Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets - Game Three

Nets force a Game 7 with blowout win over Raptors

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The fans in Brooklyn once again had a tough time being seated for a 7 p.m. tip-off before Game 6, a situation that is the polar opposite of the love the Raptors have received from an entire nation of fans embracing the team during its first postseason run in six years.

But none of that had any effect on the Nets’ ability to focus.

Down three games to two and facing elimination, Brooklyn’s veterans brought an intensity level and a will to win that a much younger Raptors squad was simply unable to match. The Nets led by as many as 16 points before the first period was finished, and the lead reached 26 before Brooklyn settled on a 97-83 final that forced a Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday.

The veterans are the strength of this Nets team, and two of them made a point to set the tone early. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce each scored nine first quarter points on a combined 7-of-9 shooting, and Brooklyn as a team was red-hot in finishing the opening frame shooting better than 68 percent.

Deron Williams has been largely missing in this series in the eyes of Nets fans, but he came through in a big way when the team’s season was on the line. Not only did Williams finish with a team-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds and four assists, but he hit plenty of big shots after being noticeably hobbled by an ankle injury he sustained in the third.

Jason Kidd gets some credit here too for tweaking things, starting Alan Anderson in place of Shaun Livingston, and playing Andray Blatche almost 21 minutes, while rookie Mason Plumlee was all but dropped from the rotation.

The Raptors put together a couple of big runs during the second half, which might give them something to build on as they head back to Toronto for the deciding game in the series. They cut it to 10 twice in the game’s final five minutes, but Brooklyn was able to stabilize each time, before Williams hit a dagger of a three with 1:13 remaining to seal the win for the Nets.

The home court advantage that mattered little to the Nets in Brooklyn may be of a much larger benefit to these young Raptors in Game 7. But a team full of veteran star players is extremely difficult to eliminate no matter the venue, and Toronto will have to mature extremely quickly in order to put the type of effort together it will take to knock off these Nets, and advance to the second round.

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.

Nikola Vucevic hits fade-away game winner for Magic against Hawks

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The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.

Nikola Vucevic nailed it.

Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.

If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.