Three Stars of the Night: Amnesty That! Don’t make Kobe angry.

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I don’t think what Mark Cuban said was meant as an insult to Kobe Bryant. But Kobe uses everything for fuel — the security guard doesn’t wave to him on his way into the arena and he gets pissed and drops 40 — so you kind of knew what was coming if you were Dallas. Just be glad it wasn’t 62 points in three quarters.

Third Star: Jarrett Jack (23 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds)

Good teams win ugly and that’s what the Warriors did Sunday. But they wouldn’t have had a chance without another big game from Jack — this is three straight 20 -point games for him. He had 11 points in the first quarter kept the Warriors within reach and in the fourth quarter had five points and 4 dimes. Jack needs to be in the sixth man of the year conversation.

Second Star: Dwyane Wade (24 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)

Early in the season everyone said he had lost a step. But veteran players get smart about when they can and should turn it on over the course of the long season. And with the Heat behind in the fourth quarter Sunday Wade turned it on — 15 points in the fourth quarter. Miami has 11 wins in a row and that streak is alive because Wade hasn’t lost much if anything.

First Star: Kobe Bryant (38 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists)

Don’t make Kobe angry, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. This was a vintage Kobe performance where some of the shots were ones that make coaches everywhere cringe — and he knocks them down. The Lakers are playing much better lately but this is why you want to have a Kobe on your team — there are nights you need a guy to put you over the top. That’s what Kobe did. Amnesty That.

 

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.