The Extra Pass: The best dunks of 2013; plus Tuesday’s recaps

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If the end of a year serves as a time for reflection and the remembrance of lessons learned, then let the video below serve as one last reminder for the small guards of the league. If LeBron James is coming at you on a break, move. If DeAndre Jordan is flying down the lane towards you, don’t jump. There’s no shame in getting dunked on — it happens to the best of us — but this is about self-preservation. Taking preventative measures and whatnot.

While 2013 gave us one of the greatest games and moments in NBA history, the dunks weren’t half bad either. Here’s NBA.com’s top-10 slams of the year:

—D.J. Foster

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J.R. Smith after it was leaked the Knicks were waiving his brother Chris.

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Wizards 106, Pistons 99: This was as good of a win for the Wizards as it was a bad loss for the Pistons. Detroit led by as many as 12 points in this one, but fell apart in a fourth quarter dominated by Washington, as evidenced by the 28-12 run they  put together over the game’s final 12 minutes. Former head coach and current ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy has said on multiple occasions that this is “a make or miss league,” and that certainly seemed to be the case late in this one, as the Pistons created open looks but mostly couldn’t get them to fall. Brandon Jennings had an especially rough fourth, going just 1-of-6 in the period with two turnovers. Marcin Gortat came up with a huge block on a dunk attempt from Josh Smith with under a minute play that was key, before a nifty fadeaway jumper by John Wall on the ensuing possession sealed it. — Brett Pollakoff

Pelicans 110, Blazers 108: New Orleans had its skill players outplay those from Portland, and in the end that was the difference. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard played with their usual level of brilliance, but Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis exceeded it on this night for the Pelicans. Davis proved his status as an elite defender on multiple possessions where he locked up Aldridge, and Holiday poured in 31 points to go along with 13 assists. The final minutes of this one were very entertaining, as Lillard and Tyreke Evans traded huge buckets with under a minute to play, with the shot from Evans ultimately deciding the contest. — BP

Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 98: Minnesota battled all the way back from a deficit of 21 p0ints, before Dallas ultimately regained control and held on for the victory. Shawn Marion had a game that not many believed he was still capable of, and finished with 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting, which included going 4-of-6 from three-point distance. Minnesota had the ball trailing by two with three seconds remaining, but Kevin Love’s attempt at the buzzer was ruled to b a clean block by the officials, despite the fact that plenty of contact appeared to take place. — BP

Bulls 95, Grizzlies 91: This was a battle between two teams facing an unfair amount of injury issues at this point of the season, and the Bulls were the ones who got enough out of their healthy performers to make the difference. Jimmy Butler matched Mike Conley with 26 points for game-high honors, and defensively Chicago held Zach Randolph to just 10 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Also? Chicago’s D.J. Augustin did this. — BP

Jazz 83, Bobcats 80: As fitting a game between two teams a combined 18 games below .500, this one was sloppy. But for the second time in recent weeks the Jazz beat the Bobcats, this time behind 21 points (15 in the second half) from Trey Burke, including the dagger lay-up to give us the final score. Yes, lay-up. Burke got by Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson’s help defense was as good as it has ever been (which is to say nonexistent) and the bucket was key for Utah. — Kurt Helin

Heat 97, Nuggets 94: Denver played well — they came in with a six-game losing streak but played their best game in some times and had a chance. Well, they did until the Nuggets scored just 17 points in fourth quarter. Meanwhile Miami got help from the supporting cast. Sure, LeBron James had 26 points and 10 assists but Ray Allen had 9 points in the fourth quarter Michael Beasley hit a key three as well off a LeBron kickout. It was enough to get the win. — KH

Suns 107, Clippers 88: Phoenix started off the game on an 11-1 run, started to really pull away in the second (led by 21) and by the fourth quarter this whole thing was garbage time. Phoenix simply outplayed the Clippers top to bottom, with Los Angeles only shooting 36.5 percent on the night. Here was the real difference in this game — Phoenix plays hard every night and plays coach Jeff Hornacek’s system; the Clippers are more talented but their commitment to consistent effort and playing the system isn’t there nightly. — KH

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.