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Did late-game officiating cost Knicks a win against Hawks?

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After the Hawks’ 142-139 quadruple overtime win over the Knicks on Sunday, Paul Millsap said:

“That was fun,” Millsap said. “I don’t want to do that again ever, but it was fun.”

But the NBA’s Last Two Minute report — which acknowledged 12 missed calls, seven favoring Atlanta and five favoring New York over the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and each overtime period — requires recreating portions of the game to determine whether late officiating errors rob the Knicks of a win?

By quantity, New York came out behind on missed calls. But not all missed calls are created equally. So, I dug deeper into the missed calls I found consequential. Generally, I ignore times the offensive team gets away with a violation and doesn’t score anyway and times the defensive team gets away with a violation and gets scored on anyway.

We know the fourth quarter and each of the first three overtime periods ended tied. So, any missed calls that would’ve given a team a lead when the clock read zeroes could stop this exercise. So, I break down my analysis by period.

Fourth quarter

With 1:11 left, Joakim Noah should have been called for offensively fouling Dennis Schroder:

Noah (NYK) sets the screen on Schroder (ATL) and does not give him room to avoid the contact.

A correct call would’ve ended the Knicks’ possession. Instead, they hit a 3-pointer.

With 30.2 seconds left, Dennis Schroder helped Atlanta secure a defensive rebound by grabbing Joakim Noah, contact that should have induced a loose-ball foul:

Schroder (ATL) clamps the arm of Noah (NYK) and affects his ability to retrieve the rebound.

A correct call would’ve put the Hawks into the penalty and meant two free throws for Noah, who’s shooting just 43% from the line this season — including this infamous miss — and 70% for his career

Paul Millsap got away with a shooting foul for disrupting Carmelo Anthony‘s speed/quickness/balance//rhythm with 3.5 seconds left:

Millsap (ATL) makes contact to the body of Anthony (NYK) that affects his SQBR on the driving shot attempt.

He made the shot anyway, but a correct call would’ve give Anthony — who’s shooting 83% from the line this season and 81% for his career — an additional free throw.

In sum, missed calls in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter allowed the Knicks to score three extra points and cost New York three free throws, two by Noah one by Anthony. At best for the Knicks, that’s a wash that leads to overtime, anyway. Considering Noah’s horrendous free-throw shooting, the result probably would’ve just been New York losing in regulation.

But considering he never got the clutch attempts for us to find out, we’ll continue.

First overtime

If you’re willing to suppose they would’ve made all three free throws missed calls deprived them of late in the fourth quarter, the Knicks can point to this call as the one that really burned them.

Dwight Howard got away with a defensive three-second violation with 1:14 left:

Howard (ATL) is in the paint without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds.

Stifled by Howard’s presence, the Knicks settled for an Anthony 3-pointer, which missed and was defensively rebounded.
A correct call would’ve given any Knick on the floor — likely Courtney Lee, who’s shooting 89% from the line this season and 85% for his career — a single free throw. New York also would’ve gotten the ball back with a fresh shot clock.

Second overtime

Anthony was incorrectly called for a shooting foul on Schroder, who scored anyway and missed the free throw. Of greater consequence: Anthony fouled out. However, he also got away with a foul in the fourth quarter (on a possession where Atlanta scored anyway).

Third overtime

Schroder bouncing ball into the stands and not drawing a technical foul occurred with 2:21 left, so the two-minute report doesn’t address it.

But an acknowledged missed call would’ve given Schroder a free throw when Justin Holiday got away with a shooting foul with 4.4 seconds left:

Holiday (NYK) makes contact with Schroder’s (ATL) body that affects his drive to the basket and shot attempt.

He still scored to tie it, but Schroder — who’s shooting 82% from the line this season and 80% for his career — was deprived a chance at a go-ahead free throw that could’ve ended the game here.

Obviously, Atlanta won any way, but this missed call detracts from the significance of any missed calls favoring the Hawks in the fourth overtime.

Fourth overtime

Malcolm Delaney got away with committing a shooting foul on Brandon Jennings with 1:26 left:

Delaney (ATL) makes contact with Jennings’ (NYK) body that affects his drive to the basket and shot attempt.

A correct call would’ve meant two free throws for Jennings, who’s shooting 76% from the line this season and 80% for his career.

Instead, New York came up empty on this possession.

Down two later in the period, the Knicks began intentionally fouling.

We obviously don’t know how changing any of these missed calls would’ve affected the rest of the game. But the final two calls, uncalled loose-ball fouls as players fought for rebounds, especially clearly happened in situations that never would’ve occurred if New York didn’t have to intentionally foul.

Did officiating errors cost the Knicks the game? There is a case to be made, but it must include Noah sinking 2-of-2 free throws late in the fourth quarter.

Jayson Tatum throws down epic dunk on LeBron James (VIDEO)

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The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers held a barnburner of a Game 7 on Sunday, with Boston’s Jayson Tatum going head-to-head with LeBron James.

For his part, LeBron was everything we expected in a Game 7. The King played spectacularly, willing his Cavaliers squad to yet another NBA Finals appearance as Cleveland edged Boston.

But before things were sealed, and the game decided, Tatum got off a raucous dunk right in James’ eye that made many wonder if the torch was on the cusp of being passed.

The play came with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter with Tatum driving down the lane and LeBron moving over to help recover on defense. It would have been easy to anticipate another big LeBron playoff block, but Tatum continued his surprising season by dunking all over The King.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland won the game, 87-79, but Tatum’s dunk on the big stage is just one of many reasons why the Celtics are going to be a complete hassle next year when they’re back to being fully healthy.

LeBron James is the greatest player of all-time

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He’s done it again. LeBron James, the King in the East, played 48 minutes en route to his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance after beating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 at TD Garden on Sunday, 87-79.

Bow down to the greatest player of all-time.

Much has been made of LeBron’s place in history as his legacy has began to galvanize toward the end of his career. The conversation has raged on about LeBron vs. Michael Jordan, or Wilt Chamberlain, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Preference varies greatly between fans, while some still pick the centrist route and say there’s no simple way to compare across eras. There’s been mathematical attempts to rank the two, and even MJ’s old teammates have said LeBron is a more complete player.

On Sunday, James bounced yet another Eastern Conference Finals opponent, carrying his teammates on his shoulders and playing without All-Star Kevin Love. There was never a doubt for many watching Sunday’s matchup in Massachusetts. Before the final buzzer, LeBron had won 23 straight Eastern Conference playoff series. His determination was absolute, and the cards were always stacked against Boston even given their postseason record at home.

You could sort of just see it coming.

James was the motivating force in the first half for Cleveland, scoring 17 points while no other teammates tallied in double digits. The Cavaliers shot an abysmal 12 percent from beyond the arc, and the Celtics looked like they would be able to control the rest of the game as the crowd at home motivated them forward.

But Cleveland came roaring back in the second half, continuing to put on a defensive show, the kind we would not have expected of them during the regular season. Without Love, the Cavs had to make do with Jeff Green, who turned in a surprising performance. Green scored 19 points, shot 50 percent from the field, and grabbed eight rebounds.

In the face of a strengthening Cavaliers attack, the Celtics seems to retreat. Boston’s final offensive possessions in the fourth quarter were hectic, slow, and unsuccessful. While the Cavaliers tried their hardest during the final eight minutes to get Al Horford switched on to LeBron in isolation sets, the Celtics surprisingly mirrored the same offensive tactics. Instead of playing their regular offense, or running plays to get shooters free, or trying to attack the paint against James (who was in foul trouble) Boston resorted to trying to exploit any mismatches found through Cleveland’s switches.

The result was four field goals inside the 3-point line for LeBron in the fourth quarter, as much as the entire Celtics roster combined.

The play of the game came with 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers leading by nine. LeBron was out on the break, with Marcus Morris trailing behind him. Morris went to foul LeBron, making no obvious attempts on the ball as he grabbed onto the Cavaliers star’s shoulders. Even with all of his might, Morris couldn’t stop James from scoring while drawing the foul. It was indicative of the entire fourth quarter for the Celtics, who scraped, clutched and grabbed as much as they could but did not have an answer for LeBron.

So here we are, with LeBron having won another Game 7 out in the Eastern Conference as he heads to another Finals. He probably won’t match Jordan’s championship mark. But Jordan didn’t match Russell’s. Or Horry’s. Or Havlichek’s, either.

Instead, we have to rely on what we see in front of our eyes combined with their dominance, weighted for context. Sunday night’s performance should help push LeBron over Jordan, if he wasn’t there already. James is a more complete player, which has always been apparent, and now he’s survived every challenge that’s been thrown at him. Declaring James the best player of all-time did not come because of Sunday’s game. It’s been years in the making, throughout the entirety of his 15-year career. The win over Boston was just an indication of his place in history.

LeBron has gone nuclear with 40+ point performances. He was part of the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history against the Golden State Warriors. He beat the Indiana Pacers all by himself, in the playoffs, just this very season. James has had a career season at age 33, playing 48 minutes in the 100th game of the 2017-18 season. LeBron has willed his way to yet another NBA Finals, with perhaps his worst team since the 2007 squad that was swept by the San Antonio Spurs. To add further insult to injury, LeBron pushed this team past a very good team in the Celtics, on the road, and without Love.

James is the greatest American sports story of our generation, and he’s the best player the NBA has ever seen. If you disagree, that’s OK. But after Sunday night, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me otherwise.

Watch Victor Oladipo drive the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 (VIDEO)

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Victor Oladipo is Indiana’s favorite son after the Indiana Pacers guard blasted through the competition during the 2017-18 NBA season.

Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and led the league with 2.4 steals per game. Oladipo’s 3-point shooting improved year-over-year, and his VORP skyrocketed in his new leadership role. Many feel the Pacers won the Paul George trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to Oladipo.

Thanks in part to his stellar play, Oladipo was invited to drive the pace car at the start of the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Turns out he was pretty good at it.

Via Twitter:

Oladipo is apparently going to be honored with the steering wheel from the pace car he drove. No doubt taking part in a classic local sporting event like the Indy 500 will help ingrain Oladipo into the sports fabric in Indianapolis even further.

Steve Kerr on Chris Paul: ‘More than anything, I feel bad for Chris’

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Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul didn’t play in Game 6 on Saturday night. The Rockets failed to eliminate the Golden State Warriors, who forced a Game 7 with a 115-86 win in Oakland.

Paul’s status for Game 7 is still unclear, although things aren’t looking good. Paul’s hamstring injury will be hard to heal in such a short amount of time, even with round the clock treatment and the power of will the veteran point guard brings to the table.

The Point God has a tendency to get hurt at just the wrong time. Paul famously broke his hand in April of 2016, and along with Blake Griffin‘s quad injury, allowed the Portland Trail Blazers to get the better of the Los Angeles Clippers in the playoffs that year. Paul also missed two games against the Rockets in the playoffs with a sore hamstring in 2015, a series the Clippers and Paul lost in seven games.

The NBA is not blind to Paul’s bad luck, either. Opposing head coach Steve Kerr commented on it to reporters, outlining not only what he thought they might do rotationally but his feelings about Paul’s injury history.

Via ESPN:

“More than anything, I feel bad for Chris,” Kerr said before the Warriors’ 115-86 rout of the Rockets at Oracle Arena. “The guy’s a phenomenal player and competitor and pretty much willed his team the last two games. He’s just been haunted by these types of injuries in his career, and it’s a shame. I hate when anybody gets hurt.”

Kerr mentioned that he knew the reality of the situation is that by the end of the season, not everyone is going to be healthy. No doubt it’s a good thing for Kerr and the Warriors that Paul will likely miss Game 7. It’s unfortunate for a veteran like Paul, whose stellar career is dogged by unfair narratives of playoff failures.

Maybe Houston can try again next year when they have LeBron James?