Kurt Helin

Report: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony agree to play in Rio Olympics

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Officially, LeBron James has said he hasn’t made a decision about playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, saying he would decide after the season (when he likely will have made his sixth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals).

Carmelo Anthony has said he’d like to go to Rio if he can make Team USA.

Now comes a report both have said they are in, via the veteran NBA reporter Peter Vecsey.

If true, it’s not a surprise that Anthony would say yes. He also has been fantastic in the last two Olympics, being willing to share the ball and play a team game for Mike Krzyzewski like Knicks coaches have only dreamed about.

LeBron isn’t a huge surprise, but there certainly is more question about whether he would go. He has two gold medals (and bronze from 2004) and likely will have played into June six straight seasons by the time the Cavaliers season ends. He may want rest more than another medal. On the other hand, LeBron is in the legacy building stage of his career, and no men’s USA Basketball player has been to four Olympics nor have three gold medals.

Things can change between now and April, but don’t be shocked to see good friends LeBron and ‘Melo in Rio.

Kevin Durant ejected after blow to Justin Anderson’s head, league will review

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The NBA sent out a memo to teams before the playoffs started emphasizing something they had told them before the season started: There would be a crackdown on blows to the head. Intentional or not.

Which is what happened with Kevin Durant late in the Thunder’s Game 4 win against the Mavericks.

Durant was clearly trying to block Dallas’ Justin Anderson‘s shot from behind and in doing so just fouled him across the head. I’m not sold that warranted a Flagrant 2 and an ejection — the bar to clear is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and I’m not sold on excessive — that is how the league has told the referees to rule.

The league office will review this foul and could suspend Durant for Game 5. I don’t expect that, but predicting the league’s suspension policy is a fool’s errand.

Too much Thunder offense leads to 119-108 win, Oklahoma City up 3-1 in series

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Coming into this series the big question was could Dallas get stops. This series featured the second best offense in the NBA this season in Oklahoma City vs. a pedestrian defense in Dallas (16th in NBA). Dallas’ defense was worse after the All-Star break by almost three points per 100 possessions than it was earlier in the season.

That difference was the issue again Saturday night in Dallas.

The Mavericks could not stop the top Thunder scorers — Russell Westbrook finished with 25 points and 15 assists, Kanter had 28 points off the bench, and Kevin Durant added 19 points. The Thunder ran a lot of spread pick-and-roll to expose the Dallas bigs inability to defend on the perimeter, and it worked. OKC finished with an offensive rating of 125.3 (points per 100 possessions) in this game.

They also finished with a 119-108 win that has the Thunder up 3-1 in the series. Oklahoma City can close out the series at home in Game 5 Monday night.

The game saw Durant’s streak of games where he scored 20 or more points end at 67 games, he finished one point short. He didn’t get the chance to pad that number in the final minute after he was ejected for a blow to the head of Justin Anderson. The league will review this foul and could suspend him for Game 5 (although that seems extreme, this was a guy going for a block from behind and not making an intentional blow to the head).

Dallas, coming off a hard-fought win in Game 3, did a good job of keeping the tempo under control, and their effort can’t be questioned. Particularly Dirk Nowitzki who finished the game with 27 points, eight rebounds, and he left every ounce of energy he had on the court. At age 37, he was the best and most energetic Mavericks player — he played it like it could be the last Dallas home game of the season (and maybe his last home playoff game in the building).

But he can’t defend like he used to, and the Thunder dragged him into every pick-and-roll they could. He was paired with David Lee for stretches, and that was a defensive disaster. Dallas got some good bench play out of Salah Mejri, however, he injured his hip and had to leave the game. His status for Game 5 is unknown.

The Thunder got 12 points and eight rebounds from Steven Adams, and he led the Thunder’s continued physical play that has bothered Dallas. That’s not going to change no matter how much Rick Carlisle complains.

He’s not going to have to complain about it much longer.

Hornets snap 14-year playoff winless drought, beat Heat 96-80

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jeremy Lin scored 18 points, Kemba Walker had 17 and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Miami Heat 96-80 on Saturday night to snap a 12-game playoff losing streak and earn their first postseason victory in 14 years.

Rookie Frank Kaminsky, who got the starting nod, scored eight of his 15 points during an 18-0 run in the third quarter that broke open a 53-all game.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 set for Monday night.

Marvin Williams, a non-factor in the first two games, had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets.

Luol Deng scored 19 points on five 3-pointers, and Dwyane Wade added 17 for Miami. Hassan Whiteside had 13 points and 18 rebounds but battled foul trouble.

Miami, which shot 58 percent from the field in the first two games, was limited to 34 percent shooting.

The Hornets outscored the Heat 52-28 in the paint and had four turnovers to Miami’s 15.

Looking to combat the Heat’s height advantage on the perimeter, Hornets coach Steve Clifford moved Williams to small forward – in place of the injured Nicolas Batum – and inserted Kaminsky and Al Jefferson into the starting lineup.

It didn’t help early on.

Miami started off Game 3 similar to the previous two, with Deng hitting four 3-point attempts in the first six minutes for an early 20-15 lead.

But Charlotte withstood the early Heat assault and took the lead near the end of the first quarter behind eight points from Lin, who found his way to the basket repeatedly and drew a second foul on Whiteside.

Charlotte opened a 49-44 halftime lead after Miami cooled off significantly, shooting just 36.6 percent from the field. That was a remarkable turnaround from Game 2, when Miami shot 74.4 percent from the field in the opening half and scored 73 points.

Kaminsky gave the Hornets a spark in the third quarter with 11 points, including two spin moves against Wade and a turnaround jumper over Joe Johnson. Lin followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing to push the lead to 14, raising the fans clad in black “Enter the swarm” T-shirts and white Hornets headbands off their seats.

The Hornets would push the lead to 24 in the fourth quarter with Lin scoring and creating off the fast break.

Charlotte was 31-10 at home in the regular season.

TIP-INS

Heat: After making 5 of 7 3-pointers to start the game, Miami made just 1 of its next 13 attempts.

Hornets: Were 21 of 22 from the foul line led by Walker, who was 8 of 8. … Had Charlotte lost, it would have matched the New York Knicks’ record of 13 straight postseason defeats. … Batum’s status for Game 4 remains up in the air.

BOSH ON THE SIDELINE

For the first time since the All-Star break, Chris Bosh was with the Heat for a road game.

“He brings a steadying influence, a leadership at all levels – even when he’s not on the floor,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That is why I always lean on him. He’s like another coach. He has been through our system and sees the game through a different lens than most players. All of that helps.”

JORDAN ON HAND

Hornets owner Michael Jordan took his regular seat at the end of the team’s bench for the playoff game.

Stan Van Gundy frustrated with Andre Drummond, hack-a-player rules as his best player sits

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Andre Drummond played 93 seconds of the fourth quarter Friday night against Cleveland.

Maybe you see that as his rightful punishment for not being able to hit free throws. Or maybe you see it as bad for the sport that the ability to make a non-basketball play — and intentionally fouling a player 30 feet off the ball to send him to the free throw line is not a basketball play in the spirit of the game — forces one team’s best player to the bench for the key stretches of the game.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is just frustrated. With Drummond, with the system, with the fact his team is down 0-3 to the Cavaliers. Here is what he said about Drummond being forced to sit postgame, via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“Yeah, because you can’t do anything with him,” Van Gundy said. “He can’t run to set a screen, he can’t do anything. You’ve just got opportunities to foul him. Now would they have [worked]? I don’t know. But I gave him one possession — we’re behind. We can’t go down and play for zero points. Even though we did, we just, we can’t do that. He had energy, but [Cavs center] Tristan Thompson had eight offensive rebounds. Hardly a dominant performance.”

While there is still some opposition among owners and GMs to this idea, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said he wants to see a change in the rules to prevent hack-a-player. The bottom line is the NBA is in the entertainment business and there is nothing entertaining about a string of free throws and guys being fouled off the ball to force those shots (Silver said the NBA’s television partners have voiced this issue).

But fixing the rule is not going to be easy.

“You’d have to see what they do, what the change is, how the rule is written, and everything else,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s shootaround. “What we do as coaches is try to do whatever we can to win within the rulebook, so we’d have to see how it was written. My concern would be if they’re going to change [the rule], they have to truly change it and you’ve got to make sure, you’ve really got to take some time and think of how coaches are going to get around it. And try to write the rule in such a way — so you can say they just can’t go grab guys.”

This is a great point. Using the Pistons as an example, SVG likes to use Drummond in the pick-and-roll with Reggie Jackson, it’s a big part of their offense. If the rule is written so that fouls far off the ball are eliminated that’s great, but if the opposing team can just “unintentionally” foul Drummond as he sets a pick, he’s still essentially neutered, he can’t be involved in the play. There is nothing that could be done to stop a fast foul once Drummond touched the ball in the post or wherever.

Changing this rule is not going to be simple, but for the sake of the game something needs to be done, because hacking players off the ball is simply not good for the sport or within the spirit of the game.