LeBron James

LeBron, Pierce foul out of sadly whistle-happy game

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The biggest problem for the NBA is that the day after every major game we are discussing the officiating.

And the officiating — particularly late in Game 4 of Miami and Boston — was a key part of the story Sunday. There were five offensive foul calls in the second half of the fourth quarter and overtime. Joey Crawford and crew were not shy with the borderline calls. Both LeBron James and Paul Pierce fouled out offensive fouls.

Every fan base is sure the officials are out to screw them, and like any good conspiracy theory there is just enough “evidence” fuel the speculation. Thing is, in this case there were just a series of bad calls.

Like the call that fouled LeBron out of the game. LeBron was trying to establish post position and Mickael Pietrus pulled the chair. Both men fell. ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said you have to make some kind of call there, I say he’s wrong. No you don’t. LeBron picked up his fifth foul on a cop-out “double foul” call and fouled out on this.

LeBron had not fouled out of any game since 2008, which considering he draws some tough defensive assignments is an impressive feat. He had never fouled out of a playoff game. But in this game the calls were tight and there was no “play on.”

Pierce has fouled out three times in the last two series, which seems a strange trend but he’s picking up a lot of offensive fouls.

And he fouled out on one — he was coming across the lane, Shane Battier ran in front of him, Pierce did bring his arm up and Battier went down. Could have, should have been a no call in my book, but the whistle blew.

All game long it was like this. Ray Allen stepped out of bounds then passed to Keyon Dooling for a key first half three. On one play Pierce was fouled by LeBron, but only after Pierce had traveled to get the shot. That somehow was a no call.

And there was no shortage of flopping by both teams all night.

So we end up with another game where the NBA’s officiating is at the heart of the post-game conversation. This time it’s not Boston fans whining about perceived injustice (they shouldn’t this game, they caught some real breaks), it was just uneven all night.

And the bigger problem for the NBA is there are no easy answers out there.

There is not some magical pool of better officials out there the NBA is ignoring. (If you think so, you forgot what the scab refs looked like last labor fight.) More replay all game is not the answer. The game is fast and filled with big men and whatever the officials do they are wrong. “Superstars get all the calls” but then they call some on LeBron and Pierce and we point out they were not good calls. All we can ask for is consistency.

There just wasn’t any Sunday night.

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.