This was a tough night to narrow the list to three, some guys with huge games miss the cut — Russell Westbrook with 36 points and a near triple-double, Nikola Vucevic with 21 points and 21 boards for the Magic. But there was a key theme to go with for the night — current or former All-Stars who led they team to a win.
Third Star: Chris Kaman (26 points, 11 rebounds)
Remember, he was a 2010 All-Star — and on Sunday night he played like it. Dallas ran away from Portland in the Rose Garden in the first half behind 14 points from Kaman — he single handedly outscored the Blazers when he left the game in the first 14-11. He has had an up and down (with a lot more down) season in Dallas and this was clear and away his best game in a Dallas uniform.
Second Star: Chris Paul(24 points, 12 assists)
The Lakers hung around much of the game playing like the desperate team they are, but the Clippers got the win because Chris Paul figured out how to start shredding the Lakers defense and they couldn’t stop him. He would come off the high pick and had space to make decisions — knock down the midrange, drive into the lane for a floater or a dish, the Lakers just gave him space and CP3 uses that room better than anyone in the NBA. It was another masterful performance.
First Star: Carmelo Anthony(36 points, 12 rebounds)
It wasn’t just the 12 rebounds — it was that nine of them were offensive rebounds. Second chances were key to the Knicks and ‘Melo was a big part of it. More than once in the fourth quarter he would drive baseline, get to the rim, miss a contested shot but get his own board and put it back in. Anthony was at the hard of the Knicks fourth-quarter push — they had led by a dozen earlier but when the Thunder came back at home and took a fourth quarter lead, you wondered if the Knicks could match the run. They did with an 11-2 run of their own that included a whole lot of Carmelo. And offensive rebounds.
Spurs demolish Thunder to take Game 1 of second-round series
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
ESPN sources say the Warriors, meanwhile, plan to go outside the organization at season's end for a replacement to add to the current staff.
In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.
Luke Walton's contract to coach the Lakers will be for five years and about $25 million.
This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.