Dwight Howard, Larry Sanders

Three Stars of the Night: Larry Sanders, DeMarcus Cousins focus on the game instead of the officials


There are some very good players in the league who let their emotions get the best of them more often than not, and as a result, they have a bad reputation where the officials are concerned.

But sometimes, these guys simply play their games to perfection, and dominate in the process. That’s what we saw tonight from two of our Three Stars.

Paul George (24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals in win at Dallas)

The Mavericks have crawled back into the Western Conference playoff picture after struggling with injuries to key players throughout the majority of the season. Dallas had been playing much better as of late, yet that mattered little to a Pacers team that has been, for the most part, solid all season long.

George’s all-around effort was key in this one offensively, while the Pacers as a team shut down the Mavericks almost completely, holding them to just 38.6 percent shooting and killing them on the glass by a 21-rebound margin.

DeMarcus Cousins (34 points on 16 shots, 14 rebounds in 30 minutes of action)

Cousins had it all going in this one, and any time he focuses on the matter at hand instead of the way the officials (or broadcasters) are calling the game, he has a chance to turn in a special performance.

His effort in this one might have been good enough to earn him top honors of the night, had the Suns actually been interested in fielding a team that featured their best players.

Larry Sanders (Career-high 21 points on 11 shots, 13 rebounds, two blocked shots)

Everyone who follows the NBA closely loves Larry Sanders’ game. He’s athletic, defends, and plays with energy on a nightly basis that makes him fun to watch.

His recent tear of technical fouls and ejections diminished that more than a little bit, but Sanders seems to be back on track, focusing on his game above all else. The Bucks used a balanced attack to dispatch the Lakers on thursday, and when you manage to lead your team in scoring while playing with both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, you know it was a special night.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.