Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Five

Three Stars of the Night: Finals MVP edition

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There were actually multiple performances worthy of recognition on Sunday, but three stood out as most deserving. And sometimes, the guys who have been the primary force behind their team’s championship effort in the past show up during the regular season. On to the winners.

Third Star: Paul Pierce (27 points, 14 rebounds, 14 assists, 54 minutes in Celtics triple-OT win over Nuggets)

Just … wow. Boston won its seventh straight game since Rajon rondo went down for the season with a torn ACL injury, and the team couldn’t have done it without the effort of Paul Pierce. It was his second triple-double of the season, and the shot near the end of the second overtime to send it to the game’s third extra session over Andre Miller was as good as it gets.

Second Star: Dwyane Wade (30 points, 12-18 shooting, 5 assists, 3 steals in Heat’s win over Lakers)

Wade was as critical to the Heat’s winning effort on Sunday as was LeBron James, if not more so. Every time James was on the bench — either due to foul trouble in the first half or simply just to get some rest to start the fourth — Wade responded, and carried his team offensively, often extending the lead while his all-world teammate sat and watched. This dunk in transition midway through the third fired up the crowd, and was his most spectacular play offensively.

First Star: LeBron James (32 points, 12-18 shooting, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals)

LeBron was just as dominant as Wade, but by tying an NBA record with his fifth straight game scoring at least 30 points while shooting 60 percent or better from the field, he gets the top spot. Also, he was on the receiving end of the game’s signature highlight, so he’s got that going for him — which is nice.

Lou Williams hits halfcourt buzzer-beater (video)

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Yeah, the Lakers lost to the Rockets, 134-95, Wednesday. But consider how lopsided that margin would’ve been without Lou Williams‘ halfcourt buzzer-beater.

And if this headline looks familiar, it is.

LeBron James, Cavaliers do water-bottle challenge on bench during blowout win over Knicks (video)

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson entertain themselves by flipping a water bottle trying to get it to land on it's flat bottom during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 126-94, and most starters left the game for the bench at the end of the fourth quarter. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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LeBron James did his part – scoring 25 points (on just 10 shots!), dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds – to give the Cavaliers an insurmountable lead over the Knicks through three quarters. So, he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

As Cleveland put the finishing touches on its 126-94 win, boredom set it. LeBron and a few of his teammates tried to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor. LeBron even dove onto the court to pull the bottle back in after an errant flip!

No, Phil Jackson should not have used the word “posse” to describe LeBron’s business associates and friends. But this is the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever seen – and I love it.

DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) receives a blow to the head from Dallas Mavericks' Dwight Powell as Cousins works to get to the basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.

Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News:

So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?

“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”

“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”

“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”

Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.

And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.

Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?

LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)

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LeBron James is dominating, and the Cavaliers are rolling over the Knicks.

It’s almost as if something has LeBron particularly riled up. But maybe ease up a little? That cowering fan isn’t Phil Jackson.