Mike Dunleavy, Trevor Ariza

Mike Dunleavy scores 35 points to save Bulls from 3-0 deficit

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Mike Dunleavy scored 35 points, made 8-of-10 3-pointers and repeatedly drew defenders while slashing to the rim.

But his most-gratifying moment might have been cleanly catching an inbound pass with 0.3 seconds remaining.

Dunleavy took one hard dribble, set the ball on the court and ran to a line of high-fiving teammates after ensuring the Bulls escaped Game 3 with a 100-97 win over the Wizards on Friday.

The Bulls led Game 1 by five points with fewer than 10 minutes left and blew it. They led Game 2 by 10 points with fewer than seven minutes left and blew it. They led Game 3 by seven points with fewer than 10 minutes remaining and blew it.

Finally, Jimmy Butler put the Bulls up three with a 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining. And then they tried their darnedest to blow that, too.

They let Trevor Ariza get off a 3-point attempt, but he missed it. Mike Dunleavy floated an inbound pass John Wall stole. Butler fouled Wall who sped away from the pack and then made both free throws. Butler lost the ensuing entry pass out of bounds, though he was bailed out by a foul call and made both free throws. Joakim Noah fouled out while intentionally fouling Bradley Beal before the Wizards shooting guards could attempt a game-tying 3-pointer. Beal split from the line, and Garrett Temple fouled D.J. Augustin before the inbound, giving Chicago one free throw and the ball. Augustin made it and then two more to put the Bulls up five with four seconds remaining, a nearly completely secure lead. Then, Tony Snell fouled John Wall on a 3-pointer about 65 feet from the basket. Wall made all three free throws, though he probably should have missed the third. Washington fouled Taj Gibson with three seconds remaining, and he only split at the line, missing the second. The Bulls let Trevor Ariza grab the rebound, and before the Wizards could attempt a desperation heave to tie the game, Ariza threw the ball away with 0.3 seconds remaining. Finally, Chicago inbounded to Dunleavy.

Whew.

That’s a lot of action in the length of the shot clock and far too much drama for a team that already trailed 2-0 in the series following two home losses. In the end, though, Chicago got exactly what it needed – a victory. No team trailing 3-0 has ever come back to win a series.

On a micro level, the Bulls got what they needed, too.

They needed Joakim Noah to contain Nene, and he did with Butler’s help. They needed D.J. Augustin and Gibson to keep scoring off the bench, and they did with 13 points each. And they needed a starter to rise to the occasion offensively, and Dunleavy most definitely did.

His 35 points more than doubled his previous career playoff high (17 for the Bucks in a loss to the Heat last year). Only LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin have scored so much in a playoff game this year. Dunleavy came only one point shy of his career high, a mark he’s hit five times but never since 2008.

He scored 10 in the first quarter, 6 in the second, 13 in the third and 6 in the fourth – providing effective counters as the host Wizards smelled blood in the water early and continued to thrive in spurts throughout the game.

Wall especially thrived in Washington’s first home playoff game in six years. He was so hot early, even a missed 360-degree layup qualified as a highlight, and he finished with 23 points, seven assists and four steals.

Beal led the Wizards with 25 points, and Ariza (16 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) and Marcin Gortat (13 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks) both turned in solid outings.

But Washington’s fifth starter – the one who keyed both wins in Chicago – let the team down. Not only did Nene struggle most of the game, finishing 5-of-15 with five turnovers and no free throws, he lost his cool when he finally got going. After making consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter, Nene picked a needless fight with Butler and then even more needlessly escalated it. The Wizards big man was ejected, and he might face further NBA discipline.

Trying to win with a struggling Nene is tough enough – Washington was outscored by 10 points in the 29 minutes he played – and trying to win with him in the locker room is even tougher. But as a parting shot, Nene’s outburst apparently inspired Butler, who was 0-for-7 on 3-pointers to that point in the series.

On the possession following Nene’s ejection, Butler made a 3, and then he hit another to put Chicago up for good with 24 seconds remained.

It wasn’t easy for the Bulls after that, as Washington kept grasping at straws until, finally, none remained. The young Wizards continue to play loose and spirited basketball, and with a 2-1 series lead, they remain in control.

But as Chicago found, with Dunleavy rolling, it was a little easier – and tonight, just easy enough.

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.

Byron Scott expected to start D’Angelo Russell after All-Star break, but hasn’t talked to him about it

Byron Scott D'Angelo Russell
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Communication.

When we talk about Lakers’ coach Byron Scott’s questioned player development skills with young players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and particularly D'Angelo Russell, it is his old-school lack of communication that comes into question. It’s what is different from what Gregg Popovich or Quin Snyder or other guys developing strong young players have done. From the outside (we’re not in practices/film sessions), we see Scott was not letting Russell play through mistakes — feeling that was rewarding bad behavior — but then not doing a good job communicating what the player is doing wrong.

This comment from Scott, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, sums it up perfectly.

Scott plans to start Russell after NBA All-Star weekend (Feb. 12-14). But Scott said the two have not talked about that issue.

“He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting and discuss, ‘What do you think?’” Scott said.

I would say you should have that meeting — it’s called a teachable moment. “What do you think? Well here is what I see that is different.”

Part of what is going on with Scott and Russell is the concern from some in the Lakers’ camp that Russell is a little too full of himself, that his ego is too big, and it could become a problem. So they are trying to take him down a peg. I would say that for a smart player — and Russell is that — the game is humbling and will take care of the ego issue. But you’ve got to give him run to develop him.

Play him, and then communicate with him. It’s a system that does worth with modern players.