Dwight Howard, Jonas Jerebko

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.

Lou Williams hits halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Yeah, the Lakers lost to the Rockets, 134-95, Wednesday. But consider how lopsided that margin would’ve been without Lou Williams‘ halfcourt buzzer-beater.

And if this headline looks familiar, it is.

LeBron James, Cavaliers do water-bottle challenge on bench during blowout win over Knicks (video)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson entertain themselves by flipping a water bottle trying to get it to land on it's flat bottom during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 126-94, and most starters left the game for the bench at the end of the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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LeBron James did his part – scoring 25 points (on just 10 shots!), dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds – to give the Cavaliers an insurmountable lead over the Knicks through three quarters. So, he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

As Cleveland put the finishing touches on its 126-94 win, boredom set it. LeBron and a few of his teammates tried to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor. LeBron even dove onto the court to pull the bottle back in after an errant flip!

No, Phil Jackson should not have used the word “posse” to describe LeBron’s business associates and friends. But this is the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen – and I love it.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.