Three Stars of the Night: Carmelo tops LeBron, Kobe

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Three of the games biggest stars make the list on Sunday night, but when Carmelo Anthony is in the zone he’s as good as it gets. And the Knicks are hard to beat.

Third Star: LeBron James (34 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists)

His team didn’t win, but they wouldn’t have made it to overtime if he didn’t track down a missed three and sink one of his own to send it to overtime. And his team wouldn’t even have been close enough for that three to matter if he hadn’t put up a monster line, although he did need 31 shots to get his 34 points. This was another night when LeBron was fantastic and didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates.

Second Star: Kobe Bryant (21 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds)

To everyone saying “see what happens when Kobe finally passes the ball” I would say there are two parts to an assist — making the pass and the guy hitting the shot. Kobe made a lot of unrewarded passes earlier this season. But the Lakers have basically put Kobe at the point and moved Steve Nash off the ball for the past couple games and Kobe is thriving — Kobe has more assists than shot attempts for two straight games. And the Lakers look the best they have all season. Give the man credit.

First Star: Carmelo Anthony (42 points, 5 rebounds)

The Knicks defense could not stop the Hawks all game (Atlanta shot 60 percent), but New York got the win because they had Anthony reminding everyone he is one of the best scorers on the planet. Anthony had nine three pointers on his way to 42 points. Then with 12.5 seconds left in a tie game he isolated on Josh Smith, got around him and made the game-winning layup, drawing the foul at the same time. For those of you scoring at home, that is 29 consecutive 20 point games for Anthony.

Interviewer: LeBron James wasn’t dissing Kyrie Irving

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LeBron James on Isaiah Thomas, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

“It’s been a while since I’ve had that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time,” James told B/R Mag.

That looked like a shot at Kyrie Irving. But with more context, it clearly wasn’t.

Beck:

It seems LeBron was saying it’s been a while that he’s had “that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time.” If he was slighting Kyrie Irving, LeBron was also slighting Dwyane Wade – and I doubt LeBron would do that.

LeBron and Kyrie probably aren’t above taking subtle shots at each other. But this seems like a case of Beck, after hearing LeBron’s words aloud and in context, not realizing how a trimmed version would read as text. It’s unfortunate that people initially got the wrong impression, but good on Beck for clearing it up.

Missouri: Potential No. 1 pick Michael Porter Jr. likely out for rest of season

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Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. – maybe the top contender to supplant European guard Luka Doncic as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft – had his campaign undercut after it barely began.

Missouri Basketball:

Michael Porter, Jr. will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Nov. 21, in Dallas, Texas. The procedure, a microdiscectomy of the L3 and L4 spinal discs, has a projected recovery time of three-four months and will likely cause him to miss the remainder of the season. Michael is expected to make a complete recovery

With that timeline, it’s possible Porter returns late in Missouri’s NBA season. But as an elite draft prospect stuck in a cartel system that caps his compensation well below market value, he should probably be cautious.

Porter will likely still go high in the draft – if his medicals check out. This is is a serious injury, and teams will be wary off long-term effects.

But he’s a top talent, and the forward shouldn’t slip far. In fact, in a strange way, this injury could even help him. There were questions about Porter’s ability to handle physicality and tight spaces when the game slows down, challenges he would have met frequently in college basketball. Now, scouts can’t pick apart those aspects of his game. Logically or not, NBA teams tend to favor the unknown in the draft, and Porter is on his way to being one of the biggest mysteries near the top of the 2018 draft.

Kevin Durant reverses course: Playing Thunder ‘just a regular game for me now’

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Kevin Durant said last season playing the Thunder is “never going to be a regular game for me.”

Now, the Warriors star, who’s questionable for tomorrow’s game in Oklahoma City, is singing a different tune.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Durant:

Just a regular game for me now. I learned how to tune out the crowd. I learned how to tune out the bulls— and just play. Just keep at basketball, and I’ll be alright.

Durant is entitled to change his mind, and maybe that’s all that happened.

But this strikes me as yet another chasm between how Durant actually feels and how he wishes he felt – all while facing immense public scrutiny.

Durant spent eight years in Oklahoma City. Many of his former teammates, including Russell Westbrook, are still there. Durant might want to move on, but how could there not be a different feeling when playing the Thunder, especially in Oklahoma City?

Tony Allen: Russell Westbrook flopped to draw DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins got ejected from the Pelicans’ win over the Thunder last night for elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head.

Afterward, Tony Allen came to his New Orleans teammate’s defense.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

Did Cousins elbow Westbrook in the head? Yes. Did Westbrook create and/or embellish the contact? I don’t know.

Westbrook stuck his head in close, and he might have been baiting Cousins into a foul. But that doesn’t give Cousins carte blanche to commit a foul.

And even if Westbrook were baiting Cousins, the elbow still might have hurt. Westbrook’s reaction could have been genuine.

Did Cousins’ reputation as a flagrant fouler influence Westbrook’s strategy and how officials perceived the play? It’s much easier to convince me of that.