There’s a simple old coach’s axiom in basketball: Tall and good beats small and good. So tonight we look at the tall guys and give them their due with the three stars.
There were other candidates big and small who were worthy but just missed the cut: Carmelo Anthony (27 points 7 rebounds), Brandon Jennings (19 points, 19 assists), Amir Johnson (22 points, 14 rebounds), Stephen Curry (29 points, 7 assists) and Deron Williams (22 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds).
Third Star: LaMarcus Aldtridge(33 points, 11 rebounds)
This was the kind of performance that made you say, “maybe this guy should be an All-Star again this year.” On a night when Oklahoma City showed they can play great defense and smothered most Blazers players (Damian Lillard was 3-of-14 with Russell Westbrook hounding him) but Aldridge kept Portland in the contest. When he got the ball on the left side mid-post (or out farther but backed his man down) the Thunder had no answer. His 33 points came on 15-of-26 shooting.
Second Star: Dwight Howard (22 points, 14 rebounds)
Dwight Howard’s back has clearly been an issue this season, he has not been the same explosive player that dominated for Orlando. It felt like he may have come back too early following off-season back surgery.
That idea may have gotten a boost Sunday — after missing three games because of a torn labrum (shoulder), he returned with an extra bounce in his step. He had 10 points in the first quarter and set the tone for the game. Defensively he patrolled the paint and had the Cavs players adjusting shots or settling for jumpers. On offense he drew double teams (even when just rolling to the rim) that opened up the rest of the offense. That is the Howard the Lakers need.
First Star: Kevin Durant(33 points, 6 assists)
This was a “Kevin Durant is the MVP” kind of game. Oklahoma City does not beat Portland Sunday night without Durant. He pretty much carried them. You can kind of say a lot of nights, but Sunday it was ridiculously evident. On the night he scored 38 percent of his teams total points, and in the second half that jumped to 49 percent (he had 22 of his points after halftime). He has improved as a playmaker, as a ball handler and as a defender this season. It all showed Sunday.
DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)
Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.
Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.
Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft
Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.
Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.
Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.
Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.
There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.
But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.
Dwyane Wade wowed by jumping, around-the-back alley-oop pass in McDonald’s All-American Game (video)
“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”
Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?