Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls

Three Stars of the Night: Super Sub Edition

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The towel waver. The dancer. The 27-step handshake guy.  Every bench player has their role, but our Three Stars of the Night broke the mold and did a whole lot more than watch the starters. On a night where Brooklyn beat up on their big brother and the Hornets bested Chris Paul, anything seemed possible…so long as you weren’t a Wizard or a Bobcat. Only sadness was possible for them. But cheer up, kick your case of the Mondays to the curb, and check out the Three Stars of the Night: Super Sub Edition:

Third Star: Tiago Splitter (15 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists in 23 minutes)

Unless you’re some kind of crazy person (or Bradley Beal) you’ve probably already accepted the fact that the Washington Wizards are really, really bad. They’re the only winless team in basketball and it’s often uglier than the final score lets on. Against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that actually runs plays (a novel concept in Washington), the Wiz stood virtually no chance of winning. Likewise, no Spurs player had any chance of totaling a starter’s share of the minutes. But still, could you imagine what Tiago Splitter could have done with a full load? Splitter flirted with a triple-double and set a new career high for assists (7) in a game he played just 23 minutes. Doing some quick, possibly inaccurate number crunching (Math: not even once.), Splitter was on pace for about 23 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks had he received 36 minutes of time. Tiago Splitter was LeBron James tonight, which is something I plan on writing never again.

Second Star: Derrick Favors (19 points, 7 rebounds, GW free throws)

If you’re not watching Derrick Favors whenever you can, stop that. He’s like a young Amar’e Stoudemire that actually defends and doesn’t punch fire extinguishers. It’s not always easy to get him minutes, but Favors came up big down the stretch in a tight game against the Nuggets. After an Al Jefferson miss in a tie game with under a minute to play, Favors nabbed a huge offensive rebound and got fouled. After calmly sinking what would end up being the game-winning free throws, Favors grabbed a defensive rebound off Andre Miller’s miss and sealed the win with another big free throw.  It’s early, but Favors has some serious 6h Man of the Year appeal so long as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap stay put in Utah.

First Star: Ersan Ilyasova (18 points, 6 rebounds, 12 4th quarter points)

On a night where key subs shined, no team exemplified the theme of the night quite like the Milwaukee Bucks did. The Bucks, for all intents and purposes, were dead. They were down 27 points to the Chicago Bulls, who don’t let numbers go up on the scoreboard very easily. When Bucks head coach Scott Skiles trotted out his entire second unit to start the fourth quarter, it might have been mistaken by the Bulls for a white flag. While the Bulls let off the gas, the Udrih-Lamb-Dunleavy-Ilyasova-Udoh lineup played the entire fourth period – and with good reason. In a huge comeback win, Ilyasova scored 12 points in the fourth, which also happened to be all Chicago could muster in the game’s final period He may not have started the game, but Ilyasova sure finished it.

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.