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.
Kristaps Porzingis grew up a Kobe fan. Still is one.
“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”
There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.
In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.
There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.
One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.
Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.
Yikes. That’s serious.
I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.
Pacers guard George Hill returns Tuesday against Wizards
Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.
Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.
Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.
“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”
Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.
And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.