James Harden certainly does not agree — and he has the entire city of Houston on his side — but the officials made the right calls on two offensive fouls on James Harden in the final 7.3 seconds of the Celtics’ comeback win over the Rockets Thursday night.
That’s not just my opinion, it’s the ruling of the NBA in the Last Two Minute Report released Friday.
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In both cases, with 7.3 seconds and with 3.0 seconds left in the game, Harden was caught pushing off Marcus Smart, in clear view of referee Tony Brothers, who was 10 feet away. In both cases, the NBA ruled that “Harden (HOU) dislodges Smart (BOS) from his legal guarding position.” In both cases, Harden extended his arm and that’s going to get called 99 times out of 100 (even if Smart helped sell it).
In the case of the first call, Harden said postgame, “How else am I supposed to get open? The guy had two arms wrapped around my body?” The NBA League Office disagrees, saying “Smart (BOS) makes marginal contact with Harden (HOU) that does not affect his (freedom of movement).”
Rockets fans are up in arm as the report does say that the officials missed five traveling calls by the Celtics in the final two minutes. There were only two officials on this game, rather than the usual three, after one injured his back during pregame warmups and could not go. These are the kind of things missed when there are fewer officials.
Not that the NBA agreeing with Harden would have changed anything anyway, but the officials can feel vindicated.
The Rockets led the game by 26 points in the third quarter, but Harden shot 3-of-17 in the second half, their player movement and passing came to a halt, and they squandered the lead and ultimately lost it on Al Horford‘s game-winning shot.
Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.
However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.
Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.
Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.
Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.
Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.
“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”
Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.
LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”
That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.
John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.
Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.
The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.
The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.
There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.
Brittney Griner is finally coming home.
The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.
The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.
“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”
“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”