NBA denies Rockets’ protest over uncounted James Harden dunk, Spurs’ win stands

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Spurs 135, Rockets 133 – nearly a week later – final.

Houston protested the Dec. 3 loss on account of a made James Harden dunk that officials ruled missed then wouldn’t allow to be challenged.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that Commissioner Adam Silver has denied the Houston Rockets protest of their 135-133 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 3, 2019, following receipt by the league office of submissions from both teams and the completion of its investigation.

In the protest, the Rockets argued that the officials misapplied the playing rules by failing to grant a Coach’s Challenge in connection with James Harden’s fourth quarter dunk, and that this error had a clear impact on the outcome of the game by depriving the team of two points.  While agreeing that the referees misapplied the rules, Commissioner Silver determined that the Rockets had sufficient time to overcome the error during the remainder of the fourth quarter and two subsequent overtime periods and thus the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest was not warranted.

In addition, the league announced today that it has disciplined all three referees from the game for misapplying the Coach’s Challenge rule.

With 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score 102-89 in favor of Houston, Harden stole the ball and converted an uncontested dunk.  The ball was dunked with such force that, as it cleared the net, the ball was propelled around the basket and upward, creating an initial appearance that it was not a successful field goal.  Houston then called a timeout, and the officiating crew conferenced to discuss the play.

After deliberation, the crew informed the Houston coaching staff that a basket interference violation had been called on Harden, and Houston asked for a Coach’s Challenge.  This request was denied by the officials because more than 30 seconds had elapsed from the start of the timeout.  But the 30-second time limit for Coach’s Challenges only applies when the challenge arises during a mandatory timeout or a timeout called by the opposing team.  Because Houston called the timeout in this case, it was entitled to challenge the basket interference call upon being informed of it by the game officials.

If the Coach’s Challenge requested by Houston had been properly granted, instant replay would have shown that Harden’s dunk was a successful field goal.

As a follow-up to the NBA’s investigation of this matter, the NBA will work with the Competition Committee to develop additional procedures to help prevent the situation with Harden’s made basket from occurring again.

Did the Rockets get screwed? Yes.

Does the NBA acknowledging that the referees misapplied the challenge rule but still not granting Houston’s protest really rub salt into the wound? Heck yes.

Does this prove the Rockets fans and fans correct in their theories the league is out to get them? No. This was a randomly blown call that could have happened to any team.

Was the missed call the only reason Houston lost to San Antonio? No. The Rockets were up 13 with 7:50 left. Their collapse went far beyond this single play.

Would Houston have won in regulation had the dunk counted? There’s no way to know. The game would have played out differently with those two points on the board.

The NBA’s only upheld protest since 1982 came in 2007-08, when Shaquille O’Neal was disqualified with just five fouls (shy of the actual foul-out trigger of six) in the Hawks’ win over the Heat. The teams replayed the final 51.9 seconds, and Atlanta still won.

The league is extremely reluctant to grant protests. But I’m uncomfortable with the reasoning here. Yes, 7:50 would have been a long time to re-play. However, the league essentially ruled calls matter more late than early in games. What ammo for anyone who argues only the last couple minutes of an NBA game are worth watching.

This also shouldn’t have required a coach’s challenge in the first place. It’s common practice to review during the next stoppage whether a made shot near the arc was a 2-pointer or 3-pointer. This easily could have been checked under the same logic. Hopefully, the new procedures the NBA mentioned at the end of its release will address that.

That’ll be no solace to the Rockets. For them, this just stinks. I don’t blame them one bit for resenting ever part of this entire process.

Kobe Bryant dies in helicopter crash

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Kobe Bryant, the legendary Laker star who was saluted by LeBron James on Saturday night, has died in a helicopter crash in Southern California, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports.

The crash took place in Calabasas, an area about 30 miles northeast of the Staples Center, where Kobe stared as a player for more than a decade. It is not far from the Mamba Academy athletic training center where Kobe was active. It was a foggy day in Southern California, which could have contributed to the crash.

The crash killed five people, of which Kobe was one.

Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have four daughters. It is unclear at this time if any of his family was on board the helicopter with him.

Kobe had a 20-year NBA career that will send him to the Hall of Fame (once he becomes eligible). He was a five-time NBA Champion, a 15-time All-NBA player, NBA MVP, two-time scoring champion, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star, and a player who influenced a generation who came up after him. His work ethic was legendary and was part of what rubbed off on LeBron and many others.

Kobe’s death came just a day after LeBron passed him for third All-Time in NBA scoring, which led LeBron to talk unscripted for more than five minutes about how he had grown up idolizing Kobe and the influence Kobe had on his life. Kobe’s last Tweet was about LeBron and, appropriately, the future of the game.

 

Love from former teammates, players pours in as LeBron James passes Kobe

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With a running layup across the lane Saturday night, LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant, moving up to third on the NBA’s All-Time scoring list.

After that, the love started to pour in for LeBron.

First it came from his teammates, then from the crowd at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, smart basketball fans who appreciate greatness when they see it.

Next Kobe Bryant Tweeted his congratulations.

Then the love flowed in from across the spectrum, including former teammates and other players. Here is just a taste.

LeBron trails only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the scoring list, with LeBron 4,733 points back of Kareem. The scoring champ was on SiriusXM NBA Radio this past week and he also showed his appreciation for LeBron — and added LeBron could pass him.

“I think it is up to LeBron. If he wants to do it, he’ll do it. He has the talent. He has the opportunity. So it’s just up to him as to how he wants to end his career. I certainly cannot be upset about it. The reason that they keep these records is so that we learn how we are improving. And we learn how to teach the game, taking note of the accomplishments of the great players. So, hey, it’s a natural progression. I don’t have any problem with it.”

Rumor: J.R. Smith to get workout with Los Angeles Lakers

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This is probably nothing.

The Lakers head into the trade deadline — where they have limited players and picks to make a move — and the buyout market looking for a secondary playmaker to come off the bench, plus some more shooting.

J.R. Smith doesn’t fit either of those needs at this point in his career, but he is going to get a workout with the Lakers, reports Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson at Heavy.com.

According to a Lakers source close to the situation, Smith will get a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers next week.

“There are no guarantees,” said the source. “They want to see what he can do and if it is a fit, we’ll take it from there.”

Smith and LeBron James have a history together going back to AAU ball, and Smith was on LeBron’s 2016 title team in Cleveland. Smith also made the blunder in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals that cost the Cavaliers any hope in that series.

However, if the Lakers wanted Smith, they could have signed him at any point this summer. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

Smith evolved into a gunner off the bench, a high volume shooter and scorer who creates shots for himself, which won his Sixth Man of the Year back in 2013 but does not fit what the Lakers are looking for right now.

Also, Smith’s skills have been in decline. Last season, Smith, 34, played just 11 games for the Cavaliers — none after November — and struggled with his shot, hitting 30.8 percent from three and he had a dreadful true shooting percentage of 44.4 (he is a career 37.3 percent shooter from three). Smith did not want to be part of a rebuild in Cleveland and asked to be traded, but the team could not find a taker that wanted Smith’s contract and would send a pick back for him. Cleveland waived Smith in July and, while he met with the Bucks, he has been without a contract since.

Don’t read much into Smith getting a workout, there could be a lot of reasons for this. Maybe this gets him on another team’s radar, but it’s hard to see how he helps the Lakers take a step forward right now.

Once again Zach LaVine has huge game against Cavaliers, scores 44 in win (VIDEO)

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Zach LaVine scored 44 points for another dominating performance against Cleveland and the Chicago Bulls defeated the Cavaliers 118-106 on Saturday night.

LaVine made 16 of 30 shots and had 27 points at halftime. The 6-foot-5 guard also finished with 10 rebounds and eight assists, falling just short of his first career triple-double.

It was LaVine’s second big game against Cleveland in eight days. He scored 42 points on Jan. 20, including 21 in the fourth quarter when the Bulls rallied from a 15-point deficit to win.

Cleveland, which has lost seven straight and 12 of 14, had no better success stopping LaVine this time. He drove past his defender for clear looks at the basket, scored when he was double teamed in the lane, hit five 3-pointers and was 7 of 8 from the line.

LaVine was held to 16 points when the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in Cleveland on Oct. 30. The teams play for the fourth and final time this season in Chicago on March 10.

Tomas Satoransky had 19 points for the Bulls, who were coming off a home loss to Sacramento on Friday and arrived in around 1:30 a.m.

Kevin Love scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds for Cleveland. Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman each had 18 points.

The game was tied at 69 midway through the third quarter before the Bulls went on a 30-7 run to go ahead 99-76. Chicago outscored Cleveland 40-19 in the period.

Cleveland cut a 24-point deficit to 112-103 with two minutes to play, but got no closer. The Cavaliers had lopsided home losses to New York and Washington this week.

Chicago didn’t play like a team that’s been plagued by injuries. Forward Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls’ second-leading scorer, will miss four to six weeks because of an injured right hip. The 7-footer had an MRI on Thursday after experiencing soreness in the hip for about a week.