Jamal Crawford, Chris Paul

Red-hot Clippers put on a show at Rockets expense, win big

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LOS ANGELES — This happens a few games a season.

It was a perfect storm of the already explosive Clippers offense really finding its flow in an up-tempo game, a Rockets defense that was just floundering, some foul trouble to the Rockets defensive anchor, and to top it all off Chris Paul had the Midas touch.

The result was a highlight-filled blowout, a 137-118 Clippers blowout win that the fans in Staples Center could really savor. They got to boo Dwight Howard lustily — when he wasn’t on the bench with foul trouble — and they got the full compliment of highlight alley-oops, impressive handles and long-range threes.

“It was one of those games,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Everything. We were making everything. They were in foul trouble. It was for us tonight, a lot of things went right.

The Clippers have the best offense in the NBA this young season — they are averaging a ridiculous 116.6 points per 100 possessions after this game. They have been hot all season on that end but the 125 points per 100 they put up this game — they shot 52.1 percent overall and hit 15-of-38 from three — bolstered that number.

“They had 15 threes and a ton of paint points (50), they had the best of both worlds,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We wanted to keep them out of the paint and shoot long jump shots. We didn’t do that.”

The route started started from the opening tip, where the Clippers came out sharp and the Rockets looked like they enjoyed the night out in Los Angeles the night before a little too much. Early on the Clippers started running J.J. Redick off screens like he’s vintage Ray Allen and James Harden did not want to fight through them. Harden was a few steps slow and the result was 15 first quarter points for Redick as the Clippers just kept going to his hot hand.

“I’ve always been a guy who bases his game on movement and moving without the ball,” Redick said.

Pretty soon everyone on the Clippers got a hot hand — Los Angeles put up 42 points on 69.6 percent shooting (4-of-6 from three) in the first quarter. CP3 had 9 assists in the first 12 minutes and the Clippers were so hot even Blake Griffin nailed a couple midrange jumpers. The Clippers put up a franchise record 78 points in the first 24 minutes, and check out their shot chart from the first half.

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The Clippers were up 17 after one and while the Rockets tried to make a game of it with some runs, all that was left was to put on a show. Which they did.

In the end Chris Paul had 23 points and 17 assists, Redick had 26 points, Jamal Crawford 21 and seven Clippers were in double figures.

Credit the Rockets for not giving up, they cut the lead down to 10 or 8 a few times, but each times the Clippers responded.

CP3 abused Jeremy Lin with a stepback then drove past him. Redick just took Harden off the dribble. The Clippers would get out and run and the Rockets transition defense was nonexistent.

While it was not the team he played for Howard’s return to Los Angeles still got him getting booed from the opening introductions, followed by a rough night. He picked up two quick fouls and three in the first quarter, limiting him to 6:27 in the first half.

“The foul trouble messed me up a little bit but I just tried to have a better second half,” Howard said. “I missed a lot of easy shots tonight.”

As for the booing?

“I don’t care, they can boo me a million times and I’ll still play,” Howard said, who went on to repeat his standard lines about moving on from his decision and feeling happy now.

Just not so much after that loss.

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.

Zach LaVine wins MVP, Kristaps Porzingis puts on show in Rising Stars Challenge

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TORONTO — Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins was the rock star of the night. “An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few dunks) leading a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

“An-drew-Wi-gins” chants broke out in the Air Canada Center as Canada’s native son put on a show with 29 points (and a few huge dunks), sparking a World Team comeback against the USA in the Rising Stars Challenge.

His Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns was going to have none of that.

“I gotta see Andrew Wiggins for a long time and I want to rub this in,” Towns said.

He got his wish, the USA beat the World Team 157-154.

It was a glorified pickup game for three quarters, and the level of defensive intensity will make Sunday’s All-Star game look like Tom Thibodeau teams are playing. That led to a lot of high scorers.

Zach LaVine — the other teammate of Wiggins and Towns — led the USA with 30 points and was named the game’s MVP, and said he wanted to steal Wiggins’ thunder at home.

“That’s what I was going for,” LaVine said.

Also from the USA, Jordan Clarkson (Lakers) had 25, Devon Booker (Suns) had 23 and was 5-of-8 from three, D'Angelo Russell (Lakers) had 22, and Towns chipped in 18 points and 7 boards.

Knicks sensation Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the building, and he had 30 for the World team.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess,” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Also for the World Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets) had 30 points, Wiggins had 29, and Mario Hezonja (Magic) had 19.

The intensity and defense did pick up in the end, although one wouldn’t call it a thing of beauty. What matters is the crowd in the Air Canada Centre enjoyed it, even if their team didn’t win. It’s an exhibition, and they got a show.

Report: Celtics, Cavaliers talking Kevin Love trade; could include Knicks, ‘Melo

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love holds the ball away from Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson during the second quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are looking for an elite player to improve their deep cast of role players. The Cavaliers are looking for depth. And Carmelo Anthony may just be looking to win.

All of that has talks between the Cavaliers and Celtics on a potential Love deal progressing, with the possibility of the Knicks as a third team also in the mix, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions about expanding the deal to include the Knicks and Anthony, who would have to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

This is a longshot, but the report has some legs.

It’s not clear how far along these talks are. The trade deadline is Feb. 18 (next Thursday) and conversations tend to move past the theoretical/value judging phase and get real come All-Star Weekend, when many GMs and decision makers are in one place (and nobody can go outside because it is too cold in Toronto). This trade works for the Cavaliers if they get a quality stretch four in return — Kelly Olynyk? — plus some depth and a quality pick. The question for the Cavs is simply how much can they get back — this is a win-now team and Love helps that, so how does a trade make them better?

Would Danny Ainge move the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick to get Love? Jae Crowder? How much would Boston surrender to get an elite star, especially one under a reasonable, long contract?

Carmelo Anthony wants a ring, if he could end up playing with LeBron and be much closer to it than he is now, he would waive his no-trade clause.

That said, this trade sounds like a longshot. At least at the deadline. Next Summer… who knows?

Watch Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

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Kevin Hart has a movie to promote decided to come out of retirement to play in the NBA All-Star Friday Night Celebrity Game.

And, he did what Kevin Hart does.

Well, except win MVP of the game, that went to Win Butler (the Canadian lead singer of Arcade Fire). Butler led Canada to a 74-63 win over Hart and the USA.