Three Stars of the Night: Sunday Scorers

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On a night where scoreboards were getting lit up like Christmas trees, it’s probably prudent to celebrate some of the league’s best scorers. Of course, any talk of scoring has to include league leaders Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, who both put up some gaudy totals (34 for Kobe, 27 for Durant) despite off shooting nights. That just illustrates how good those guys really are, but they still weren’t good enough for the Three Stars of the Night. Who was? Ignore your open co-worker and read on:

Third Star: Mo Williams – (22 points, 8 assists, 8-for-11 shooting)

Ah, a nod to efficiency. The Jazz dropped 117 points on the hapless Lakers defense, and Williams was the one orchestrating it all. Williams rarely gets enough credit for his ability to run an offense, which seems silly, especially when you consider Utah’s main sources of scoring are so dependent on him providing the ball in good spots. Williams was nearly flawless in that regard tonight, dishing out 9 assists to just one turnover in a relatively mistake-free game. Although he didn’t really get to show it after the Lakers oddly decided not to foul until there were four seconds left on the shot clock down 5 points, Williams provided a calming influence for a Jazz team that hasn’t produced quality road wins all year long.

Second Star: Carmelo Anthony – (34 points, 6 rebounds)

Sweet, sweet revenge. George Karl didn’t exactly bite his tongue after Anthony headed out to New York, so it’s not a surprise that Melo came back healthy right in time for this juicy revenge game. Anthony didn’t disappoint, as he bullied his way to the rim all night and drew contact whenever humanly possible (16 free throw attempts). Anthony’s performance seemed to reinforce two themes: he’s a matchup nightmare at the power forward when surrounded by shooters, and that the Nuggets have an issue when it comes to crunch time scoring. Although Danilo Gallinari (the main piece in the Melo trade) played very well for the Nuggets, Anthony outscored him 11-3 in the game’s final period to help keep the Knicks undefeated at home this season.

First Star: Brandon Jennings – (26 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 steals)

Ever since draft night, Jennings has had an infatuation with stealing the show in New York. Unfortunately for the Nets, that also extends to them now as well. Jennings put up a killer line, out-dueling Deron Williams with the aid of the PUJIT (pull up jumper in transition) that would make fellow lefty jump shooter and teammate Beno Udrih pretty proud. The East is a jumbled mess between seeds 4-8, and Milwaukee is included in that, but the Bucks have an identity that seems pretty bankable. They share the ball much more than you’d think, they block a ton of shots at the rim, and they seem to enjoy playing with each other. The future for Jennings in Milwaukee is still undecided, but it might be time for the Bucks to go for broke and acquire a smart frontcourt player who can really score in the post, share the ball, and add another element to their offense. Hmmm. Know of anyone who fits the description?

Kristaps Porzingis went off against Lakers: 37 points, 5 blocks (VIDEO)

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I’d say the Lakers didn’t have any answers for Kristaps Porzingis Tuesday night, but no team has an answer for Kristaps Porzingis when he is on.

And he was on vs. the Lakers: 37 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots. He also hit five triples (on just eight attempts). Check out the video above.

Despite all that it took overtime against an improving Lakers team to get the win for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers asked LaVar Ball to pull back on criticism of Luke Walton

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There’s so much transparent marketing happening with LaVar Ball that it’s often not worth the server space to type up what he says and post it. The father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is so breathlessly unexciting in his pitch for relevance in comparison to the actual happenings of the NBA, the irony of which is not unnoticed here.

Still, Mr. Ball has infrequently stepped out from his professional Uncle At a Barbeque cosplay to criticize the Lakers and coach Luke Walton. Mr. Ball has made it clear he thinks Lonzo should play more often, and in fourth quarters. That hasn’t been productive for either side, and it appears that the team has asked Mr. Ball to pull back on openly criticizing Walton.

According to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the team and Mr. Ball met to discuss their relationship in November.

Via ESPN:

The meeting, which took place within the past few weeks, was called by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.

LaVar Ball confirmed the meeting took place, telling ESPN, “It was the best thing, man. Everybody’s going to try to make it an ego thing, like I’m trying to tell them what to do or they’re trying to tell me to tone it down. It’s not about that. It’s about coming together and to get a solution to this problem.

“It may sound crazy to other people, but I really just want the best for Lonzo, and the best for Lonzo is going to be what’s best for the organization. Because if everybody winning, we good.”

“I’m going to say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it,” Ball said. “And they said, ‘LaVar, come and talk to us first.’ So that’s fine too.

“But I am going to say, to plant a seed, ‘Let’s look for this now.’ They may not want to hear that, but it’s going to be successful if you listen to what I’m saying on that fact that I know what it takes for my son to run like this.”

Mr. Ball’s influence on his son is unique, but the team is far more than an avenue for Lonzo to play basketball. Indeed, Lonzo is not even one the best two or three players on the Lakers. The organization needs to function at a professional level and doesn’t need Mr. Ball to achieve that. Sidestepping any Whataboutism in the face of sketchy NBA decisionmaking — Phil Jackson, the Bulls front office, any Billy King trade, Isiah Thomas, etc. — it’s not immediately clear that Mr. Ball agrees.

It’s got to be a hassle for Walton to have to deal with this type of thing. The team started enforcing an existing rule a rule recently that stops members of the media from congregating in the same area where NBA friends and family are after a game, but it’s unlikely that will stop reporters from ambulance-chasing Ball any time soon.

Lonzo has remained in LA, which is exactly what Mr. Ball wanted when his son went to UCLA. The younger Ball has struggled a bit, but he’s part of an energetic young core that’s on the up in a tough conference. Lonzo is even leading the team in assists. But Mr. Ball persists in stepping where he’s unqualified, presumably as a means to continue his guerilla marketing campaign (or perhaps motivated by it). LaVar doesn’t realize his work is done — Lonzo is a Laker — and he should let 16 championship trophies in the No. 2 TV market in the country take it from here.

Instead, Mr. Ball produces the most boring and uninspiring stories week after week. This is the league where major free agents break their legs in the first five minutes of play with their new team, where MVPs sign with the best team of all-time after they’ve already won a championship, and where the best player of all-time gives you a crucial chasedown block in Game 7 of the Finals. Nothing Mr. Ball can do will ever be interesting in the grand scheme of the NBA.

Meanwhile, the Lakers and the New York Knicks actually played a pretty wild OT game on Tuesday. If only that were what we could all concentrate on.

Watch the Knicks and Lakers make every shot for 2 straight minutes of game clock

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Tuesday night’s game between the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers was a good one, with the teams going-back-and-forth all night. In an OT game that came down to the wire, a sequence in the third quarter was perhaps indicative of the kind of contest it was in Madison Square Garden.

Starting with a little more than six minutes to go in the third the teams traded eight consecutive baskets while MSG rose to an accompanying fever pitch.

The whole sequence was pretty hilarious, and lent to that feeling you get sometimes while watching competitive NBA games of complete exhilaration.

Via Twitter:

The gap spanned from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s missed 3-pointer with 6:21 left to Brook Lopez‘s missed shot with 3:51 to go.

New York wound up winning in OT, 113-109.

Joel Embiid says he thinks people are about to start hating him

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Philadelphia 76ers have been the Twitter darlings of the NBA for the past few years. Thanks to former general manager Sam Hinkie and the tanking process, guys like Joel Embiid have become even more admired now that the team is in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Of course, players like Embiid are part of the generation that is always online, and the fact that they play in the NBA doesn’t keep them from participating in social media with their contemporaries. Embiid has a great Twitter feed, and is often out on it trying to get dates from the likes of Rihanna while trolling other NBA stars on Instagram.

Of course, as we’ve seen with players in the past, good fortune does not always shine forever. Indeed, conscious of this fact, Embiid as much to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne during a recent interview.

Via ESPN:

People love you at the beginning,” Embiid explains. “But at some point they’re gonna start hating you. LeBron. Russell Westbrook. All the superstars. Even Steph. He’s so likable. He does nothing wrong, but some people still hate him. It just comes with the nature of it. I’ve seen it.

“I feel like I’m about to go through it. I think it’s coming. People always want something new.”

The ups and downs of how NBA fandom changes the perception of certain players is fascinating, and some even try to directly manipulate that. And indeed, while Embiid is certainly hilarious on social media, the best thing to keep fans at bay will be him staying on the floor and playing games for the Sixers.

Let’s hope that keeps happening and nobody turns on him anytime soon.