out to an early 25-point lead over the Kings. From there it was basically over — Harden had 43 points and didn’t even play the fourth.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. DeMarcus, just between you and me, you’ve done a better job this season of letting the bad calls and injustices on the court — perceived and real — roll off your back. You really have, you’re becoming one of the game’s top big men. Call it maturity, call it needing to lead your team, call it whatever you want. But when you have setbacks like you did Tuesday night it hurts the team and you (they needed you to body up Dwight Howard to have any chance of a comeback). That’s 15 technicals now, one more this season and you get a forced vacation from the league. I know it’s not in your nature, but you can’t let the refs or opponents get under your skin like that. You can’t get in the referee’s face.

source:  Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks. His team lost but his 11 fourth quarter points — 10 of the team’s 13 at one point in the final frame — kept the in it at all. But then he made a couple mistakes that sabotaged the Hawks hopes — getting stripped when the Hawks were going for a tie. Or stepping out of bounds with less than 20 seconds left. Don’t let that completely overshadow a strong game — 26 points (on 10-20 shooting) and 7 assists — but he just couldn’t close and neither could the Hawks.

source:  Indiana Pacers in third quarter. Whatever it is Frank Vogel tells his team at halftime, he could make him a mint with it on the motivational speaking circuit. In the third quarters this season the Indiana Pacers have outscored their opponents by an NBA best 4.9 points on average — more than double what the second best team does (Portland at +2.2). Or to look at it another way the Pacers outscore their opponents by an average of 20.2 points per 100 possessions in the third quarter. Or, you can just ask the Lakers — Indiana outscored Los Angeles by 18 in the quarter, shooting 58 percent while holding the Lakers to 33 percent. It went from a close game to a rout where the Pacers starters got a lot of rest.

By the way, Evan Turner looked pretty good for the Pacers — 6-of-12 shooting and he was doing it within the offense.

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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.