Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns

Nuggets Martin not down with defensive plan on Durant

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When was the last time you heard a player call out his own coach’s playoff defensive strategy?

Meet Kenyon Martin.

He watched Kevin Durant drop 41 on the Nuggets in Game 1 of the playoffs, hitting 13-of-22 shots and just dropping it in from everywhere on the court (he was 6-of-10 from the midrange and 3-of-6 from three). That after Durant had his way with the Nuggets a couple times near the end of the regular season.

Martin wants Durant to get the Kobe treatment, he told the Denver Post.

“Make him (pass it to) some one else. If you have him and (Russell) Westbrook on the court the same time, make Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka make plays. Run somebody at these guys. I don’t agree with (one-on-one) – we don’t let Kobe play one-on-one when we play him, no matter where he is on the court, so why would you let Kevin Durant play one-on-one.”

As Martin told The Denver Post on Sunday night, he believes that Denver’s small guards should not be the ones defending Durant.

“He shot right over Ray (Felton) like there was nobody guarding him,” Martin elaborated on Monday. “It doesn’t matter who you are, even if you’re the toughest defender in the world, (if you’re 6-1), he’s going to shoot right over him. You got to try something different, run somebody at him. Pick-and-roll? Jump on him. For three games, he’s been having his way with us – and I’m not comfortable with it.”

Kevin Durant has his way with a lot of people. The Nuggets, like most teams, don’t have a guy who can hang with a 6’10” player with good handles and quickness who can drain the three or post up.

But Martin is right — the Thunder’s offense is all about two guys and while Durant and Westbrook are going to get theirs no matter what, you want to make somebody else beat you. If James Harden goes off for 30+ and the Thunder win, you live with it. But try to keep it away from Durant.

However, Denver’s team style since the trade really hasn’t played like that. They may need to change it. They need to change something. While Denver made a real game of it Sunday, the fact is the Nuggets have played the Thunder three times in the last few weeks and lost every time. Three more times and their season is over. They have to do something, and slowing Durant is part of that.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.

Derrick Jones Jr. catches pass off side of backboard, jams between-legs dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — With defending runner-up Aaron Gordon eliminated in the first round, Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. might be our best hope to save the dunk contest.