Winderman: NBA should have replay official for playoffs

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Before each playoff game, four referees enter their locker room. Only three emerge.

The fourth is in attendance in case of injury, a smart move by the league with so much at stake.

The greater issue, especially in light of some egregious officiating errors this postseason, is why not utilize that fourth pair of eyes?

No, not on the court. There’s already enough clutter there. But why not in the TV truck, where numerous angles are available both in real time and on replay. With almost every postseason game on network TV, the camerawork also is at playoff level.

We’re not talking about reviewing every call or even many of them.

But it would allow any replay situations to be handled faster and with a greater assortment of angles, and without coaches preening over shoulders or fans mucking up the process at the scorers’ table.

Beyond that, if there is an egregious error late in a game, and a coach is willing to burn a timeout (such would be the cost, similar to the NFL), then an instant second look in the TV truck would be possible, those same after-the-fact replays that offer such a striking indictment after the score is final.

Yes, it would only be for the postseason, because it is the only time four officials are present, by rule, in the building. But it’s not as if there isn’t precedent. The NHL changes its overtime rules for the Stanley Cup playoffs, playing overtime the right way. And the NFL now has different overtime rules for its postseason.

Plus, by forcing coaches to keep a timeout in their pockets, it might lead to fewer stoppages along the way.

The NBA has strict standards of what can be reviewed and what can’t.

But the playoffs mean more, which means individual plays mean more.

This isn’t about nitpicking about block-charge. But what if the referee in the TV truck can get a definitive angle that shows the defender in the restricted area on a bang-bang final-seconds play?

To some, the argument is that it would leave much of the process to be determined by the quality of the television production.

As it is, TV dominates the process anyway, be it with the scheduling, the added timeouts, the lengths of the games.

Simply put, the NBA has decided that an extra referee at playoff games is not a luxury, but rather a necessity.

So should be getting the calls right, especially with the added means to do so.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Watch James Harden score 55, including 10 threes, to beat Cleveland

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CLEVELAND (AP) โ€” James Harden scored 55 points – 20 in the fourth quarter – and Russell Westbrook added 23 points as the Houston Rockets withstood an unexpected scare from Cleveland and held on for a 116-110 win Wednesday night over the free-falling Cavaliers, who have lost eight straight and 14 of 15.

Harden matched Kyrie Irving‘s arena record for points in a game, and his fourth with 50 or more this season bailed out the Rockets, who allowed the Cavs to score 24 straight points in the second half.

Cleveland was still up 108-107 when Harden, who came in leading the NBA in scoring at 38 points per game, dropped a floater in the lane. After a turnover by Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson, P.J. Tucker hit a 3-pointer from the corner and Clint Capela had a dunk following another Cleveland miscue.

The inexperienced Cavs crumbled in the final minute, making three turnovers.

Capela added 13 rebounds for Houston, which figured to have an easy time with the Cavs, who are struggling under first-year coach John Beilein.

Cleveland, though, came to play and was led by rookie Kevin Porter Jr.‘s season-high 24 points. Collin Sexton added 18 and Kevin Love had 17 points and 11 boards.

Harden connected on a pair of 3-pointers during a 16-2 run in the third quarter when the Rockets, who were sleepwalking through long stretches of the first half, appeared to take control.

But Houston relaxed, and Cleveland went on a jaw-dropping 24-0 run – all without Love, who was on the bench with a head laceration – over a 4:43 stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to a take a 99-88 lead on Porter’s bucket.

 

Grizzlies’ Ja Morant absolutely destroyed Aron Baynes with dunk (VIDEO)

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We may have a new Dunk of the Year.

Memphis rookie Ja Morant is an athletic freak, one confident enough in his skills to go right at a big switched onto him. Say Phoenix’s Aron Baynes. On a critical fourth-quarter possession.

RIP Aron Baynes.

Memphis won the game 115-108.

Victor Oladipo not near return to Pacers rotation

Associated Press
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“But heโ€™s still a ways away.”

Those are not the words Pacers fans want to hear about Victor Oladipo. Their team is playing well โ€” 15-9 with a top-10 defense โ€” but they are not a real postseason threat without their best player, who is recovering from a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. Before the season, Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said he was “hopeful” Oladipo would be back in December or January.

It looks like it’s going to be the back end of that timeline. At best. From J. Michael of the Indy Star, speaking to coach Nate McMillan.

Oladipo will have to be eased back in when he does return, he’s not going too hit the ground running at 40 minutes a night.

The Pacers look like a lock playoff team in the East even without Oladipo, they can afford to bring him along slowly. The hope would be to have the All-Star up to speed and integrated into the offense when the playoffs do start. If that happens, the Pacers become that team that the elite squads want to avoid early.

Lakers outscore Magic 26-9 in the first quarter. It got uglier after that.

Associated Press
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As has gotten a lot of publicity this season, the Lakers have one of the best defenses in the NBA, sixth in the league in defensive rating coming into Wednesday night. Their combination of length and activity has thrown teams off their games.

Less well publicized, the Orlando Magic have been bad on offense this season, fifth-worst in the NBA.

What happens when the immovable object met a very soft force on Wednesday night, well…

Orlando shot 4-of-21 in the first quarter, missing all six of their threes, plus turned the ball over four times just to make things a little worse. Itโ€™s not that the Lakers were exactly tearing it up, as a team they shot just 35.7 percent in the first quarter (Orlando is a good defensive squad), but Anthony Davis saved their bacon with seven points plus three assists (all for threes, so 16 points generated by him in the first).

The Lakers stretched that out to a 24-point lead in the second quarter before a combination of Orlando stepping up their play and the Lakers taking their foot off the gas a little led to an 18-3 Orlando run that cut the lead to 13 at the half. LeBron James had 16 points to lead the Lakers.

By the middle of the third, Orlando had made a game of it.