Three Stars of the Night: All you need is Love

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So the Mayans had it wrong, and The Beatles had it right. To end the Thunder’s winning streak, all the Wolves needed was Love (of the Kevin variety) and maybe some bruising play from Nikola Pekovic, some serious playmaking from Alexey Shved, and a pinch of J.J. Barea. Having Russell Westbrook join Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club with 28 shot attempts and 8 turnovers didn’t hurt either. The Nuggets, meanwhile, had a hard day’s night, setting a record for NBA futility. As for The Heatles (ugh) against the Mavericks? They had a ticket to ride. How about you say goodbye to all the Beatles stuff, and I’ll say hello to Three Stars:

Third Star: J.J. Barea – (18 points, 14 in the 4th quarter)

With Ricky Rubio’s minutes still being limited, the Wolves turned to J.J. Barea in the fourth period against Oklahoma City. Barea regularly shifts from truly awful to absolutely fantastic on a nightly basis, but luckily for the Wolves, they got good Barea against the league’s best team. Barea’s irrational confidence was off the charts against the Thunder, and the impossible 3-pointers he fired up just seemed to keep falling. I don’t know if “irritating” can be considered a positive trait in a player, but Barea has it in spades. After he baited Kevin Durant into an offensive fall with his signature flop move, Durant lost his cool and picked up a technical foul. How often does that happen? Probably about as often as a J.J. Barea offensive explosion does, but it’s certainly not a coincidence that it came in the same game.

Second Star: Dwyane Wade – (19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)

After a slow start to the year, Wade is getting back in the groove of things and making the same plays only he makes. There are only a few players who control their bodies on drives as well as Wade does (Manu Ginobili is one, Brandon Roy was the other), so it was nice to see Wade get six field goals right at the rim and help keep O.J. Mayo from getting there on the other end. As a nice little bonus, Wade recorded the best single game plus/minus number of his career at +40. With Wade firing on all cylinders, Miami is climbing back into the upper echelon on both ends of the ball.

First Star: Kevin Love – (28 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists)

Kevin Love is a shotblocker’s worst nightmare. Not because of his vertical leap (obviously), but because he makes rim protectors betray their instincts every time down the floor. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are conditioned to protect the rim. In transition, they run to the rim. When someone else gets beat, they run to the rim. It’s who they are as basketball players. But when you’re guarding Kevin Love, you just can’t do those things. Oklahoma City’s bigs got caught cheating off Love far too often (4-for-9 from 3-point land), and they allowed him too much of a window to throw some nice dimes (7 assists). With Pekovic doing his bull in a china shop routine and Love demanding attention on the perimeter and on the offensive glass, Minnesota is a handful for any frontcourt.

Salah Mejri kicks at Patty Mills as Mavericks and Spurs leave court for halftime (video)

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Mavericks center Salah Mejri has a history of agitating, including against the Spurs.

Two years ago, Mejri dunked while Dallas got blown out by San Antonio and yapped at the Spurs bench – drawing laughter from Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. Last season, Mejri had Trevor Ariza and other Rockets trying to confront him after reportedly saying something about Ariza’s family.

In the Mavericks’ win over the Spurs on Tuesday, Mejri got into it with Patty Mills.

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

Mejri and Rudy Gay received double technical fouls, and Mejri went to the bench. Everything could have cooled down at halftime, but Mejri escalated tension

Watch the full sequence above, but the key moment:

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That’ll probably draw a fine.

NBA introducing 2-for-1 All-Star voting days

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
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The NBA changed its All-Star format this season from East vs. West to captain-picked teams (though still naming players equally from each conference).

That apparently wasn’t a big enough overhaul.

After including media and player votes last year, the league is making All-Star starter selection even more complex.

NBA release:

NBA All-Star Voting 2018 presented by Verizon will tip off with an early voting period exclusively on the NBA App and NBA.com beginning Thursday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. ET.

Voting via all other channels, including Amazon Alexa for the first time, will launch on Monday, Dec. 25 at 11 a.m.

Additionally, new for this season, five “2-for-1 Days” will allow fans to have their votes count twice on Dec. 31, Jan. 4, Jan. 11, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15 when voting through the NBA App and NBA.com, along with Sina Weibo and Tencent in China.  All “2-for-1 Days” will be designated 12 a.m. – 11:59 p.m. ET.

TNT will reveal the All-Star Game starters, including the two captains, on Thursday, Jan. 18 during TNT NBA Tip-Off

The network will announce the reserves, as selected by NBA head coaches, on Tuesday, Jan. 23 during TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET. 

The team rosters for NBA All-Star Game 2018 in Los Angeles will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. ET.

I suppose this is to drum up interest on otherwise quiet voting days. After all, this is really just about the NBA selling itself.

But the All-Star voting process has always left something to be desired. I don’t see how this changes that.

Report: Lakers ‘longshot’ to sign LeBron James

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Preeminent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski called it “likelyLeBron James would sign with the Lakers or Clippers next summer. The Clippers have since been somewhat debunked as a LeBron destination. There’s circumstantial evidence linking LeBron to Los Angeles.

Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources.

Shelburne and Windhorst are highly credible. I doubt they’d report this without connected sources.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have recently publicly downplayed the importance of Los Angeles to LeBron. That felt like a coordinated attack on the LeBron-Lakers rumors, and this fits as a continuation.

But why wage that campaign? To keep the Cavaliers focused while LeBron still plays for them, even if he might leave after the season? To lower expectations among the Lakers’ massive fan base, so as not alienate those people (potential customers of the many LeBron-connected brands) when LeBron inevitably signs elsewhere? Both could be true, but there’s obviously a difference between each driving LeBron’s camp.

DeMarcus Cousins barrels in for powerful putback dunk over Bucks (video)

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When DeMarcus Cousins builds up a head of steam like this… poor John Henson (and kind of Khris Middleton).

This helped the Pelicans pull away for a 115-108 win over the Bucks last night.