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Three Stars of the Night: Two Clippers and a certain someone from OKC

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Only two games on the slate on TNT Thursday, but we still managed to find three stellar performances nonetheless. And they all had dominant offensive performances.

Third Star: DeAndre Jordan (21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, in 28 minutes)

I was a bit disgusted with the way DeAndre Jordan handled himself on the bench late during Wednesday’s win over the Spurs, but it would be difficult to find any flaws in the way he performed in Portland on Thursday. Jordan was a dominant scorer from the low block, showing patience and solid footwork when making his moves to the basket. His athleticism was under control on this night, and he even hit five of his seven free throw attempts — which raised him to 38.5 percent now from the line for the season.

Since there are no embeddable highlights available from this game at the moment, go ahead and watch Jordan prank some folks with a large fake spider at Venice Beach. (Yeah, I don’t know, either.)

Second Star: Kevin Durant (24 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, game-sealing Dirk dagger)

The Bulls are one of the better defensive units in the league, so even without Derrick Rose, they’re still able to stay close with elite teams like the Thunder. OKC’s attack was balanced all night, until the fourth quarter came along and Kevin Durant decided it was winning time. Ten of Durant’s 24 came in the final period, none prettier than the one-legged fadeaway with under 20 seconds left that effectively sealed it.

First Star: Jamal Crawford (25 points on 9-of-17 shooting in 28 minutes off the bench)

Anytime a player returns to the place he played the previous season as a member of the opposing team, and leads his new team to victory while scoring more than everyone else in the building — and hearing the boos from the home crowd in the process — I’d say that’s a pretty stellar performance.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.