Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

Game of the night: The Spurs would like your attention, please

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After 24 minutes of decent offensive execution with poor finishing, the Spurs’ third quarter was an explosion of contrasts. San Antonio’s inexplicable misses were made right again, and so were some of their lower quality looks, for that matter. The Spurs just went to that happy place, where every three-pointer is accompanied by candy raining from the sky, and each swift cutter left behind them the scent of freshly baked cinnamon buns. SanAn won’t be able to tap into this kind of nirvana on a nightly basis, but this is what the Spurs are capable of when the five on the floor start harmonizing.

It didn’t matter who hit the hardwood for San Antonio; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Matt Bonner, Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, Gary Neal…everyone clad in black, white, and silver just got it. We should expect nothing less from the Spurs after all this time, but this was a special combination of pitch-perfect execution and elite offensive talent, the latter of which has eluded the Spurs at times, even at the height of their powers.

It may not have even been the best third quarter of the night — New Orleans put on a hell of a show — but consider this your regular reminder that the Spurs are not only damn capable, but damn talented. They established an offensive rhythm in the first half even while they struggled to put up points, and when the time was right, it all came together, and the result was a nice 109.6 points per 100 possessions. There’s no question that when San Antonio has the capability to produce a run like this, they’re super-quasi-demi-contenders.

They push the pace when it’s appropriate (which is more often than longstanding Spurs fans might be used to), but more importantly, they continue to grind out teams with their ball movement in half-court sets. With the ball swinging and the right players making the right moves, it’s no surprise that San Antonio went off in the third. It’s just a bit shocking that it didn’t happen sooner.

San Antonio outscored Chicago 37-12 in that pivotal third frame, and though the Bulls would eventually make things interesting at times in the fourth, the Spurs coasted. They lived off the momentum they had gained a quarter earlier, and found sustenance in their rhythm and lead

But focusing too much on the third quarter (and the Spurs, for that matter) does a great disservice to what was a sturdy offensive outing by the Bulls. Derrick Rose taking 27 shots shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s game plan, but he was attacking the San Antonio defense in all the right places. Rose still steps into those long two-point jumpers more than he should, but on a night where he balanced long — but open — twos with an array of drives and floaters, I can hardly lambast him for trying to take this game over.

You can’t throw the ball down to Joakim Noah against Tim Duncan, even though he had a productive night to finish with 10 and 14. Luol Deng scored 18 points, but shot just 6-of-17 along the way. Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer gave the Bulls some nice play off the bench, but neither is a go-to option in any regard. No other Bull was creating quality shots, and many of Rose’s teammates (I’m looking at you, Taj Gibson) couldn’t even finish a few of their spoon-fed buckets. Rose did what he had to do, and though that led to satchel-full of field goal attempts and four turnovers, he wasn’t given all that many alternatives to a hero act.

The game itself may not have been as entertaining as some of the night’s other contests, but the message here is important. The Spurs executed defensively as they are ought to do, but they won this game with a deluge rather than their typical maelstrom. San Antonio may be a step removed from some of the league’s truly elite squads, but they can do it all, even when faced with a tough start against a quality team. San Antonio is still San Antonio, but their offensive potency in games like these should make us all wonder if they’re capable of being something more.

Can we just relive that epic Dunk Contest one more time? Here’s the mixtape.

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TORONTO — Talking to NBA people, fans, and media around Toronto Sunday it seems every conversation starts with some version of “last night’s Dunk Contest was INSANE!

Because it was.

Andre Drummond threw down an impressive two-hand power slam with an assist from soccer playing Steve Nash. Will Barton‘s first dunk might have won him the contest in some weaker years. And we’re not even talking about them because of the eye-popping show that Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine put on.

Before we move on and talk trade rumors or actual All-Star Game, or whatever is coming next, can we just bask in the joy of that dunk contest one more time? The fine folks at NBA.com put together this mixtape version of the Dunk Contest, I’m passing it along.

Savor this people, it doesn’t get any better than what we witnessed Saturday night.

Michael Jordan to Klay Thompson: “Go ahead and break” Bulls’ 72-win record

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 25:  Owner of the Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, watches on during their game against the Washington Wizards at Time Warner Cable Arena on November 25, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NBA - NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Barring a major injury, it seems almost inevitable at this point that the Warriors will surpass the 1996 Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season and vault themselves into the conversation of the greatest NBA teams in history. All year, members of that ’96 Bulls team have weighed in comparing the teams, but one guy who hasn’t given his thoughts publicly is Michael Jordan.

Apparently, during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Jordan gave Klay Thompson his blessing for the Warriors to go for 73. Via CSN’s Rosalyn Gold-Onwude:

Not that the Warriors need anybody’s permission to go after the record, obviously. But it had to be cool for Thompson to hear directly from Jordan that he respects what the Warriors are doing and wants them to break his own record. In all likelihood, they’ll do it.

Report: No suitors for Boston’s David Lee. So far.

Boston Celtics' David Lee comes down after dunking during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets in Boston, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are rumored to be involved in a lot of trade talks that in reality are going nowhere — Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Al Horford. The buzz around the league is none of those deals are coming together, in part because Boston is protective of its picks (particularly things like the 2016 unprotected first round pick of the Brooklyn Nets).

What the Celtics would love to talk about is finding a new home for David Lee. But that is proving difficult, reports Mark Murphy of the Boston Globe.

Lee, who has fallen out of Brad Stevens’ rotation, and would welcome a move to a playoff team that has a role for him, is not drawing suitors.

“David Lee was tough for Golden State to move all of last year,” said the source. “And it finally came down to him being moved for Gerald Wallace. David Lee has no value. It’s his contract. David Lee’s value comes in if they get one of these big name players.” … Isaiah Thomas has been doing his part when it comes to selling players on the virtues of being a Celtic.

Lee is making $15.5 million this season. He’s always mentioned in those superstar trade rumors with Boston because they can use his salary to help match a more expensive players’ contract. But on his own, that’s been a much tougher sell.

Hopefully, the Celtics can find a taker; Lee deserves to be in a place where he has a chance to at least contribute a little. He’s not a starting caliber player anymore, but we saw in the NBA Finals last season in the right circumstance he can play a key role.

Craig Sager and his flashy suits return to All-Star weekend

Craig Sager
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TORONTO (AP) — The All-Star game in New York was a little less colorful last year.

Craig Sager, the TNT sideline reporter known for wearing flashy suits, missed the NBA’s annual midseason gala for the first time since he started doing them in 1988. Another bout with the leukemia he’s been battling for the last few years resurfaced, and Sager was forced to sit out while undergoing more treatments.

Sager considers the All-Star festivities the most important weekend of the season for him, and so it pained him to have to watch on television while receiving his treatments.

“It was hard for me not to be there, but I had to address my health,” Sager said. “To be able to get that in remission and be able to go through this year, it’s going to be extra special for me. I’ve really been looking forward to this a long time.”

That’s right. Sager is back for All-Star weekend in Toronto this year.

He spent the week leading up to it in Houston receiving his monthly treatment, which included a blood transfusion, to make sure he was healthy enough for the trip. Once he arrived in Canada, he was easy to spot.

“I just saw him,” Spurs coach and longtime foil Gregg Popovich said after the Western Conference team practiced on Saturday. “His suit spoke to me. It blinded me for a second.”

It’s been an emotional run for Sager, the longtime fixture at NBA games. He has needed two bone marrow transplants and still has to make those treks to Houston once a month. He has returned to the sideline for games this season and is feeling so well that he was scheduled to do both the Saturday night activities that include the 3-point shootout and the dunk contest as well as the game on Sunday.

“I feel great. Got my weight back. Got my strength back,” Sager said. “I’m back to playing golf.”

Two of his youngest children – daughter Riley and son Ryan – will be with him on the court this weekend serving as a ball boy and ball girl.

And of course, Sager will do a round with Popovich on television during a quarter break on Sunday. The two have turned the sideline interview into a passion play,

“He’s been an iconic figure in the NBA. He does a great job,” Popovich said. “His sense of humor is obvious. we have a lot of fun going back and forth with that. To have him back where he belongs, obviously we’re happy for him and his health. But for the league it’s great too, because he’s a fixture that everybody enjoys.”

Sager called the support he has received from Commissioner Adam Silver, coaches, players and fans “humbling” and said he was looking forward to coming back to his favorite event of the season.

“It’s been very uplifting, very therapeutic,” Sager said. “Very supportive on their part. That really has been very helpful to me, my treatment and my drive to get back.”