Should the “rip” move be legal?

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Kevin Durant may be the nicest superstar in the NBA, and he certainly has the most squeaky-clean public image. He doesn’t say the wrong things, he’s a quiet assassin on the court, he’s young, he’s exciting to watch, and he plays for a small-market team with great fans.

In fact, the only time you’ll ever see a casual fan actually get mad at Kevin Durant is when he uses his “rip” move, the sneakiest offensive maneuver in the game. When Durant has the ball in the triple-threat position, he likes to bring it down low and dare the opposing defender to stick their hand out instead of giving him space. If the defender takes the bait, Durant swings his arms up in a quick modified shooting motion, and more often than not is awarded with three free throws.

There’s no doubt that the rip move is a key part of Durant’s game. Durant averages 3.7 attempts at the rim per game (data courtesy of HoopData.com) and 8.7 free throws per game, which means he averages 2.35 free throws for every attempt at the rim. Let’s look at that in comparison to other high-volume perimeter scorers:

– LeBron James: 1.48 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Dwyane Wade: 1.25 free throws per attempt at the rim

-Derrick Rose: 1.03 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Russell Westbrook: 1.13 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Kobe Bryant: 2.00 free throws per attempt at the rim

As you can see, Durant is getting fouled on jump shots a LOT more than most high-volume perimeter scorers. Some of that can be explained by the fact that Durant is an extremely dangerous jump shooter — there’s a reason why Kobe Bryant also has a very high FTA/shot at the rim ratio. Still, Durant’s ratio is significantly higher than Kobe’s, and Kobe’s had nearly an extra decade to develop tricks to fool defenders.

So Durant’s “rip” move is clearly effective. But is it underhanded? Daily Thunder’s Royce Young chimes in:

Last night against the Warriors, Durant got two calls with [the rip move]. One in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer on Dorell Wright and then a big one in overtime on David Lee which gave KD three shots and put OKC up one with a minute left.

So as you might imagine, Golden State Warrior coach Keith Smart was not a fan of the move. He told the AP: “That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player,” Smart said. “If the player’s going to bait you into a foul—and I understand it’s a rule, so there’s nothing we can do about it—but … who has the right to the space? We’ve got to come to a conclusion.”

Who has the right to space? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? If Thabo gets up super tight on Monta Ellis — like really tight, touching even — and Ellis puts the ball on the floor and drives hard around him and Thabo can’t move his feet fast enough, thus picking up a blocking foul, is Keith Smart saying that shouldn’t be a foul? I mean, who has the right to the space? Ellis created the contact, Thabo was just playing defense. Right?

Young certainly has a point — players exploiting the rules to draw fouls is certainly not new, and it’s commonplace in many situations. Just like all professional athletes, basketball players do all they can to get any sort of advantage within the official rules. However, there is a difference between the “rip” move and drawing a foul off of a pump fake or a blocking charge — those defenders are, in theory, moving.

Everyone agrees that a defender who creates contact by moving into an offensive player attempting to score should be a foul. We’ve also come to accept that an offensive player who tricks a defensive player into creating contact — think Kobe Bryant up-faking and jumping straight up into a defender flying at him, Dwayne Wade getting a help defender to lurch towards the rim before jumping into his chest, or Chauncey Billups selling contact with a perimeter defender who didn’t get above the screen quickly enough.

The rip move, however, is an offensive player creating contact with a stationary defender that put himself in what is perhaps a bad position. Maybe that’s a small distinction, but it seems to me that it’s what makes the “rip” move just a little bit different than the rule exploits we’re already familiar with.

Still, one thing is for certain: Durant is going to use that rip move, and use it well, until the refs stop calling it, so defenders should be careful where they put their arms while guarding Durant.

Warriors facing elimination but undaunted entering Game 6

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HOUSTON (AP) — If the Golden State Warriors are worried as they head into Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on the brink of elimination, they aren’t showing it.

“We have a chance to tie the series at home. That’s a pretty good position to be in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve got to win two basketball games and we’ve done that an awful lot, so we’re very confident.”

The defending champions trail Houston 3-2 in the best-of-seven series after consecutive wins by the Rockets, capped by Thursday night’s 98-94 victory. Now the series shifts to Oracle Arena, a place where the Warriors have lost just one time in their last 17 playoff games.

Stephen Curry said the Warriors are encouraged despite falling behind in the series because they believe both games could have gone their way and that a few simple corrections will get them back on track.

“We have an opportunity to re-establish ourselves at home, get a big win, keep ourselves alive, and then roll the dice into Game 7,” Curry said. “Not all is lost.”

Houston’s big win in Game 5 was tempered by a hamstring injury to star Chris Paul which will keep him out of Saturday’s game. It’s a major blow for a team which is looking to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in more than two decades.

The Rockets believe they can absorb this loss and don’t seem daunted by the setback, noting that they found ways to win in the regular season in many games where Paul sat out with injuries.

“I don’t have a doubt,” D’Antoni said. “They see the challenge … whether CP’s there or not, it’s a heck of a challenge, and they’re up to it. They’re looking forward to it.”

James Harden, who has struggled offensively in the last two games and went 0 for 11 on 3s in Game 5, rolled his eyes when asked if Paul’s injury puts more pressure on him.

“Pressure for what? It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference finals,” he said. “There is pressure on everybody.”

While that may be true, the onus is on Harden to step up and deliver an MVP-caliber performance if the Rockets hope to close out this series. Harden has had plenty of playoff disappointments in the last few years and embraces the chance to get Houston back into the finals.

“It’s an opportunity that a lot of people never had and probably won’t ever have,” he said. “It’s our job to go out there and have fun with it and do the same thing we’ve been doing. We want to take advantage of it.”

While the Rockets will be down a starter, the Warriors could get one back if Andre Iguodala can return on Saturday. The Warriors have missed the defensive presence of Iguodala who has missed the last two games with a bruised left knee.

Iguodala is listed on the injury report as questionable for Game 6 and Kerr said he didn’t have an update on his condition on Friday. But he did address what it would mean to Golden State if he’s healthy enough to go on Saturday.

“He’s a great player,” Kerr said. “He’s one of our keys, and we’ve missed him the last two games. But we can’t count on it. Injuries happen, and you’ve just got to play with whoever’s out there. So we’re hoping he’s back, and we’ll see what happens.”

Iguodala’s absence has been magnified in this series that has morphed into a defensive slugfest instead of the high-scoring shootout that most expected when it began. The Rockets take great pride in the fact that they’ve limited Golden State to less than 100 points in the last two games and think continuing to play great defense is the only way they’ll advance.

“It’s something we talked about building up all year,” Houston’s P.J. Tucker said. “To see our defense now be as good as it is, we still think it could be a lot better. We watched film, and honestly … we didn’t play great defense last night. Everybody will talk about how good a defense we played, but we really don’t feel like that. So just keep working and trying to get better.”

Kerr said the experience of his team, which is trying to reach the finals for the fourth straight year, will be valuable as the Warriors try and climb out of this hole and force Game 7. He referenced the conference finals in 2016 when they fell behind Oklahoma City 3-1 before winning the next three to take the series.

“We’ve been here before,” Kerr said. “We’ve faced elimination on the road before – this team has – a few years ago. We faced series deficits before. We’ve won all of those series. Our guys have the ultimate confidence that we can get it done this time, too.”

PBT Extra: Pressure falls on James Harden, Rockets’ bench with Chris Paul out

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Chris Paul is out for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with a strained hamstring, and that almost certainly will sideline him for Game 7 as well.

That changes the feel of this series.

The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.

It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.