Three Stars of the Night: Go big or go home

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A couple Hawks – Al Horford (26 points and 15 rebounds) and Jeff Teague (27 points and 11 rebounds) – played well as Atlanta jockeys for playoff positioning with the Bucks, but we’re less concerned with the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture than a vintage performance by an all-time great, helping a teammate and a historic streak.

Third Star: Tim Duncan (25 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks)

Duncan hadn’t posted the above numbers since winning his last NBA Finals MVP in 2005, but he’s now done it twice this season. It’s easy to understand how Duncan was one of the game’s best big men at age 28, but how is he still doing it at age 36? He is a marvel.

Second star: Brook Lopez (38 points on 22 shots, 11 rebounds)

Lopez came up big, shooting 11-of-13 in the restricted area, and helped someone who went home. In Deron Williams’ return to his hometown of Dallas, Lopez complemented Williams’ 31-point output by scoring on five of Williams’ six assists.

First star: LeBron James (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks)

LeBron had 19 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks – numbers only he, Josh Smith, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant have posted in a single game this season – in the second half alone against his hometown Cavaliers. And the Heat, who trailed by 21 at halftime, need that big half from James to extend their win streak to 24 games.

Thanks to Heat’s run, a team 11.5 games up for the No. 1 seed cares about playing a team 12.5 games back from the No. 8 seed, and that means LeBron is locked in. That’s a win for anyone who enjoys watching great basketball.

Video Breakdown: Clippers use JJ Redick in split cut to fool Jazz at 3-point line

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The Los Angeles Clippers dropped Game 5 to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night, and find themselves down 3-2 as they head back to Salt Lake City for Game 6. The Clippers have had to deal with Utah’s formidable defense, so much so that they’ve built in counters to Jazz defenders overplaying shooters like JJ Redick.

One example of this countering method could be found in Game 3, when the Clippers ran a split cut for Redick. Instead of fighting endlessly around screens for a 3-point shot as you might expect, LA took the easy route and simply cut Redick to the basket for an easy layup as a means to take advantage of an overeager defender.

We’ve talked about the Split Cut here on NBA Playbook before. The Los Angeles Lakers used it earlier in the season to beat the Golden State Warriors, the team that uses the split cut perhaps the most out of any team in the NBA.

Other teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, have adapted the Warriors’ use of the split cut as a counter for their own offense this season, which is a testament to just how useful it is.

If you need a reminder, a split cut all about a screener coming up to screen, then cutting toward the basket before his screen action fully takes place. It’s about timing, and catching defenders off guard when they go to set up their recover positions for screens.

For a full breakdown on the split cut and how the Clippers used it, watch the video above.

John Wall wears cape to postgame press conference (video)

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John Wall has been super, averaging 27 points and 11 assists while leading the Wizards to a 3-2 lead over the Hawks in the first-round.

Did you see Isaiah Thomas carry in Game 5? ‘No,’ says Fred Hoiberg, who walks off (video)

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Fred Hoiberg opened himself to clowning by complaining about Isaiah Thomas carrying.

So, the Bulls coach got clowned after the Celtics’ Game 5 win.

Jae Crowder leg-locks Robin Lopez (video)

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Late in the Celtics’ Game 5 win over the Bulls last night, Jae Crowder leg-locked Robin Lopez – the same dirty play that caused rancor for Matthew Dellavedova in the 2015 playoffs.

Lopez blocked Crowder’s shot, but the ball went to Al Horford, who attacked the basket. As Lopez tried to rotate to contest another shot, he couldn’t move. Crowder, who’d fallen to the floor, had him in a leg-lock. Lopez freed himself just in time to foul Horford.

Adding insult to avoided injury, Lopez got hit with a technical foul for complaining about the no-call.

I bet the league issues a technical foul on Crowder, too.