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Biggest winners and losers at the All-Star game

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The All-Star game is an exhibition first and foremost, and when players are trying harder to entertain the crowd than they are to play good basketball, it’s hard to put too much stock into the results. Still, this year’s All-Star game was one of the most entertaining and competitive games in years, and a few players did put on virtuoso performances while others struggled. Without further ado, let’s take a look at who had the best and worst All-Star Game:

Winner: Kobe Bryant

On Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant shot 8-24 and committed 7 turnovers in a loss to one of the worst NBA teams in decades. On Sunday night, a rested, motivated Bryant torched the best players in the Eastern Conference for 37 points, and was probably the player most responsible for making the game unusually competitive.

Kobe wasn’t interested in trying to pull of behind-the-back passes, intricate Alley-oops, left-handed threes, or any of the other shenanigans that usually take place in the All-Star game; he was taking Dwyane Wade to the post, getting back on defense, and throwing down some of the most vicious dunks he’s had in years.

Bryant was, by his own admission, exhausted by the time the fourth quarter came around, but still had enough in the tank to seal the game by preventing the East from pulling down a key rebound with seconds left to play. Bryant didn’t break Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star scoring record, but he did more than enough to win his fourth All-Star MVP and elevate the level of the game as a whole.

Loser: Dwight Howard

Howard played 21 minutes on Sunday, but you’d be hard-pressed to remember any of them. Howard showed little interest in playing offense or defense, didn’t block a single shot, and half of his four field goal attempts were from beyond the arc. That’s not what you want to see from Dwight Howard.

Winner: Kevin Durant

Durant bounced back from his embarrassing three-point contest with a vengeance. Kobe was the only player to have scored more than Durant, who looked like he was in a groove for most of the game and ultimately closed the game out by scoring seven points in the final 2:18 of play.

Losers: Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan

It’s hard to call KG and Tim Duncan “losers,” but they helped prove that the All-Star game is not the ideal environment for aging big men who make a bigger impact on defense than they do on offense. KG does get some points for being the loudest cheerleader on either bench, even when he was cheering on LeBron James.

Winner: Amar’e Stoudemire and Blake Griffin

The All-Star game WAS made for big men like Stoudemire and Griffin. Griffin dunked all over the court, managed to record five assists, and got the crowd chanting for him in fourth quarter, while Amar’e racked up 29 points with an efficient mix of dunks, jumpers, and drives to the basket.

Losers: Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony

New York rumors have been circling Carmelo and, to a lesser extent, Williams all weekend — both of them seemed distracted, and they combined to shoot 6-17 from the field on Sunday.

Winner: LeBron James

LeBron’s team didn’t get the win, but he recorded the second-triple double in All-Star history and made the game competitive again with a series of awe-inspiring drives to the basket. It’s hard enough to stop LeBron in a game played at a normal pace with normal defensive intensity — with the speed of the game ratcheted up and the defense a bit lax, James is impossible to stop.

Winner: Russell Westbrook

Westbrook’s line wasn’t amazing, but he had some of the most incredible plays of the night — a rim-rocking dunk in transition, a nasty crossover on Dwyane Wade that set up a step-back jumper, and an incredible scoop shot. This year’s All-Star game was one of the best in years, and the play of guys like Westbrook, Durant, and Blake Griffin is a sign that there are more great All-Star games to come when the next generation takes over.

Report: Rockets to interview Mike D’Antoni, Frank Vogel for coaching vacancy

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers gestures during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on February 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 126-122.   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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.

The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.

Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.

Cavs set single-game three-point record in blowout win over Hawks

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 4: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a three point jump shot over Kyle Korver #26 of the Atlanta Hawks during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena on May 4, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.

Nope.

The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.

The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.

18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:

That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.

LeBron James whips one-handed pass, leads to open Kevin Love three (VIDEO)

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 2: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers fights for a loose ball against Al Horford #15 and Kyle Korver #26 of the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena on May 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Hawks 104-93. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:

The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.

Report: J.B. Bickerstaff withdraws himself from consideration for Rockets’ coaching job

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 24: Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff of the Houston Rockets encourages his team in the seconf half against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center on April 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dowloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets are still searching for a head coach — with Jeff Van Gundy believed to be their top target — but it won’t be J.B. Bickerstaff, who has served as the team’s interim coach since they fired Kevin McHale in November. According to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bickerstaff has informed Rockets management that he’s no longer in consideration for the job:

After a meeting with ownership and the front office on Tuesday, Houston Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has informed team officials that he’s no longer a candidate for the head-coaching job, league sources told The Vertical.

Other NBA teams have started reaching out to Bickerstaff about lead assistant coaching positions, and that’s where he’s transitioned his focus, league sources said.

After the Rockets’ disappointing season and disastrous playoff performance — where they lost in five not-very-competitive games to a Stephen Curry-less Warriors —it makes sense that Bickerstaff would rather get a fresh start as an assistant somewhere else, where he could build up his credentials and be a more highly sought-after head coaching candidate in the future. He isn’t a big name, so he likely wouldn’t be able to command as much money as the Rockets’ head coach as a more established figure would be. Given the Rockets’ uncertain future with Dwight Howard almost certain to opt out and not a lot of long-term pieces around James Harden, it’s not the most stable job in the world.