Three Stars of the Night: The Butler did it

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Four games, three stars on a Sunday night. As always there are some honorable mention guys left out — Tony Parker with his 21, Monta Ellis with 30 points and 9 assists, and Al Jefferson with 30 against the Clippers front line almost made the cut. But instead, it’s an all-perimeter guys three stars tonight.

Third Star: Tayshaun Prince (20 points, including game winning free throws).

Someone in the comments will tell me that Monta Ellis deserved to be here, and he had a great game including the shot that put the Bucks up two with 1:06 left in the game. But Tayshaun is here because of what happened on the two possessions after Ellis tied this game — the Pistons went to Prince and went with isolation sets. On the first one he backed Monta Ellis down into the paint and hit a hook shot over him to tie it up. Next time down, with 10 seconds left he backed his man down, spun into the lane and drew the foul on the help defender. Then sank two free throws to give the Pistons a quality win at home.

Second Star: DeMarcus Cousins (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists)

This is the first career triple-double for Cousins as he had a big night against the Celtics front line — and this is why other teams are interested in him despite his off-the-court issues and fights with coaches. Cousins is talented and that is beyond question. What was impressive is Cousins’ shot was not falling (4-of-12 shooting) but he compensated by dishing assists and also making some key defensive plays to lift the Kings over the Celtics.

First: Caron Butler (29 points, 6-of-6 from three)

The Clippers are up to 17 wins in a row and the Clips can thank Butler, who had 17 of his points in the first quarter and another dozen in the third against the Jazz Sunday.

In a sense I should put Chris Paul here because he made this happen — Butler is not one of the go-to Clippers scorers (9.5 points a game), but he was knocking down everything and CP3 kept feeding him the rock. Butler was 6-of-6 from three and had his 29 points on just 14 shots. But he also hit them at key times — he hit a big three in the third quarter as the Jazz were starting to close in.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.