Three Stars of the Night: Almost Perfect

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You never know when it’s going to be one of those nights. You know, when regardless of what you do the shots just fall. It doesn’t matter if it’s a twisting drive to the rim, a deep three pointer, or your standard pull up from the elbow. Some nights the rim just seems bigger. Tonight, we honor three guys who really had it going; three guys who whenever the ball left their hands, you thought the ball was going in. Let’s get to it…

Third Star: David West (29 points, 11-18 shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks)

When we talk about all-star snubs, it’s a wonder David West’s name doesn’t come up more often. Maybe it’s because his numbers don’t jump out at you or the fact that he doesn’t play a flashy game. Or maybe it’s just because his consistency is just a bit…boring. Whatever the reason, we shouldn’t let it distract us from the fact that West is really very good. Against the Bulls, West showed why scoring from all over the floor with his patented arsenal of mid-range jumpers and power post ups. West’s presence became so forceful that the Bulls started to send a second defender his way and he ended up just passing to open teammates for assists (or making the pass that led to the pass that became the assist). Other Pacers may have had the more highlight worthy plays, but it was West that was the catalyst for their win over their division rival.

Second Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 12-17 shooting, 13 rebounds, 5 assists)

Aldridge once again showed why he’s an all-star with a fantastic two way performance against the Timberwolves. He dazzled with his typical array of made jumpers, making minced meat of any defender that was tossed at him with either a face up shot or a post up that turned into a turnaround (that he sunk over either shoulder). At the end of the game, when the ‘Wolves made a fantastic run to get the game within a single point, it was Aldridge who sunk a deep two from the right wing to give the Blazers a 3 point cushion. On top of his shot making however, it was his defense that really saved the day. On back to back possessions, he snuffed out two Minnesota scoring chances, once contesting a Ricky Rubio short jumper that would have tied the game and again on the Wolves last possession by contesting a Dante Cunningham shot that would have tied the game at the buzzer.

First Star: LeBron James (31 points, 13-14 shooting, 8 rebounds, 8 assists)

What more can really be said about LeBron at this point? He truly is the most dominant force in the game today. Against a game Bobcats team, LeBron dominated the paint by relentlessly attacking the rim via post ups, drives, and in transition. No defender could stay between LeBron and the rim and continuously made the ‘Cats pay by not settling for anything less than a high percentage look. The best part about his game, though, was the fact that he dominated late in a game that was close down the stretch. LeBron scored 10 of his 31 points in the final period, while also dishing out 3 key assists when the defense tried to collapse on him. When it was winning time, it was LeBron that took over and made it so his team would leave the arena victorious.

Paul George on return to Indiana Wednesday: “For whatever reason, I’ll be booed”

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This week is the Oklahoma City Thunder’s “you can’t go home again” week of the schedule. On Saturday night, Carmelo Anthony will return to New York where Knicks fans should welcome him with cheers and open arms — he meant a lot to that franchise in recent years — but may very well not.

First up, however, Paul George returns to Indiana in a Thunder uniform Wednesday night.

There’s little doubt how he will be greeted by Indiana fans, who felt betrayed by a man they stuck by through recovery from a severe injury. George knows what is coming,

Here are the key lines from PG13:

“Boos. I honestly wouldn’t think it would be any other way. The Pacers fans outweigh the Paul George fans. That’s what I’m looking forward to. For whatever reason, I’ll be booed, but I’m gonna embrace that. I’m gonna thrive on that.”

For whatever reason? You asked to be traded and fans take that personally. There is no loyalty in sports — I have no problem with players asking out because teams show no hesitancy in dumping players they no longer have a use for (and fans are almost always good with that) — but he had to know how this would be taken in Indiana.

What George might want to worry about is stopping the red-hot Victor Oladipo (he averaged 35.7 points per game last week), because he and the Pacers are playing better than the Thunder right now.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN: