Welcome to the Atlantic Division version of Three Stars of the night. We don’t need your other five divisions, you can keep them.
Third Star: Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, 10 rebounds)
Coming into this season, there was a lot of hope in Toronto around Valanciunas, that the rookie could be a key part of their future in the middle. But he was raw — he still is raw, for example watch him bite on pump fakes (especially a second one). But he does bring a defensive presence, and in this game his energy and explosiveness was key for Toronto’s offense — and right from the start, he had 9 points in the first quarter.
Second Star: Jeff Green(34 points, 6 rebounds)
Jeff Green was very efficient in this game — 13-of-19 shooting — and that was big for him and the Celtics (who clinched a playoff spot). He also drained the dagger three late in this one. The question with Green has always been whether he’d be aggressive or passive and of late he certainly has been attacking more. But also he has developed a more rounded offensive game over the years. Sure, attacking by going right and ideally dunking is preferred, but he can go left and has a nice little elbow jumper. It makes him that much tougher to guard.
First Star: Carmelo Anthony (40 points, 5 rebounds)
One night after dropping 50 on the Heat he dropped 40 on the Hawks. Somebody is gearing up for the playoffs. This game was different than the Heat one — against Miami it was all jump shots but against the Hawks he was attacking the rim from the start, using his strength to bully his way there. With the threat of the drive he was able to get to his spots on the floor (the elbow) and knock down midrange shots. He also just hit some ridiculous shots while Josh Smith played solid defense. Anthony was 17-of-27 shooting and showed why he is thought of as one of the best scorers in the game today — and that has been key to the Knicks’ 10-game winning streak.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout
Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.
For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.
“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”
Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.
I’m here for that.
I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.
Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.
But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.
Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland
Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.
“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”
It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.
One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.
Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.
Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)
Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.
But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.
D’Angelo Russell said he used to play as Luke Walton on NBA 2K; Stephen Jackson calls that crap
“I told him I remember playing with him on (NBA) 2K; I used to always play as him. I’m a fan. I’m definitely a fan. Because he was a point forward. I can’t speak on Elgin Baylor and all those guys, but my era, I know he was a point forward.”
Really? NBA veteran and current analyst Stephen Jackson called Russell out on that.