Baseline to Baseline Weekend Edition: Knicks Gone Wild

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What you missed this weekend while worrying that your extra virgin olive oil isn’t such a virgin

Celtics 104 Bulls 92 (Friday): I know the Bulls thought they were an elite team. The Celtics, however, are currently the only Eastern team (and maybe the only NBA team) at that level right now. If we’re looking at matchups in a potential playoff series, the fact that Kevin Garnett outright obliterated an admittedly still finding his legs Carlos Boozer is going to jump off the page and smack us around a bit. Derrick Rose is spectacular and his ability to create, then lean away from contact in mid-air gives him what can only be described as special powers against the Celtics. Unfortunately, Shaquille O’Neal has a neater super power: being much, much, much bigger than Joakim Noah and bullying him like Noah skipped a grade then got assigned to the same gym class with the jocks. Boston is outright terrifying at this point. Basically the Celtics are very outright.

Magic 104 Pistons 91 (Friday): Detroit was so bad they lost to an Orlando team that pretty much resembled the extras from “The Walking Dead.”

Milwaukee 96 Magic 85 (Saturday): Milwaukee was so bad they only beat an Orlando team that was only able to suit up 8 players by 11. There was a lot of sneezing. The end.

Bobcats 91 Nets 84 (OT) (Friday): The score was 33-32 at the half. It very well may have been the worst first half in professional basketball history. Here. Let us never speak of it again.

Rockets 127 Grizzlies 111 (Friday): The Rockets looked like they are back!

Bulls 119 Rockets 116 (OT) (Saturday): The Rockets are not back. The Rockets had this game. Had it. Down cold. Lock, stock, and barrel. Then Derrick Rose took over, with a series of whirlish-dervish one-way-back-slash passes and one very killer off-the-dribble three he should never have gotten due to the fact that Houston should have fouled, fouled, and then fouled again up three, I don’t care if Derrick Rose’s three-point reliability is kind of a neat new trick. Luis Scola also pulled off a very impressive Dream Shake impersonation that manages to out-fake I’m pretty sure every Bull on the floor, several on the bench, and a few that are playing overseas. Alas, Houston falls again.

Knicks 100 Hornets 92 (Friday): The Knicks may be back. For Emeka Okafor with all his might, all his improvement, for every way that Chris Paul should dominate Raymond Felton, the Knicks ran roughshod. Amar’e Stoudemire at this point is nearly unstoppable and the Knicks are firing on all cylinders. Chris Paul is strikingly passive in the second halves of games and you have to wonder if the health is all there. The Knicks are creating easy shots for themselves and hard ones for their opponents. The Hornets are in the exact opposite condition.

Knicks 116 Raptors 99 (Sunday): Yup, Knicks are probably back.

Spurs 107 Wolves 101 (Friday): There are meltdowns, there are colossal meltdowns, and then there’s the Wolves in this game. An utter self-demolition as they gave the Spurs an opening, then stood around guffawing as the Spurs hit that fifth gear from nothing. Kevin Love was not good, George Hill was very good, and the Wolves looked like they had absolutely no brain running the body for the last quarter. The Wolves could really have used a significant weapon down low they could turn to who wouldn’t get railroaded by Tim Duncan. Instead they had Darko Milicic (who had a fine game the following night against Cleveland).

Wizards 83 Blazers 79 (Friday): This was an unhappy game. John Wall was bad and frustrated. The Blazers lost to the Wizards, despite John Wall having a bad game and being frustrated. This was a joyless, coal mine shift of a game.

Suns 105 Pacers 97 (Friday): Channing Frye had 29 points. So, you know, the Pacers may have some trouble with non-traditional positional adjustments.

Dallas 93 Jazz 81 (Friday), Dallas 105, Kings 103 (Saturday): Eight quarters for the Mavs this weekend, points produced: 23, 16, 27, 27, 28, 26, 26, 24. Steady light a freight train, sharp like a razor.

“Tired” Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest. Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game, at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Still thankful, LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan’s record for years between All-Star MVPs

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Los Angeles – When LeBron James became the youngest-ever NBA All-Star MVP in 2006, he said during the trophy presentation: “I’d like to thank the fans for voting me in as a starter.”

Twelve years later, he sounds similar, maybe just a little more thoughtful: “It’s always been my fans who voted me in. For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it’s been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that, and here’s what I’m going to give to you every time you vote me in.”

He plays similarly, too.

LeBron again won All-Star MVP, leading his team to a 148-145 victory Sunday. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Every night I step on the floor, I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level,” said LeBron, 33. “I feel great.”

The 12-year gap between LeBron’s first and last All-Star MVP – he also won in 2008 – is the longest in NBA history. It tops the 10 years between Michael Jordan’s first (1988) and last (1998).

Here’s the difference between the first and last All-Star MVP for every multi-time winner:

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Players’ effort in this exhibition game comes and goes, but LeBron appeared invigorated .

When LeBron’s team trailed by 15 in the second quarter, he checked in and quickly led it back into the lead. When his team fell behind by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, he again led a spirited comeback. He hit the go-ahead bucket.

Despite playing a game-high 31 minutes, his intensity lasted all the way through the final buzzer.

His coach, the Raptors’ Dwane Casey, said he asked LeBron whether to foul or defend on the final possession while up three. LeBron said defend.

“If he says that, or any great players say that, you want to go with them because it was their idea, their belief, and he had it,” Casey said. “…He got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop.”

LeBron and Kevin Durant swarmed Stephen Curry, who couldn’t shoot and could barely pass. Curry’s team didn’t even get a shot off:

“As you can hear in my voice, that tells how competitive it was,” LeBron said scratchily.

Again, his message echoed 2006: “We’re competitors, and our competitive nature kicked in and said let’s get some defensive stops.”

A lot will get made about the format change, and it might have mattered.

But maybe LeBron is just uniquely capable of dominating and embracing of this stage all these years later.

Defense? Dramatic finish? Team LeBron wins All-Star Game that’s worth watching

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA gambled its new format — with captains picking teams playground style — would produce an All-Star Game where the players showed some pride, played hard, and the showcase again would become something that resembled basketball (unlike last season).

It worked.

For proof guys were invested this time around, check out how Team LeBron responded to winning with a defensive stop, taking away Team Stephen’s attempt to get a clean look at a game-tying three in the closing seconds.

The THRILL of #NBAAllStar VICTORY!

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“It had a real game feel to it,” LeBron James said.

Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145. LeBron was named MVP with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. He also hit the game-tying and go-ahead shot that got the win.

“I played with (LeBron) a few times,” Kyrie Irving said of the play and pass that set up that LeBron game-winner. “I cut back door, (Russell Westbrook) was driving, I saw the opportunity. I saw, before even Russ even passed to me, LeBron was going to circle to the rim, and he’s one of the best finishers at the rim.”

Most importantly, this was an All-Star Game with some defense — it had 81 fewer points than the layup line game last year, and the fewest points in five years. It also proved to be the closest game in six years.

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Kevin Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

There was more defense than last year from the start of the game — for example, LeBron blocked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter. Of course, “better than last year” was not a high bar to clear, but there was some effort to not just have a layup line. Most of the time.

Also to start the game, Anthony Davis came out wearing the “0” jersey of injured teammate DeMarcus Cousins (he switched back to his own #23 before the first half was over).

On the night, Team LeBron got 19 points out of Kevin Durant, 16 from Paul George, and 14 from Andre Drummond. Team Stephen was led by 21 from both DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, and 19 points and eight rebounds from Joel Embiid in his first All-Star Game.

The fantastic ending made up for what was a laughable opening skit/national anthem before tip-off that did something very rare — it unified NBA Twitter. It was awful.

Now all anybody is talking about is the game itself. And that’s what the NBA wanted.

LeBron James hits go-ahead shot in All-Star win (video)

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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James‘ team trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, but he led a competitive comeback.

This shot put his team up 146-145 over Stephen Curry‘s team, and Team LeBron held on for a 148-145 win:

Great penetration by Russell Westbrook, and he and Kyrie Irving moved the ball well. LeBron made it count.