Spurs need overtime in Game 2 to beat Grizzlies, take a 2-0 series lead

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The Spurs looked every bit as dominant through three quarters of Game 2 against the Grizzlies as they did in completing a rout of their opponent in the first game of the series. Memphis couldn’t score, Tony Parker was carving up the Grizzlies’ defense on the way to a career-high 18 assists, and San Antonio had managed to keep Zach Randolph bottled up for the second straight game.

Then, the Spurs stopped scoring, and the Grizzlies smelled blood.

A furious fourth quarter comeback by Memphis sent the game into overtime, where the Spurs had just enough left in the tank to finish the job. Behind the career night from Parker and Tim Duncan scoring six of his team-high 17 points in the overtime session, San Antonio came away with the 93-89 victory to take a two games to none lead in the best-of-seven series.

As expected, this game was much closer at the start. After hitting 14 three-pointers in Game 1, the Spurs were hounded defensively and chased off the line early, and were 0-3 from distance in the first quarter. Marc Gasol was every bit the Defensive Player of the Year he was named this season in the opening period, blocking three shots and grabbing six rebounds, while helping his team hold the Spurs scoreless over the final 4:25.

But the Grizzlies couldn’t take advantage of their defense just yet, thanks to the Spurs defending just as well. In the second quarter, San Antonio found its offense, while Memphis continued to struggle. Parker started to create havoc with some brilliant passing, the Spurs started hitting some threes, and opened up a lead of as many as 16 points while the Grizzlies finished the half with just 31 points on 25.5 percent shooting.

Both teams came out hotter offensively after halftime, but the Grizzlies seemed more focused and energetic. Even though they cut just three points off the halftime lead by the end of three, Memphis outrebounded the Spurs 10-2 in the period and got to the free throw line 10 more times. Most importantly, the Grizzlies finished the quarter on a 10-4 run to cut an 18-point lead down to a very manageable 12 heading into the final period.

The Spurs seemed to run out of gas in the fourth, while the Grizzlies found a second wind. As San Antonio couldn’t make a shot on the way to 21.1 percent shooting (including 1-of-8 from three-point distance) in a quarter where they managed to score just nine points, Memphis turned up the defense and forced five turnovers while putting together a 15-2 run over the final 8:12 to send the game into overtime.

The Grizzlies wouldn’t have gotten there without a key flagrant foul call with under 30 seconds remaining. After Manu Ginobili turned it over, Tony Allen ended up streaking to the basket the other way, before Ginobili pulled him down by his arm as Allen went up for the shot.

It might have been ruled a flagrant anyway, but they way Allen grossly exaggerated the contact once he hit the deck certainly didn’t hurt his cause. Allen hit both of his free throws, and then Mike Conley scored to tie the game and send it to the extra session.

Once they got there, it was Duncan who did the damage. He had six of his team’s eight points, scoring on two layups and a floater to give his team just enough of a push to come away with the win.

For the Grizzlies, they’ve been here before. In the first round against the Clippers, they lost big in Game 1, then at the buzzer in Game 2, before righting the ship once the series shifted back to Memphis. As we move forward the question will be whether or not Memphis found a way around the dominance the Spurs showed over the first seven quarters of this series, or if San Antonio simply blinked for a moment and took its foot off the gas.

‘Tired’ Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest, according to both parties (despite speculation this was really a win for the Los Angeles nightlife). Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Still thankful, LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan’s record for years between All-Star MVPs

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Los Angeles – When LeBron James became the youngest-ever NBA All-Star MVP in 2006, he said during the trophy presentation: “I’d like to thank the fans for voting me in as a starter.”

Twelve years later, he sounds similar, maybe just a little more thoughtful: “It’s always been my fans who voted me in. For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it’s been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that, and here’s what I’m going to give to you every time you vote me in.”

He plays similarly, too.

LeBron again won All-Star MVP, leading his team to a 148-145 victory Sunday. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Every night I step on the floor, I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level,” said LeBron, 33. “I feel great.”

The 12-year gap between LeBron’s first and last All-Star MVP – he also won in 2008 – is the longest in NBA history. It tops the 10 years between Michael Jordan’s first (1988) and last (1998).

Here’s the difference between the first and last All-Star MVP for every multi-time winner:

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Players’ effort in this exhibition game comes and goes, but LeBron appeared invigorated .

When LeBron’s team trailed by 15 in the second quarter, he checked in and quickly led it back into the lead. When his team fell behind by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, he again led a spirited comeback. He hit the go-ahead bucket.

Despite playing a game-high 31 minutes, his intensity lasted all the way through the final buzzer.

His coach, the Raptors’ Dwane Casey, said he asked LeBron whether to foul or defend on the final possession while up three. LeBron said defend.

“If he says that, or any great players say that, you want to go with them because it was their idea, their belief, and he had it,” Casey said. “…He got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop.”

LeBron and Kevin Durant swarmed Stephen Curry, who couldn’t shoot and could barely pass. Curry’s team didn’t even get a shot off:

“As you can hear in my voice, that tells how competitive it was,” LeBron said scratchily.

Again, his message echoed 2006: “We’re competitors, and our competitive nature kicked in and said let’s get some defensive stops.”

A lot will get made about the format change, and it might have mattered.

But maybe LeBron is just uniquely capable of dominating and embracing of this stage all these years later.

Defense? Dramatic finish? Team LeBron wins All-Star Game that’s worth watching

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA gambled its new format — with captains picking teams playground style — would produce an All-Star Game where the players showed some pride, played hard, and the showcase again would become something that resembled basketball (unlike last season).

It worked.

For proof guys were invested this time around, check out how Team LeBron responded to winning with a defensive stop, taking away Team Stephen’s attempt to get a clean look at a game-tying three in the closing seconds.

The THRILL of #NBAAllStar VICTORY!

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“It had a real game feel to it,” LeBron James said.

Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145. LeBron was named MVP with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. He also hit the game-tying and go-ahead shot that got the win.

“I played with (LeBron) a few times,” Kyrie Irving said of the play and pass that set up that LeBron game-winner. “I cut back door, (Russell Westbrook) was driving, I saw the opportunity. I saw, before even Russ even passed to me, LeBron was going to circle to the rim, and he’s one of the best finishers at the rim.”

Most importantly, this was an All-Star Game with some defense — it had 81 fewer points than the layup line game last year, and the fewest points in five years. It also proved to be the closest game in six years.

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Kevin Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

There was more defense than last year from the start of the game — for example, LeBron blocked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter. Of course, “better than last year” was not a high bar to clear, but there was some effort to not just have a layup line. Most of the time.

Also to start the game, Anthony Davis came out wearing the “0” jersey of injured teammate DeMarcus Cousins (he switched back to his own #23 before the first half was over).

On the night, Team LeBron got 19 points out of Kevin Durant, 16 from Paul George, and 14 from Andre Drummond. Team Stephen was led by 21 from both DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, and 19 points and eight rebounds from Joel Embiid in his first All-Star Game.

The fantastic ending made up for what was a laughable opening skit/national anthem before tip-off that did something very rare — it unified NBA Twitter. It was awful.

Now all anybody is talking about is the game itself. And that’s what the NBA wanted.

LeBron James hits go-ahead shot in All-Star win (video)

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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James‘ team trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, but he led a competitive comeback.

This shot put his team up 146-145 over Stephen Curry‘s team, and Team LeBron held on for a 148-145 win:

Great penetration by Russell Westbrook, and he and Kyrie Irving moved the ball well. LeBron made it count.