NBA All-Star dunk contest/3-point shootout live blog

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Final note to David Stern: This night only works if you have a couple athletic dunkers and a couple stars. You need Dwight. You need LeBron. You need the stars to make it work. Love Shannon and DeMar, need the star power. Especially in LA next year, where it is all about the stars.

Everyone else, thanks for hanging out.

10: 51 pm And the uninspiring winner is… Nate Robinson. He has the hat trick.

10:47 pm
Really DeMar, that was it? If you can’t leave from the free throw line, you can’t do that dunk. Already been done by MJ and the Dr., you’re measured against greatness with that dunk.

10:44 pm Nate with the power pass off the backboard dunk. That was nice, but may not be nice enough….

10:41 pm
Nate Robinson brings out the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders then does nothing in the dunk with them? That’s it, I want DeRozan now.

10:37 pm  Gallinari comes out and lobs to Nate for a nice one. Great tweet from football Rez Zone guy Andrew Siciliano: That was Gallinari’s most significant contribution to the Knicks since being drafted.

10:33 pm DeRozan wakes up the crowd with the dunk of the night: Weems with the pass off the side of the backboard, DeRozan trailing him grabs it midair and rams it home. Now that was a dunk contest dunk!

10:30 pm Kobe out to throw the ally-oop to Brown. And that was a quality dunk. But the scores not all that great. Can we see if Dwight Howard is in the house and draft him into this? Is it too late?

10:24 pm Nate with the best dunk of the first round — catch the bounce pass mid-air two hand roundhouse. He leads after round one. DeRozan second, then Wallace, Brown. Nobody blowing the doors off the place yet. Crowd loves Nate early. Everyone does. Except D’Antoni.

10:22 pm Brown missed a quality dunk, got cautious. Not how you win this thing. Wallace goes for the power reverse. Nobody has made their first dunk yet.

10:19 pm DeRozan with a nice first dunk, between the legs reverse. But unlike last night, had to do it twice to get it right.

10:12 pm For the record, I’ll take LetShannonDunk in this. But Wallace is close in my mind, although apparently nobody else thinks that.

10:07 pm Odd little note on Pierce: He’s the only Celtic not loathed in Los Angeles, despite the 2008 Finals. He grew up in Inglewood, not far from the Los Angeles Forum (home of the Showtime era Lakers) and still has a lot of friends in town.

10:05 pm
Paul Pierce gets hot, hits the money balls just like he tends to do at the end of games, wins it. He’s lovin’ it, a little more than we are all loving Daryl Dawkins jacket.

9:56 pm Any three point shooter with any ties to a D’Antoni team can’t hit a shot. Coincidence? Then defending champion Cook comes out cold. Pierce and Billups , the two guys moving the slowest of anyone in the competition, take on the rookie in the finals.

9:46 pm Don’t care if Steph Curry is a rookie, that is one of the sweetest strokes in the game right now.

9:41 pm
Wow, did Ray Allen give Paul Pierce three ball advice? He’s better than that.

9:30 pm Finally, something good, let’s get the three point contest going.

9:20 pm So Steve Nash is the most skilled player in the NBA. Yea, that’s a shocker.

9:14 pm From Atomsk: Kobe and KG sitting together; I say put them on the court, give each a
mic and have a trash talking contest.

9:12 pm Westbrook looked slow and inefficient. Williams looked slow but efficient. Westbrook did not listen to Coach Wooden: Be quick, don’t hurry. He should have hurried a little.

8:55 pm Anybody who watches Lakers games knows if you need the desperation half-courter at the buzzer, you need Jordan Farmar, not Pau Gasol. So Team Texas wins the Shooting Stars competition thanks to Dirk Nowitzki, the unofficial host for the weekend. Nice trophy, by the way. But really, where you going put that in the house.

8:47 pm Chis Webber, for the rest of the weekend and maybe beyond, is going to be hearing about how Nicole Powell is a better shooter than he is. And the ribbers will be right, as of today she is. Results don’t lie. Atlanta, been nice knowing you.

8:38 pm Wow Atlanta shooting stars, I’ve seen better shooting from the guys they pull out of the stand at NBA games for the chance to win a $500 at the local Indian casino.

8:31 pm For those of us watching at home on TNT, let us stop for a moment and pray together that the rodeo theme intro pieces are done for the night. I’ll light a candle in church tomorrow. Promise. Thanks God.

8:15 pm What better thing have you got to do on a Saturday night than watch the best dunkers in the world — or at least that would do the contest this year — and the 3-poing shootout as well? Exactly. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, you can make it up to your significant other then. Take them to a nice dinner out. No, the Olive Garden is not a nice dinner out, either. You can do better.

I’ll be watching that (and the shooting stars and the skills competition, where Derek Rose is out) and updating with commentary on the festivities throughout the night. Put your thoughts in the comments below (I may pull some of them up to the post). Also, follow along on Twitter.

Let’s have some fun.

Anthony Davis rattles rim with dunk on Juan Hernangomez (video)

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A sweet-shooting stretch four, Juan Hernangomez has a bright future in the NBA.

It’s not because of his rim protection.

Video Breakdown: How to ICE the pick-and-roll on defense

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NBA teams can defend the pick-and-roll game in many ways, but one of the most common is called ICE. This method sometimes goes by the name of Blue, Down, or Black, and it is ubiquitous as way to defend in the most popular offensive action in the modern NBA.

The basic idea is that the screener’s defender — usually a big man — stays parallel to the baseline and below the screen itself. The goal is to force the dribbler east to west, and to defend the paint while allowing for a lower percentage long range jumper.

The dribbler’s defender — usually a guard or a wing — fights over the top and pressures the shooter from above, ensuring that he cannot take a 3-pointer.

ICE pick-and-roll coverage has two main goals:

  1. Stop the ball handler and force the offense to move to another action.
  2. Stop a shot in the paint or at the 3-point line.

This varies from other kinds of pick-and-roll defense, including the hedge, the show, and the blitz. We’ll cover those in future videos, but you can get a little taste of them in a defensive glossary video I’ve done previously.

Meanwhile, get the full breakdown on ICE pick-and-roll coverage with the video breakdown above.

Rockets’ Patrick Beverley says players “disrespecting game” by resting when healthy

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Former Bulls guard turned agent and podcaster B.J. Armstrong said on our podcast last week that no, players didn’t have DNP-rest days back when he played — but he added that might well have been different if they had the information on injuries that today’s teams and players have. He said they got tired, they got banged up, and they played through it. You can call that tough, but it likely took time, maybe years, off their career.

Houston’s Patrick Beverley is from that old-school mentality and said players are disrespecting the game if they don’t get out there when healthy. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I think that’s bulls—,” Beverley said after the Rockets’ 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. “I think that’s a disgrace to this league. I think that fans deserve better.

“I could care less about coaches asking players to rest or not. It’s up to you to play or not, and if you don’t, you’re disrespecting the game. And I don’t believe in disrespecting the game, because there was a time where I wasn’t playing in the NBA and I was trying to get here. So me resting, I feel like, is disrespecting me, disrespecting the name on the front of the jersey and disrespecting the name on the back of the jersey.”

It’s the coaches and the organizations telling players to rest, it’s rarely the players themselves, and the teams are doing it because they want their guys at their peak come the playoffs. If the goal is winning a title in June (or at least going deep into May) then not wearing guys down matters.

Everyone has their opinions on it, Gregg Popovich did a good job trying to explain the nuances, but the simple fact is player rest games are not going away. They did it back in Armstrong’s day too, they just called a sore ankle or back rather than rest. What helps lessen games stars have off is building more rest and days off into the schedule, which the NBA is trying to do. But that’s a challenge that will continue to be discussed.

Three Things We Learned Sunday: Westbrook, Harden showdown leaves MVP race same as it ever was

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How many teams did you get right in your Final Four bracket? For the record, I have one (North Carolina). Which is why I was watching a lot more NBA on Sunday than NCAA (that and it’s my job). Here are the big takeaways from Sunday.

1) Russell Westbrook gets 36th triple-double. James Harden lifts Rockets victory. The MVP race is the same as it ever was. If you wanted to make a case for Russell Westbrook as MVP, he gave you reason on Sunday in a showdown with James Harden and the Rockets. Westbrook dropped his 36th triple-double of the season with 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists, and the Rockets could not stop him.

Harden put up numbers — 22 points on 15 shots, plus 12 assists — but his team got the win because he got help: 31 from Lou Williams, 24 from Trevor Ariza, and 24 from Eric Gordon. Williams had 18 points in the first half. As a team, the Rockets shot 63.3 percent overall and 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Harden has better teammates around him, but he is orchestrating them beautifully, he’s more efficient, and he’s lifting his team to higher heights. Westbrook is almost single-handedly carrying the Thunder offense by putting up historic numbers.

This game offered no clarity in the MVP race. In one of the closest, most interesting award races in years, your pick for MVP depends on how you want to define the award and its criteria. (And we’re not even getting into the legitimate case that can be made for Kawhi Leonard here. LeBron James is in the mix, too, although the recent stumbles of the Cavaliers may hurt his case.) We know where the Rockets organization stands.

Sunday’s Thunder/Rockets just an MVP showdown, it was a potential first round playoff matchup. On that front, the Rockets led by as many 25, and while the Rockets made a late push to get the lead down to single digits in the final couple minutes, but the Thunder couldn’t get stops, and the result was never really in doubt. It’s hard to see a playoff series going much differently, the Thunder just don’t defend well enough to slow Houston.

2) Celtics beat Heat, move into tie with Cavaliers for top record in the East. Boston just keeps on grinding, keeps on making enough plays, and keeps on winning. So much so that with a hard-fought win over the Heat on Sunday Boston finds itself tied with Cleveland for the top seed in the East (Boston has one more win, Cleveland has one fewer loss).

Boston may well finish on top, it has an easier schedule to close out the season. However, the big game — and what will determine who has the tiebreaker between the two — comes when the Celtics and Cavaliers play on April 5.

The Celtics got the win because they made crucial shots down the stretch, like this driving floater by Isaiah Thomas (who finished the night with 30 points).

Then Al Horford‘s block sealed the 112-108 victory.

For Miami, even with the loss they sit as the eight seed in the East, the final playoff spot, but Chicago is just half a game back, and the Pistons one game back. While the race could go any direction, the Bulls have the softest schedule the rest of the way of any of those three teams.

3) Blazers win, Nuggets lose, teams now tied for the eighth seed in the West. The race to be the team destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the first round out West is heating up — Denver and Portland are now tied for the eight seed.

On Sunday, Denver had a sloppy loss at home as New Orleans came to town without DeMarcus Cousins, and yet Anthony Davis dropped 31 and the Pelicans won.

Portland got 22 from Damian Lillard and pulled away in the third quarter to beat the hapless Lakers, 97-81.

Denver and Portland play Tuesday night in what will be a huge game in that race.