Three Stars of the Night: Big stars earn the stars on Sunday

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We at PBT love the underdogs, the little guys, the players who make the contributions you don’t as quickly notice. But the NBA’s biggest stars are stars for a reason. And Sunday it was some of the NBA’s biggest names showing you why they get paid the big bucks.

Third Star: Kevin Martin, 28 points on 11 shots.

We have a Kevin Martin sighting in Oklahoma City — for the first time this season he found a groove and looked comfortable on the court. Especially in the first half, when he got 22 of his points. He was 6-of-8 from beyond the arc.

The last of Martin’s points came with just over four minutes left in the game, cutting the Thunder deficit to the Hawks to two, 91-89. Then Martin didn’t touch the ball the rest of the way — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played catch on the strong side while Martin stood ignored just a skip pass away. And the Hawks won. Still, Martin seems to have found some level of comfort in OKC.

Second Star: Carmelo Anthony, 27 points on 18 shots, 5 rebounds

I don’t want to say Carmelo Anthony should play the four all season but… did you see him against the Sixers? This was arguably as complete a game as he is played since he came to New York, a game where he contributed at both ends. On offense he just seemed to always make the right play — passing out of doubles, driving when guys pressured him and when they backed off he took the jumper. It was a thing of beauty. And if you want to see what I mean by him playing an all-around game, here you go.

First Star: Dwight Howard, 28 points and 7 rebounds.

Now that’s the Howard Lakers fans expected to see. The Lakers seemed to simplify their offense, Kobe Bryant directed it and the result was the Lakers pounded the ball inside to Dwight Howard as much as they could. Howard got his 28 points on 12-of-14 shooting, he was much more crisp with his rotations and movement on the defensive end as well.

In case you think he’s hurting and the big problem in L.A., Howard has averaged 23.3 points per game on 68.8 percent shooting, plus 9.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game this season. Wait until he gets healthy.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.