Raptors coach Casey says he told team to foul when leading by three at the end of regulation. They did not.

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LOS ANGELES — It’s a great debate in NBA circles, and it’s one that makes for interesting conversation while breaking down what-if scenarios after the fact.

To foul or not to foul, when leading by three and the other team has possession of the ball in the game’s final seconds?

The Raptors were faced with this dilemma Friday night against the Lakers, leading 109-106 with L.A. inbounding the ball and 8.4 seconds remaining.

Kobe Bryant had just knocked down two extremely difficult looks from three-point distance to even get his team to this point, and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey knew that Bryant would likely be the one to get the ball and attempt to tie the game with one more heroic shot.

Casey’s instructions to his team were clear. The execution, however, left something to be desired.

“We were going to foul,” Casey said afterward. “To answer your question, we were going to foul. We were supposed to foul; we were instructed to foul. Two guys froze — I don’t know what happened, but we were going to foul. That was our game plan at eight seconds, no question about it.”

Bryant weaved his way through the defense to catch the ball, and once he did, Amir Johnson went for the pump fake, which left Bryant open to nail the game-tying shot. Johnson might have tried to reach out and commit the foul after he flew by Bryant, but by then he was too far out of position.

“He made a cut, I tried to foul him, but he made a good play,” Johnson said. “I missed him and he made a tough shot. Especially when we’re up three, we wanted to make him shoot free throws.”

The debate will rage on, but in practice the strategy is a difficult one to pull off. Players have to be cautious not to foul a player as he’s getting into his shooting motion, because a four-point play in that situation would spell disaster.

It was clear in this case that the players and their coach were on the same page in terms of what the plan was. But plans tend to change when one of the game’s best players has the ball in his hands with the game hanging in the balance.

Watch Buddy Hield’s game-winning three lift Kings past Pistons

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DETROIT (AP) — Buddy Hield beat the buzzer with a winning shot for the first time in his NBA career.

Hield made an off-balance, fadeaway 3-pointer just before time expired and scored 35 points in the Sacramento Kings’ 103-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

“I’m blessed to say I got one in the NBA at the highest level,” he said. “It’s fun. As a kid, you always dream of hitting one of those type of shots. It’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

Detroit outscored the Kings in each of the first three quarters and had a 12-point cushion midway through the fourth.

That wasn’t enough.

Hield made a 3-pointer with 1:11 left to put Sacramento ahead for the first time since midway through the first quarter.

Blake Griffin, who scored 38 points, scored on the ensuing possession to put the Pistons ahead 101-100. Griffin had a chance to add to the lead on Detroit’s next possession, but he passed to Reggie Jackson, who missed a shot to give the Kings another chance.

Hield made the most of it.

He fumbled an inbounds pass, scrambled to regain possession and put up a shot from the left wing that hit nothing but the bottom of the net.

“We were trapping him because we knew he couldn’t make another play with 3.4 seconds,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We had three guys there. You have to be shoulder to shoulder, but he got between two guys, saw some daylight and threw one up there.”

Hield sprinted around the court after making the game-winner, leaped over a camera cord and led a joyous parade to the locker room.

“The lady almost tripped me. I think she was trying to trip me,” Hield said. “She put it up high. Thank God for my track background, I was able to hurdle over the wire.”

Griffin scored 14 points in the first quarter to help the Pistons establish control they had until Hield led a charge over the last several minutes of the game.

De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley scored 14 point apiece and Willie Cauley-Stein added 12 points for the Kings.

Luke Kennard scored 19 points for the Pistons. They were without center Andre Drummond due to him being in the concussion protocol.

Detroit held Hield scoreless in the third after he had 20 points in the first half, helping the Pistons go into the fourth quarter ahead 82-74.

“We were kind of running in mud,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We hung in there long enough with our defense to make it close at the end and then Buddy got going.”

 

Lakers’ Lonzo Ball carried off court with sprained ankle

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Saturday night the Lakers, already without LeBron James as he recovers from a groin strain, lost their next best playmaker to an ankle injury.

Lonzo Ball had to be carried off the court after spraining his ankle in the third quarter when he collided with and apparently accidentally stepped on the foot of James Ennis. Ball went to the ground grabbing his ankle the second it happened.

Because the X-ray machine inside the Toyota Center was malfunctioning, Ball was taken to a local hospital for further examination. At least the news there was good for Los Angeles.

There is no timeline yet on Ball’s return, but he’s going to miss a little time.

The Lakers, without Ball or coach Luke Walton (who was ejected), lost to the Rockets in overtime, behind James Harden‘s 48.

The Lakers host the red-hot Warriors on Monday night without Ball, LeBron, or Rajon Rondo.

Russell Westbrook has beef with Joel Embiid after hard foul (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook is always looking for something — real or imagined — to use as motivational fuel.

He found something real Saturday in Joel Embiid.

With 1:46 left in a close game on national television, Westbrook was off to the races in transition with just Embiid back and the result was a hard foul.

Westbrook was pissed after the game thinking this was not just a hard foul (warning, NSFW language):

Embiid essentially shrugged.

The actual foul was hard but a bit of a fluke. Embiid went up to block the layup/dunk but Westbrook lost his dribble for a second, and the result was an airborne Embiid crashing into Westbrook. Hard. Was there a little bit extra in there? Depends on if you’re on Team Westbrook or Team Embiid.

But the NBA could use more feuds, so bring it on.

The Thunder went on to beat the 76ers on a Paul George game-winner.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart goes after Hawks’ Deandre Bembry, gets ejected

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Marcus Smart will be lucky if all he has to do is write a check to the league office. This is the kind of thing that can lead to a suspension.

Midway through the third quarter in Atlanta Saturday, Boston’s Smart picked up his second technical foul jawing with Atlanta’s DeAndre Bembry before a jump ball. That got him ejected. But it was when it charged back after Bembry rather than leaving the floor that the real trouble started.

Predicting the league office on fines/suspensions is like predicting a roulette table, but that looks like it could cost Smart a game. Smart had picked up his earlier technical arguing calls.

Boston came from behind to win Saturday in Atlanta, with Kyrie Irving leading the way scoring 32.