Tuesday night NBA grades: Durant gets more points, Hayward will take the win

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wakeboarding in a flooded garage….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. No Russell Westbrook. No Serge Ibaka. Nights like this Kevin Durant has to go supernova for the Thunder to have a chance and he did — 48 points overall, 11 in the fourth quarter as he tried to drag the Thunder back into the game against the Jazz. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids! What kids? Well, just keep reading…

source:  Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz. Early in this game it felt like Utah couldn’t miss — they shot 71 percent in the first quarter, took comfortable lead and in the third quarter the Jazz led by 24. Still, you knew the Thunder run would come, and behind Durant did in the fourth quarter — and Hayward held it off pretty much singlehandedly. Hawyard scored 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to ensure the win. Hayward, wearing Durant’s signature shoe, finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He exploded and the Jazz got their best win of the season.

source:   C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers. Mark Price never did it. World B. Free never did it. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson never did it. LeBron James never did it (not that you really feared his three when he was in Cleveland). No Cavalier shooter had ever knocked down 10 threes in a game like Miles did against the Sixers Tuesday. He took just 14 threes and finished the game with 34 points. Yes the Sixers defense on him was pathetic (they kept losing him on the arc) but he got open and hit the shots.

source:  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Much like Durant above, he had a big game (41 points) trying to lead his team almost singlehandedly to a comeback win — he had 26 points in the fourth quarter. He also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. It wasn’t enough, but you have to admire the valiant effort.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins/Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings. The Kings are maddeningly inconsistent, but on nights like this you can see how the entire thing could come together and make a pretty good team. Specifically the Rudy Gay/DeMarcus Cousins combo. Cousins scored 35 points and had 13 rebounds, while Gay continues to be efficient since the trade and had 32 points on 16 shots, leading the Kings over the Trail Blazers. Assuming Gay doesn’t opt out this summer (he shouldn’t, his pay cut from the $19.3 million would be brutal) this is what the Kings hope to see a lot of next season.

source:   Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. He gets this grade in part because the man can score — 34 points on 24 shots, 6-of-7 from three where he was fearless on the catch-and-shoot. But we know ‘Melo can score, that’s what he does. Instead ‘Melo gets the “A” because that may be the best defense we’ve seen him play this year, with four steals and a number of other deflections and plays. That you don’t see every day.

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.

LeBron James finishes reverse alley-oop from Russell Westbrook (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES — The new format for the NBA All-Star game brought a little more defense to the first half of the annual showcase, but it didn’t do much to enliven the game. That said, the game has been better than the pre-game “entertainment.”

Midway through the second quarter, his team down 15, LeBron James decided to make it a game again and played with some energy. That included a three, and a couple impressive alley-oop finishes. The best came via Russell Westbrook.

There also was this one courtesy Kemba Walker.

Those may be the two best dunks of the first half.

Anthony Davis opens All-Star game wearing DeMarcus Cousins’ jersey

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LOS ANGELES – Anthony Davis often relies on his Pelicans teammates to set him up.

Tonight, he gave a nod to one of them.

Davis started the All-Star game wearing DeMarcus Cousins‘ No. 0 jersey. Cousins and Davis were both voted starters then drafted by LeBron James, but Cousins can’t play due to injury.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

Very cool gesture by Davis. He’s an excellent teammate.

No, Joel Embiid didn’t cheat during the NBA Skills Challenge

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The Internet got itself all in a huff on Saturday as they watched the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge. In particular, the matchup between Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid stirred up a bit of controversy.

Specifically, folks accused Embiid of cheating.

During the passing section of the obstacle course, Embiid didn’t actually make any of his passes into the ring. He then proceeded on the next section and was neck-and-neck with Markkanen as they tried to finish out the head-to-head competition. Markkanen won, but that didn’t stop folks from saying the 76ers All-Star had circumvented the rules.

We now know that’s not true.

According to the rules (provided on the NBA media site, page 47 of the 2018 NBA All-Star Media Guide) Embiid was allowed to move onto the next section even though he hadn’t completed any of his passes. A player only has to exhaust the rack, not complete a pass. It appears rules sort of assume that if a player stands there trying to complete a pass three times they’ll fall so far behind they won’t be able to catch up.

Re-watching the video, it appears Embiid knew this rule to the game and figured if he didn’t make the first one he would quickly try to blast the next two passes off the rack so he could then move onto the next section.

Embiid even took to Twitter to head off accusations that he had cheated.

Via Twitter:

Trust. The. Process.