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NBA: Rockets got away with two huge fouls late in win over Nets

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After the Rockets’ 122-118 win over the Nets on Monday, James Harden said, “Every game isn’t going to be perfect.”

This one certainly wasn’t – not by the referees

Houston got away with two fouls on possessions that ended in Brooklyn turnovers, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report. Reversing either huge swing, let alone both, could’ve turned the game’s result.

The first incorrectly uncalled foul should’ve been whistled with 1:31 left, when Sean Kilpatrick drew contact from Eric Gordon before barreling into Nene for a charge. NBA:

Gordon (HOU) makes contact with Kilpatrick’s (BKN) arm that affects his driving shot attempt.

A correctly called shooting foul would’ve given Kilpatrick – who’s making 84% of his free throws this season and 86% for his career – two attempts from the line. Instead, the charge meant the Nets came up empty on the possession.

The other incorrectly uncalled foul came on a Brooklyn inbound with eight eight seconds left. Patrick Beverley grabbed Jeremy Lin before the inbound pass was released, per the league:

Beverley (HOU) grabs and holds Lin (BKN) and affects his FOM during the inbound.

Because it occurred before the inbound pass was released, a correctly called foul would have given Brooklyn one free throw and the ball. Lin is shooting 69% on free throws this season and 80% for his career.

Instead, the Rockets stole the inbound pass. The Nets had to intentionally foul, and Houston added two free throws in its four-point win.

Strangely, the two-minute report acknowledges the Nets shouldn’t have even had the ball for that inbound. The ball on the previous play went off Lin, but officials ruled it off Nene and didn’t review the play. Yet, the league doesn’t denote that as an incorrect call, presumably because determining the correct call required “enhanced video.” But in a situation where a review should have occurred, this seems like an error the league should acknowledge more directly.

Either way, the first missed call in the report – Gordon getting away with a shooting foul – is enough for the Nets to wonder whether an unfavorable whistle down the stretch cost them this game.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.

LeBron James still striving to surpass Michael Jordan

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LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.

Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.

LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”

“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.

Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.

The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.