Controversial tip-in calls cost Bulls in overtime, Thibodeau is rightfully ticked

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To my eye — and by the NBA rulebook as I read it — there were two illegal tip-ins in the final minute of overtime between the Bulls and Nuggets Monday night.

Only one was reviewed on video. Only one got overturned. The Bulls lost by one point and Tom Thibodeau has every right to be mad.

Let’s start with the rule. Here is the interpretation of the rule direct from the NBA’s video officiating page (which had video examples):

Players are not allowed to touch the ball while any part of the ball remains in the cylinder above the basket ring. On this play, the offensive player taps the ball into the basket while the ball is still in the cylinder above the basket.

Players ARE allowed to tap, touch or rebound a shot attempt when the ball has rolled off of the basket ring and is outside of the imaginary cylinder.

Some people, both national talking heads and commenters online, say that you can touch the ball as it is rolling off the rim. Watching the NBA’s videos and reading that above, it reads to me that you can only touch the missed shot once it is outside the cylinder completely.

In the case of the first tap in, Denver was down one (115-114) with 50 seconds left when Ty Lawson drives the lane and misses the layup. Kosta Koufos comes in and with both hands tips it in — except replays clearly showed the ball was sitting on the rim and over the cylinder when it was tipped. In my mind that is offensive goaltending,

The referees didn’t review it because there was no call on which to base a replay.

Now we come to the Bulls final shot with 5.7 seconds left (the video above has a tip in between the controversial ones, that middle one is not in dispute). Marco Belinelli brought the ball up the left wing and took a hurried, off-balance jumper that was short, but Joakim Noah comes flying in, tipped the ball in and the United Center went crazy.

But it shouldn’t have counted and the refs got it right. Despite what the Bulls’ broadcasters say on the video above, that was an illegal tip in. The ball was on its way down and over the cylinder. The refs got the call right, that basket should not have counted.

The question is: Why did it get reviewed? Unlike the Koufos tip, this was called goaltending at the time (it was drowned out by the crowd). During a Denver timeout it was reviewed and the goaltending call was confirmed. As I said, it’s the correct call. It’s just not fair that only one of those calls can get reviewed.

You can expect an explanation from the league later today on this. But to me, both were illegal tip ins but just one was called. And the Bulls paid the price for that.

DeMarcus Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior is a monster jam

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LOS ANGELES — DeMarcus Cousins sure looked his hops are back on this throw down.

Cousins started for the Warriors Friday night after missing almost a full year with a torn Achilles, and on the Warriors first possession they fed him the rock in the post. Cousins faced up on Marcin Gortat, drove baseline with a nice first step, but got caught under the basket and couldn’t power it up through the Clipper big, getting his shot blocked.

Nobody was blocking his next shot.

It was a side pick-and-roll where Gortat had to cut off Durant’s drive, but Danilo Gallinari didn’t tag into the middle to cut off Cousins’ roll (or, made the business decision not to). The result was an impressive first bucket for DeMarcus as a Warrior.

Cousins’ first shift was three minutes long. He’s on a minutes restriction for a while.

D’Angelo Russell drops 40 on Magic including shot that put Nets up for good

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D'Angelo Russell is playing like a guy in a contract year. And that’s just fine with Brooklyn.

Russell tied his career best with 40 points Friday night against the Magic, including hitting the shot that put the Nets up for good on the night with 27 seconds remaining. Russell was 16-of-25 shooting, including 8-of-12 from three, and he was an analytics dream — Russell took all but one of his shots either in the paint or from three.

The Nets — now 24-23 on the season and the sixth seed in the East — came from 21 back to get the win and that included their guards hitting the big shots at the end.

First up was Spencer Dinwiddie.

Then came Russell’s shot that proved to be the game winner.

With the Nets extending Dinwiddie during the season, it’s unlikely Russell returns to Brooklyn next season, but a number of teams are interested in him as a free agent (restricted, the Nets can match if the offer is low).

Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break

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The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.

And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.

The Nuggets are hoping Thomas will make his debut next month, right before the All-Star Break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.

There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….

The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.

Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.

Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).

If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.

Report: Kings’ Buddy Hield in 3-point contest

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Players who’ve attempted more than seven 3-pointers per game while making more than 40% of them this season:

Sharing company with only the greatest shooter of all-time will earn Hield a spot in the 3-point contest.

Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140:

Sacramento getting three players into the Rising Stars Challenge for the second straight year speaks to the team’s nice collection of young talent. Bogdan Bogdanovic (who won MVP last year) and De'Aaron Fox return to the game. No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III replaces Hield, who ages out.

Hield has a chance in the 3-point contest, though the league is better from beyond the arc than ever. He’ll certainly have plenty of competition.