Miami Heat LeBron James looks on during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland

Three Stars of the Night: LeBron’s milestones steal the night

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Every night in the NBA offers some sort of impressive performance. Three Stars attempts to filter through them and give you, the reader, a chance to know who did what the best.

But on some nights, it’s about more than one game’s worth of work that makes up a performance. Tonight is one such night.

Because while some guys went for season highs (we’ll tell you about one in a second) and another became unguardable by catching fire from mid-range (we’ll tell you about him too), tonight was more about a decade’s worth of work coming to a head in a single night and culminating with some eye popping numbers.

Without further ado, here are our three stars:

Third Star: Russell Westbrook (32 points, 12-20 FG’s, 4 assists)

At first glance, Westbrook’s numbers are impressive but don’t necessarily stand out. And then when you realize that he only played 28 minutes in this game and was part of a hot start that helped to bury a very good Denver Nugget team, it becomes more impressive. Westbrook started out hot, scoring 16 points in the first period (the Nuggets as a team had 18) and 25 in the first half. Westbrook absolutely blitzed Denver with his mid-range jumper and then exploited a defense worried about that shot by getting all the way to the rim to score there too. On nights like this, Westbrook shows why he’s one of the elite players in the league and mutes his critics.

Second Star: Carlos Boozer (36 points, 12 rebounds, 16-24 shooting)

It’s not been discussed very much, but lately Carlos Boozer has been playing very well and tonight he continued that trend against the Raptors. In what ended up being a very close game that Bulls tried to give away, Boozer was the main reason the Bulls were up big in the first place and the key they didn’t fall all the way behind and lose this game in regulation. By bullying his way close to the basket, Boozer set up shop in the paint and scored easily. When he wasn’t camping down low, he hit his mid-range jumper to keep the Raptors off-balance. His 36 points represent a season high and when combined with his work on the glass, the Bulls surely would have been on the wrong end of the scoreboard without him tonight. I guess the only extra thing Boozer could have done was hit the game winner, but that honor belonged to Luol Deng:

First Star: LeBron James (25 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds)

Ho-hum. Just another night at the shop for LeBron, falling 3 rebounds shy of a triple double while putting his imprint on the game in every way imaginable. Dominant defense? Check. Great shot making? Check. Setting up his teammates for easy shots close to the rim and wide open jumpers from behind the arc? Check. But it wasn’t just LeBron showing off his versatility that made tonight special. No, it was the fact that in the process of manhandling the Warriors, LeBron scored his 20,000th career point and handed out his 5,000th assist. James became the youngest player to break the 20K barrier (besting Kobe Bryant). A special night for a special, special player.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—’ (video)

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Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.

Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”

You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.

Russell Westbrook commits epic travel (video)

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Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.

The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.

And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:

Are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on speaking terms after apparent conversation? Westbrook: ‘Nah’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.

That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.

Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.

ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.

After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:

 

  • Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
  • Westbrook: “Nah.”
  • Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
  • Westbrook: “What exchange?”
  • Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
  • Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”

This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.

That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.

I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.