New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

Three Stars of the Night: Go-Go Goran and a Game-Winner

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We had a pretty good slate of games on Thursday night, didn’t we?

The Knicks grinded out a combined 14-for-44 showing from Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith for a tough win against the Celtics, the Raptors had a little late game magic of their own against Orlando, and in the nightcap, the Suns stayed undefeated in the Lindsey Hunter era by upsetting the Clippers. We’re all about synergy, so we have stars for three games. To the stars:

Third Star: Rajon Rondo – (23 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists)

If Paul Pierce could catch the ball he may be a little higher, but so it goes. Rondo’s triple-double performance was pretty impressive, and his deadly mid-range jumper kept the Celtics alive late in the game. It’s a common misconception that Rondo “can’t shoot” but he’s actually just limited to where he can shoot. Rondo shoots over 50 percent from 16-23 feet, living on little pull-up jumpers from the elbow. If there’s a criticism of Rondo’s game this year (and there always is), it’s that he hasn’t been aggressive enough in going to the rim. There’s some weight to that — Rondo has barely shot more attempts at the basket than from 16-23 feet, but against the Knicks, he took it right to the rack with more frequency. Although his fourth triple-double this season wasn’t enough wasn’t enough, it’s hard to point the finger at Rondo for Boston’s failures this season.

Second Star: Goran Dragic – (24 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds)

With no Chris Paul to worry about, Dragic was masterful on the offensive end, often securing switches in the pick and roll and then blowing right by a big ill-equipped to stay in front of him. Dragic’s 19 point first half made the upset seem attainable for the Suns, and the momentum kept rolling after that. When Dragic is aggressive and looks to turn the corner, he’s capable of big scoring nights. You can count the good defensive performances the Suns have had on one hand this year, but defense often led to offense, and Dragic was the generator of most of the positive action all night. Dragic and the Suns are playing like they’ve started a new season (not like the Lakers, like an actual new season), and it’s hard not to feel good that they were rewarded with a win. They very clearly played harder than the Clippers did, but it was Dragic’s skill that made sure the effort wasn’t in vain.

First Star: DeMar DeRozan – (22 points, 7 assists, game-winning shot)

What a fourth quarter for DeRozan. After a lackluster performance through three periods, DeRozan started to get his jumper to fall in the final frame, and it led to a 14-point fourth quarter when the Raptors needed it most. Tying his career-high in assists (yes, it’s 7) was a nice bonus, but DeRozan’s spot as the top star was secured in a tie game with just four seconds on the clock. Witness:

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.