Kevin Durant wins 2012 All-Star MVP, West beats East 152-149

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The 2012 NBA All-Star game started off as a blowout, but ended up being competitive to the final possession. Kevin Durant and LeBron James tied for the game-high in scoring with 36 points each, but Durant got the MVP nod as his West squad held on to win in exciting fashion, 152-149.

Durant started off hot with 13 first-quarter points, with his Thunder head coach Scott Brooks playing him the entire period as he does in his regular rotation in games that count. He had 21 by halftime and 34 after three, and finished 14-of-25 from the field with seven rebounds and three assists.

“It’s just exciting to be named to All-Star, but to step it up to another level and become MVP, it’s only something that as a kid you dream about,” Durant said afterward.

Durant played a game-high 17 minutes, which he said he knew was coming, as he and his coach had been discussing it for the past couple of weeks. He knew early on he had a shot at the trophy.

“After the first quarter,” Durant said, when asked when he thought the MVP might be within reach. “You know, I had a rhythm going. Guys were feeding me. I hit a few shots, and I was being aggressive. We had a good lead, as well. I had an idea that I can get the award, but with so many great players on the floor, you never know what can happen. But I’m glad I’m taking it home.”

Durant was deserving of the MVP, but he was quiet in the fourth quarter with just two points on two shots. Maybe that’s why the East was able to close the gap.

The West led by 19 points at halftime, and set an All-Star game record for most points in the process. Things changed in the third quarter, and Dwyane Wade let it be known that the East was going to compete. He took an unusually hard foul on Kobe Bryant, smacking Bryant in the nose and actually drawing blood — something which may have been a first in the mid-season exhibition.

“I obviously didn’t try to draw no blood, but I took a foul,” Wade said afterward. “Kobe fouled me two times in a row, so he’s still got one up on me. But I’m glad that everything was cool and we got back to being competitive and having fun.”

Most of the rest of the game from that point was fun only for the East, and especially Wade’s Miami Heat teammate, LeBron James. While Wade finished with a rare All-Star game triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, James got hot from three-point distance, knocking down five out of six from downtown in the second half to bring the East roaring all the way back to within two points with 16.3 seconds remaining.

Deron Williams had a shot to win it, popping out to the three-point line for a clean look that just didn’t fall. The East had one more chance after Williams secured his own rebound, but James turned it over, trying to find a teammate in the paint while Kobe Bryant was defending. He said afterward that Bryant gave him a hard time for not stepping up to take that final shot.

“Yeah, he was telling me to shoot it,” James said. “I seen my teammate open for a split second, I told him I seen him open the first time and I didn’t release the ball. When I tried to throw it late, that’s what usually happens and it results in a turnover. Definitely wish I could have that one back.”

Bryant started off the game by making his first four shots, and finished by doing what he does: forcing tough, contested fadeaway jump shots with defenders in his face and the game on the line. Bryant finished second to Durant on his team in scoring with 27 points, and with a breakaway two-handed slam dunk in the third, passed Michael Jordan in the record books to become the All-Star game’s all-time leading scorer.

The game featured its fair share of sensational plays from just about everyone who was interested — Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and several others. Noticeably absent from the highlight reel was Orlando’s Dwight Howard, who appeared disinterested and was going at it in a lower gear than everyone else for most of the night. (Need proof? Look no further than his zero-of-four shooting … from three-point land.)

Overall, the game delivered. The exciting plays were there, as were the intensity and competition the players displayed in taking the outcome down to the night’s final possession.

And there was Kevin Durant, taking home his first All-Star game MVP.

“I keep saying it, but I’m excited I got it, and I’m glad I get to celebrate this with my family and my teammates and everyone in Oklahoma City,” he said. “We’ll see if I get another one down the line.”

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).