Three Stars of the Night: Guys that got (or almost got) their team wins

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Lots of close games, lots of crazy buzzer beaters on Wednesday night. But it wasn’t just the Jeff Greens and Klay Thompsons that got their team wins, it was others like the three guys below. Except for the Third Star, he tried but got undone by some guy named LeBron.

Third Star: Nikola Vucevic (25 points, 21 rebounds)

Orlando almost did it, they almost came from 20 back to end the Heat’s winning streak (and they would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that meddling LeBron James). Nikola Vucevic was a big part of that, he had 15 points and 14 rebounds in the second half and provided that inside presence you must have to challenge the Heat.

Second Star: Blake Griffin (23 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists)

Yes, Blake Griffin can dunk. Sweet tomahawk dunks off between-the-legs alley-opp passes. But if you think that’s all he can do you haven’t watched him outside of highlights for a while. He is a load in the post right now. He has a good spin move, good footwork, and he plays to his strengths — his athleticism — and he gets to the rim and takes good shots. He was 8-of-9 in the restricted area against the Bucks (a very good shot blocking team) and made a good defender in Larry Sanders look bad a couple times in there.

First Star: Kobe Bryant (42 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds)

It feels at time like Kobe Bryant is willing the Lakers to the playoffs. At age 34. With an elbow that is flaring up and an assortment of injuries that would sideline most players. For nearly 42 minutes Wednesday the Lakers looked like they would get blown out by the Pelicans-to-be, but Kobe would not let that happen. He had 18 points and only missed one shot in the fourth quarter, plus he had a couple assists. He would not let the Lakers lose (and the Hornets helped by collapsing).

I don’t know how far Kobe’s Jedi powers extend but the Jazz and Rockets continue to give the Lakers all the help they need to let Los Angeles get into the playoffs. What once seemed out of reach is coming together for the Lakers. Much like this game.

Jared Dudley: Giannis Antetokounmpo practiced mean mugging in locker room

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Game 3 dunk over Aron Baynes was great.

Antetokounmpo’s Game 4 dunk over Al Horford (seen above) is even better, because of the fantastic mean mug that followed.

The rise of Antetokounmpo is no accident. He worked hard to develop his on-court skills. And that includes all aspects.

Suns forward Jared Dudley, who played with Antetokounmpo on the 2014-15 Bucks:

This is the inside info we need.

Report: Knicks are Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s top choice for job

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Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer withdrew from the Suns coaching search, but that he was even involved with another opening while under contract with Atlanta is telling. It probably wasn’t about the Phoenix job being special. He’s also talking with the Knicks – and maybe that goes somewhere.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Mike Budenholzer is genuinely interested in the Knicks’ job, according to an NBA source who has spoken to the Hawks coach.

“New York’s his top choice,’’ the NBA source said. “If they offered him the job, he’d say yes. He wants to live in New York.’’

“Phoenix and the Knicks are trying to win every game,’’ said the NBA source who has spoken to Budenholzer recently. “There’s a good chance Atlanta is not looking to win games the next two years. This wasn’t Mike’s decision. He didn’t expect it. He doesn’t want to lose games.’’

Going to the Knicks to win? What a time to be alive.

But the Hawks are only one year into what appears to be a multi-year rebuild. Relative to that, New York is ahead.

When Kristaps Porzingis returns is the biggest variable. But Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke are all in their primes. Atlanta is much thinner.

The Knicks would probably also offer Budenholzer a raise and the Hawks compensation. Though dealing with James Dolan carries downside, this could be a financial boon to everyone else involved. It’s no wonder Budenholzer and the Hawks are both into this.

The big question is whether New York, which is casting a wide net, tabs Budenholzer. He doesn’t have a clear connection to Knicks president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry. But Budenholzer is a demonstrably good coach, and that ought to matter plenty.

Andrew Bogut signs to play in NBL in native Australia

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Back in January, the Los Angeles Lakers waived Andrew Bogut. He had a very limited role on a Los Angeles team that was not making the playoffs, serving as a backup big man against teams who use a traditional center. That’s not much of a role anymore. He’s a center who can pass, shoot from the midrange a little, and knows where to be defensively, but the game has evolved as Bogut’s skills have faded. Bogut tried to latch on with a contender for the playoffs, but could not find a team to take him.

So he is going home.

Bogut is signing to play for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s NBL.

Bogut was the first No. 1 draft pick from Australia when he was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005. He made the All-Rookie team that season, was All-NBA in 2010, but may be best known for his role as a crucial part of the defense of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors in 2015 (and his injury during the 2016 Finals is an underrated reason Cleveland was able to pull off a miracle comeback).

At age 33 Bogut may not have a spot in the NBA, but in the NBL he both will thrive for a few more years but also be a huge draw and get the welcome home from fans that he deserves.

When Lance Stephenson gets a traveling call, he earns it (VIDEO)

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Yes, guys get away with traveling in the NBA. James Harden on the step back (sometimes, not always), or guys sliding left/right to avoid a closeout at the arc and not bothering to dribble while they do it.

Lance Stephenson got called for traveling Sunday in the Pacers’ loss to the Cavaliers. In a game where Stephenson got under the skin of LeBron James and drew a technical (and tied him up for a jump ball at one point), this was the best Lance highlight of the game. Because if you’re going to travel, you should go all in.

Never change Lance. Never change.