The Clippers overcame an early 15-point deficit in Houston to clinch a playoff spot with a double-digit win over the Rockets, but it was anything but easy.
Houston was playing without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, so L.A. should have had a relatively stress-free night at the office. But Blake Griffin was forced to leave after playing just six minutes due to back spasms, which is going to be a huge cause for concern as the team enters the final few weeks of the regular season.
Griffin departed with 5:48 left in the first quarter. He was grabbing his lower back as he walked off the court and continued to hold it as he bit his jersey in the Clippers’ huddle during a timeout. He then limped off the court with Clippers trainer Jasen Powell to the locker room. …
Griffin has been dealing with hip issues recently, and Rivers believes that led to the back injury.
“It was his hip yesterday, it had nothing do with his back, but I think that’s what triggered it,” Rivers said. “Whatever was going on before, that’s what triggered the back injury. It scared the hell out of me because I’ve had that reaction myself. That’s a back injury. They don’t think it’s awful, but it’s a back injury.”
While it’s too early to panic, back spasms can be extremely unpredictable and difficult for an athlete to deal with. Kevin Garnett is obviously much further along in his career, but he’s been dealing with the same injury for weeks now with no end in sight.
Griffin has been the best player on the Clippers for the bulk of the season, and once you get past guys named Kevin Durant and LeBron James, he’s high on the list of players in that next tier who would deserve to be in the MVP conversation. It goes without saying that L.A. will need him at full strength once the postseason begins, otherwise another first round playoff exit is almost assuredly on the horizon.
NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls
The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butlerto 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.
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
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.
Since we're in the subject! I think it's crazy that the @NBA can make a rule without even discussing it with the players. No input at all
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”
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 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.