jennings-ellis

Three Stars of the Night: Two Bucks and the Way of Wade

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In today’s NBA — the NBA where the hand check and physical perimeter defense has gone the way of the dinosaur — there are few things more dangerous than attack guards who get on a roll. The rules simply favor them and once they find their rhythm, they can become unstoppable. Such was the case tonight when the Bucks back court and the always dangerous Dwayne Wade were all in top form. Onto our three stars…

Third Star: Monta Ellis (34 points, 15-21 shooting, 4 rebounds, 4 steals)

On this night, Monta Ellis really did have it all. At least on the offensive end. Ellis was a demon going to the rim tonight, converting 10 of his 12 shots in the restricted area on a variety of drives including one 360 spin reverse lay was simply incredible. Beyond the fantastic finishes at the rim, Ellis was also able to knock down his outside jumper in hitting 5 of his 8 shots from outside the paint. One of those outside shots was essentially the bucket that clinched the game, putting the Bucks up three points in the final seconds and making it so the Jazz had to hit a three pointer to tie — a shot they ultimately couldn’t knock down. On nights where Ellis is so dangerous inside and out, he’s basically unguardable. As the Jazz learned.

Second Star: Brandon Jennings (20 points, 4-5 three pointers, 17 assists, 3 steals)

After setting a career high in assists in his last game, Jennings nearly did it again by dishing out 17 assists in this game. He expertly set the table for his teammates all night, running the Bucks’ offense masterfully and finding ways to get his teammates shots in both the half and open court. Jennings, though, didn’t just set up others, he also found ways to get his own shot off especially from behind the arc. And Jennings’ biggest shot of the game did come from three, knocking down a step back heave while fading to his right that forced overtime.

First Star: Dwyane Wade (32 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds)

LeBron James has been getting all the attention of late, but Wade has been nearly as spectacular each night as the Heat have rattled off a franchise record 15 straight wins. Tonight was no different as Wade was aggressive aggressive in getting to the rim all night, finishing 13 of his 15 shots from in close. Wade was also fantastic as a distributor, setting up teammates for makable shots including some fantastic plays in the open court; plays that have become a trademark of the Heat’s season. Games like this serve as a nice reminder of how good Wade is, that’s if you needed a reminder in the first place.

Aaron Gordon both legs over the mascot, ball-under-the-legs dunk (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Zach LaVine won the NBA All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest, but in an epic night for my money this was the single best dunk.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon broke ground with this one — guys have jumped over mascots and other players before (and a Kia hood), but by splitting their legs apart. Gordon just put both legs over Stuff (that’s the mascot’s name, Stuff the Magic Dragon, I don’t make this up) — and took the ball off the mascot’s head, went under his legs, and threw it down.

Insane.

Gordon deserved a trophy for his performance in this dunk contest.

Zach LaVine edges Aaron Gordon in epic, insane Dunk Contest

Minnesota Timberwolves Zach LaVine slam dunks the ball during the NBA all-star skills competition in Toronto on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Associated Press
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TORONTO — That. Was. Amazing.

In a dunk contest that will go down with the all-time greats — Jordan vs. Dominique, Dr. J from the free throw line — Minnesota’s Zach LaVine defended his dunk contest title. Barely. Because Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was doing dunks nobody had ever seen before.

And LaVine was bringing it just as hard.

The two men advanced to the finals — dismissing Will Barton and Andre Drummond, each of whom had good dunks — and that was when it got wild.

There were four second-round dunks, and four perfect scores of 50. (That was in spite of Shaq, who wanted to give nines for second attempts.)

“I was prepared for four (second round dunks),” LaVine said. “To tell the truth, he came with something that no one else has done. He did two dunks that were just crazy with the mascots, jumping over them. We just kept pushing each other until the last dunk. I’ve got to give it up to my boy Will “The Thrill” Barton. It’s because of him I think I won. Because he said try to go from the free-throw line. I’d never done that before, and I just tried it. So I guess it was a great dunk. I think it was the best one ever.”

The Air Canada Centre crowd was exploding with every dunk. The two men went to a dunk-off — and got two more 50s.

“If I knew it was going to be like that, I would have prepared better and we would have been here dunking all night, going back 50 after 50 after 50 after 50,” Gordon said. “We would have been here all night. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I was just hoping Zach was going to miss, and it wasn’t going to happen. You could see as my facial expressions when Zach dunks it, it’s like okay, that’s a 50. Like I know we’re going to have to dunk again.”

So they went to a second-round of overtime, where LaVine put up another 50 and won the contest.

Gordon was close to perfect.

Zach LaVine can flat-out fly.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon with the over-the-mascot mad dunk

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TORONTO — Aaron Gordon was giving Zach LaVine all he could handle in the Dunk Contest.

He blew the lid off the Air Canada Centre with this dunk in the first round — and it wasn’t even his best dunk of the night. Never seen this before.

This dunk contest was awesome, so much more video to come.

Zach LaVine opens Slam Dunk Contest title defense with spectacular behind-the-back slam (VIDEO)

during the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 12, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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TORONTO — Zach LaVine clearly heard all the talk that Aaron Gordon or Will Barton had a chance to upset him in the Slam Dunk Contest. He came out ready to prove his superiority right off the bat. This behind-the-back slam was his first attempt of the night:

Even better was the reaction, both from Andre Drummond and from LaVine’s Minnesota teammates: