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Nene pushes back fan heckling James Harden (video)

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Russell Westbrook reignited the discussion of interaction between fans – particularly Utah fans – and players.

A Jazz fan brought the conversation to Houston on Wednesday.

As the Rockets left the court for halftime during Utah’s Game 2 win, the Jazz fan leaned over the railing, held up his phone and got in James Harden‘s face to talk to the star guard. After Harden walked past, Houston center Nene pushed back the fan.

Rob Perez of ESPN:

Was that fan annoying? Yes. Did Nene push him hard? No. Did Nene cross the NBA’s line of acceptable conduct?

We’ll see.

Donovan Mitchell’s putback dunk, passing sparks Jazz to Game 2 win over Rockets

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Donovan Mitchell missed.

Then, he made everyone take notice.

The Jazz rookie clanked a runner midway through the fourth quarter but followed his own miss with a putback dunk that sent shockwaves through Houston.

Even on a poor shooting night, Mitchell helped even Utah’s second-round series with the Rockets, 1-1. He dished a personal-best 11 assists in the Jazz’s 116-108 Game 2 win Wednesday.

When teams split the first two games of a best-of-seven series in one location, the team with home-court advantage has still won 61% of the series. The Rockets were better than the Jazz throughout the season, and one game doesn’t erase that.

But with Game 3 Friday in Utah, Houston must adjust to a rookie whose game looks progressively more well-rounded.

An inefficient gunner early in the season, Mitchell developed into a historically efficient rookie scorer. He even became the rare rookie offensive focal point to lead his team to the playoffs.

With starting point guard Ricky Rubio out injured, Mitchell showed his playmaking chops tonight. Though Mitchell shot just 6-for-21, including 2-for-8 on 3-pointers, he expertly read the Rockets’ defense and spread the ball all over the court.

It also helped his teammates knocked down the shots he helped generate. Led by Joe Ingles (27 points on 7-of-9 3-point shooting), Mitchell’s teammates shot 62% on 2-pointers and 54% on 3-pointers.

So much flowed through Mitchell, though. There’s a reason he was a game-high +13.

James Harden carried an even larger load for Houston with 32 points and 11 assists – many to Clint Capela (21 points and 11 rebounds). But the Rockets shot a dreadful 27% on 3-pointers, including 2-of-10 by Harden. Rudy Gobert played his usual stout defense inside (eventually).

Houston is capable of hitting a high offensive level more regularly. Only Utah did it tonight.

Falling behind by 19 in the first half didn’t help the Rockets. Amid too much defensive miscommunication and offensive laziness, they dug themselves a hole – then climbed out of it. Houston led with eight minutes left.

But the Jazz found a formula that worked tonight. Counting only points scored or assisted by Mitchell, Utah outscored the Rockets down the stretch.

The game featured testiness between P.J. Tucker and Mitchell, Gobert and Harden, Jae Crowder and Harden. This series is turning out to be more competitive than it appeared it’d be after Game 1.

Because Mitchell keeps rising to the escalating challenge facing him.

 

NBA retroactively gives Kevin Love flagrant foul, but rules DeMar DeRozan should’ve been called for fouling him first

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Kevin Love elbowed DeMar DeRozan in the chin late in regulation during the Cavaliers’ Game 1 overtime win over the Raptors last night and was called for an offensive foul. There were three errors in officiating, the NBA ruled:

1. DeRozan got away with fouling Love first.

1. The play should have been reviewed and wasn’t.

2. Love should have have been called for a flagrant foul.

Last Two Minute Report:

Love (CLE) swings his elbows and makes contact with DeRozan (TOR). Given the wind up and impact, the play should have been reviewed and a Flagrant Foul Penalty 1 should have been assessed.

The league retroactively gave Love a flagrant foul.

NBA:

Kevin Love’s (CLE) foul against DeMar DeRozan (TOR) at 1:11 of 4th quarter on 5/1/18 upgraded to a Flagrant 1 upon league office review.

A flagrant foul called live would have given Toronto two free throws – a pretty darn big deal in a game that went to overtime.

But!

The NBA also ruled DeRozan should have been called for fouling Love one second before the would-be flagrant. Last Two Minute Report:

After Love (CLE) secures the rebound, DeRozan (TOR) makes contact with his arms and wraps him up. Love steps with the ball, however when a violation (like a travel) and a foul occur at the same time, the foul will take precedence.

Love swung his elbows to clear out DeRozan. If DeRozan hadn’t draped himself over Love, Love wouldn’t have committed the foul.

So, Toronto wasn’t really wronged in the result – a loss to Cleveland.

Report: Jamal Crawford opting out of Timberwolves contract

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
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Jeremy Lin opted in. Wesley Matthews opted in. Cory Joseph opted in. Wesley Johnson opted in.

Facing a tight market for free agents, many NBA players will opt in this offseason.

That’s why Jamal Crawford, who holds a $4,544,400 player option for next season, will surely –

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford will decline his 2018-19 player option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, league sources tell ESPN.

I doubt Crawford will get $4,544,400 on the open market, but he might. His best skill – making difficult shots – is still highly valued. (I’d prefer someone who creates more easy shots.)

At 38, Crawford might just prefer the flexibility of free agency. He can choose his team – maybe chase his first championship ring or find a team in greater need of a bench scorer.

The Timberwolves aren’t a realistic contender yet. They should also be fine without Crawford.

Minnesota should stagger Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns more. Andrew Wiggins is also comfortable as a primary option, and maybe propping up reserve-heavy units would keep him happy. Jeff Teague is also experienced as an offensive focal point. Tom Thibodeau can manage his rotation to keep at least one of these starters in the game more often.

And he’ll probably just re-sign Derrick Rose, too.

Charles Barkley: ‘I apologize to Draymond Green… I meant what I said’

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After the Warriors’ Game 2 win over the Pelicans last night, TNT analyst Charles Barkley said he wanted to punch Draymond Green. Green invited Barkley to do it next time they cross paths.

Barkley on TNT tonight:

I apologize to Draymond Green and his mom.

What I said was inappropriate. I would never punch an NBA player. I would never punch an NBA player. I meant what I said. I meant what I said. But I would never punch an NBA player.

Draymond Green is a good player. I think he’s a nice kid. I wish him nothing but the best. But what I said was inappropriate.

My personal opinion should never come across in a comment I make about a team or a player. It did last night.

Draymond is a hell of a player. He’s an irritant. He annoys me at times, but he’s a hell of a player.

But what I said was wrong, and I apologize.

My advice: Don’t think about this silly saga. Instead, enjoy these videos of Barkley punching NBA players: