Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight go at each other late in Rising Stars Challenge (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON — Kenneth Faried was the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge at the Toyota Center in Houston on Friday, finishing with a game-high 40 points while his Team Chuck beat Team Shaq 163-135.

But Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight stole the show.

Late in the game with a little over five minutes remaining, Irving and Knight started to go at each other in a one-on-one battle that woke the sleeping crowd and made for an exciting few minutes of action.

Irving got the best of it all, and came away with the game’s signature highlight after crossing Knight, then dropping him before stepping back to drill the long jumper as his defender fell to the floor.

The whole thing came about organically, as Irving told us afterward.

“Just happened, honestly, a couple of plays down, going down the court with him,” he said. “But more or less, that kind of rivalry with me and B Knight has been happening since high school, since we started playing against each other. We were battling for the one and two spot in high school. He’s a good friend of mine, it’s great competition.”

Even though Knight was on the losing end of this particular contest, he seemed genuinely happy to have been a part of it.

“Stuff like that is always fun, it creates memories,” he said.

Pride intervened at least a little bit for Knight, as he tried to downplay some of Irving’s heroics.

“First one I slipped,” he said. “Second one it was between a slip and a good move. You gotta give props where props is due. First one I slipped for sure. Second one, you know, stuff happens.”

Irving’s rookie teammate, Dion Waiters, has seen the show plenty of times before, and has even been in Knight’s position in the past. He was happy that this time, he was able to sit back and enjoy the show.

“It was great,” Waiters said. “That’s what you come to see. You live for that. It was crazy man, but it was nice. It was nice. You don’t want to be on that island out there with Kyrie.”

Waiters had some advice for others who may end up on that island in a similar one-on-one battle with Irving at some point in the future.

“You’ve got to foul him,” Waiters said. “He knows. No easy buckets, man. That’s my guy, though. It was fun watching that.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.