James Harden

Harden, Westbrook, Bosh to highlight 2013 All-Star Shooting Stars Challenge

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All-Star Saturday night once again will start off with the Sears Shooting Stars challenge — the event where NBA stars, retired NBA legends and some WNBA players (who often are the best shooters of the group in the event) have to drain a series of shots, ending with a half courter.

You know, the event where you go get chips, salsa and another a beer and miss half of it, then come back to see the half court shots.

Maybe you should watch the entire thing this year, the NBA has an interesting lineup. Some real shooters who could make the event interesting.

There will be four teams of three, two representing the West and two the East.

For the Western Conference it will be NBA players James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder participating. Those two will be busy all weekend — Friday night they coach the celebrity game, Saturday night they are Shooting Stars, then Sunday they are in the All-Star Game itself.

Joining Westbrook and Harden for the West are WNBA stars Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm’s Tina Thompson (the WNBA all-time leading scorer); plus two NBA legends who know how to knock down big shots — Sam Cassell and Robert Horry.

For the East, the NBA with big men who can shoot — Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat and Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets. They will be joined by WNBA stars Swin Cash of the Chicago Sky, and Tamika Catchings (the WNBA Finals MVP from Indiana), plus NBA legends Muggsy Bogues, and Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins,

The Sears Shooting Stars challenge places six spots on the floor (with increasing difficulty) where the team of three (one NBA player, one WNBA and one legend) has to knock down a shot. They rotate through the shots in order (if Westbrook misses the free throw Moore quickly shoots it next) and they have to knock down the shot before moving on to the next space. The event is timed, whoever does it the fastest wins.

This is part of the All-Star Saturday night events which includes the Slam Dunk Competition, Three Point Shootout, Skills Competition and more. It will be broadcast live on TNT.

Three Hawks lose uncontested rebound out of bounds (video)

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How did Mike Scott, Mike Dunleavy and Malcolm Delaney fail to secure this rebound?

No wonder the Hawks lost to a Clippers team playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

James Harden makes impressive chase-down block. Really. (video)

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If we’re going to post all of James Harden‘s defensive lowlights, it’s only fair to acknowledge this impressive block.

Please overlook the fact that Jason Terry is 39 years old.

Steven Adams posterizes Rudy Gobert AND Derrick Favors with one thunderous dunk (video)

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Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors form an impressive defensive tandem that usually walls off the paint.

If there were any walls here, Steven Adams jumped right over them.

Video Breakdown: How Kyle Lowry dismantles NBA defenses from 3-point range

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Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry is arguably the team’s best player thanks in large part to his increase in 3-point shooting ability this season. He’s just above 43 percent from deep this year, much better than his career average of 36 percent. Lowry has increased his 3-point percentage six points over last season, and he’s a big part of why the Raptors are so good on offense, and why they’re a contender in the Eastern Conference.

So how does he do it?

Watch the full video breakdown on Lowry’s 3-point shooting above, or read the text version of the article below.

Early Offense

I looked at a lot of tape of Lowry over the last 3 years and he hasn’t changed much on his shot mechanics. There’s no big change in his sweep or sway toward the basket when he shoots, and he still brings the ball up from his left side.

Part of his leap is be how quickly he’s getting his shots off and how many of his early offense field goal attempts come in the form of 3-pointers.

Lowry has bumped up how many 3-pointers he’s taken in the early offense, recorded here as between 24 and 15 seconds on the shot clock. Year-over-year he’s taken nearly eight percent more of his field goals as three pointers in this range.

This takes form on the court in a couple of ways, both in transition on the fast break and on quick 1 or 2 dribble pull ups off the pick-and-roll.

Transition

With the ball in secondary transition here, Lowry gets a quick screen from DeMarre Carroll to open him up for a 3-point bucket against the Hornets. And that’s still with 18 seconds left on the shot clock!

Pull-up and off-the-bounce jumpers

The other way Lowry scores quickly is off the dribble, with quick pick and rolls. Toronto is great at screen assists — picks leading to an immediate field goal — and have three players in the Top 50 and two in the Top 10 in setting them.

Here, the Celtics defender cuts off Lowry’s attack to the middle of the floor. The screener sets up to Lowry’s right, but then quickly flips it to his left. One dribble, and it’s an easy 3-pointer.

Here against Portland, the Raptors run a two screen setup with one wing and one post. The Blazers make the switch and try to blitz Lowry, but he stays resilient and sinks the bucket with what little space they allow him anyway.

Working with DeMar DeRozan

The other thing that’s been talked about a lot is the gravity of DeMar DeRozan, who himself is having a career year for the Raptors. While Lowry is making a ton of unassisted 3-pointers this year, the Raptors point guard does benefit from DeMar.

Part of that is how good they are in transition together.

Here you can see DeMar bringing the ball up the court with Lowry in front of him. He sets the screen, then fades to the arc. Three Utah Jazz are trying to stop DeRozan, and Lowry is left all alone.

When he’s not the primary ball handler on the break, Lowry will immediately get out to the wing. DeRozan has a way of finding him to get up quick Js.

Of course, in good old set plays the Raptors see this gravity effect as well.

Here Toronto is running another double screen with a guard and a post, but Lowry is one of the screeners. At this point, all three Heat players are guarding against DeRozan’s midrange jumper, leaving just enough daylight for Lowry.

Toronto is also third in the NBA in “hockey” or secondary assists, which means two or more passes leading to a made field goal.

On this baseline out of bounds play, again it’s DeRozan’s gravity that frees up Lowry. As the ball is inbounded, DeRozan sucks three warriors defenders with him, including Lowry’s. Meanwhile, Kyle is running down the baseline to get a bucket off a pass on the opposite side of the floor. All the raps have to do is rotate the ball.

So that’s a little bit on why Kyle Lowry has been so good. It’s been about shot selection, decisiveness, and some practice in addition to the effectiveness of his teammates.