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Thursday night NBA grades: Joe Johnson apparently loves London

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking Ronald McDonald may have an anger management issues (no, not that one)

source:  Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets. He remains one of the best (sometimes overlooked) shooters in the game. In the first half the Nets largely ran the offense through their “power forward” Paul Pierce and Johnson kept getting open for catch-and-shoot threes (he was 5-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first half) on his way to 26 points before the break. The Hawks adjusted to Johnson in the second half and doubled him, and Johnson made the right play being patient and getting the ball to the open man (Alan Anderson had 10 in the third largely thanks to those plays). By the fourth quarter Johnson was comfortably on the bench wondering if he had time to get to a fish and chip shop before the flight home. Brooklyn cruised to a win in London and Johnson was a key reason.

source:  Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers. He looked like an All-Star in this one (and he is on my ballot, too). Stephenson led the Pacers when they stopped settling for jumpers and attacked the rim starting in the second quarter, but he was also a playmaker setting up teammates. When the Knicks started to focus more on him is when Paul George was able to step up and get his 25. Stephenson had 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and spent time guarding Carmelo Anthony, too.

source:  Houston Rockets in first half. This team is unstoppable. This team looks like a contender. This team has a guy you have to respect in the paint and that opens up looks at the arc, and this team goes 12-of-20 from three. This team puts up 73 points in a half, plays with pace and confidence and is generally impressive.

source:   Houston Rockets in second half. This team can’t shoot from the outside and goes 0-of-9 from three. This team looks like one that when challenged doesn’t now how to adjust and get scoring if its threes aren’t falling. This team’s stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard didn’t step up with plays when their side was struggling. This team looks nothing like a future contender.

The question is which is the real Rockets team? Or is it the more likely answer of none-of-the-above, rather still a work in progress with a ways to go?

Jarrius Robertson hits layup at Celebrity Game, hangs with Draymond Green (VIDEO)

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It’s likely you’ve seen Jarrius “J.J” Robertson before. The 14-year-old came into public view as a New Orleans Saints superfan that deals with a liver disease called biliary atresia. Robertson has shown up at NBA All-Star Weekend this year, and he’s been a big hit.

On Friday, J.J. showed up and played a spot in the 2017 NBA Celebrity Game. He even dropped a layup during gameplay.

Via Twitter:

But he’s not just been around the court. Robertson has been just about everywhere thus far, hanging out with NBA athletes, meeting Charles Barkley, and telling Russell Westbrook that the Oklahoma City Thunder need more shooters.

J.J. even hung with Draymond Green courtside, where the Golden State Warriors forward tried to trade his watch for J.J.’s chain.

Should have made the trade dude! But I’m glad he’s got run of the place.

Glenn Robinson III does his best to salvage Dunk Contest, gets victory in process

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NEW ORLEANS — This year’s NBA All-Star Dunk Contest was doomed to disappoint, it was never going to match last year’s epic battle. It started in a hole.

It never climbed out. Don’t take my word for it, check out what JaVale McGee thought.

Saturday was an underwhelming night of dunks punctuated by a couple of moments of brilliance.

The Pacers’ Glenn Robinson III had the most of those moments — which is why he won the event. His strong night started with his first dunk, which may well have been the best of the contest.

The final one from Robinson, the one that sealed the victory, may be the other best dunk of the competition — dunking over Paul George, the Pacers mascot, and a Pacers dancer.

“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said afterward. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd go crazy. I pointed like this because, man, everybody seemed to sleep on me, didn’t really think I was going to win this thing.”

Event favorite Aaron Gordon, who should have won a year ago, opened the contest with an innovative idea — a drone dunk — but he couldn’t execute it and there were a few attempts before he nailed it.

Gordon didn’t advance out of the first round, and his first dunk summed up the 2017 Dunk Contest — interesting ideas that didn’t quite pan out like planned. (To be fair, Gordon has been battling injuries recently, that may have thrown him off).

If it wasn’t going to be Gordon, a lot of people expected it to be the bouncy Suns forward Derrick Jones Jr. who won, and he reached the Finals in part thanks to this spectacular dunk that woke the Smoothie King Center up.

DeAndre Jordan was okay, but without Chris Paul throwing him lobs it didn’t quite feel the same. Jordan can dunk with such power in game, but we didn’t see that Saturday.

In the end, it was Gordon who was making the plays.

“I’m not really a known dunker,” Robinson said. “I practiced. I prepared. I know I’m a jumper. And like I said, I’m a guy that stays out of the way. But when it’s time to shine, that’s my thing. That’s what I wanted to do. I knew all along I had some things planned, and I just wanted to show the world.”

Glenn Robinson III wins underwhelming dunk contest on over-people, below-rim dunk (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Glenn Robinson III won the dunk contest with the second-best dunk of the night, going over a few people and under the rim — a narrow path to slamming victory.

It would’ve rated as the event’s best dunk if he were truly under the rim rather than somewhat in front of it. And he did have the best body of work to win the contest.

But the best single dunk was still by runner-up Derrick Jones Jr., who went between the legs on a pass off the side of the backboard.

NBA stars shoot threes to raise $500,000 for Sager Strong Foundation in touching moment

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NEW ORLEANS — The spirit of Craig Sager is strong during All-Star weekend in The Big Easy and he’s going to get a spot in the Hall of Fame, deservedly so.

After Eric Gordon won the Three-Point Contest, he and the other finalists Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker stayed on the court to shoot threes to raise money for the Sager Strong Foundation — they would shoot threes for a minute and for each make the foundation would get $10,000. Then they brought out help — Reggie Miller, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, DJ Khaled, and others to knock down shots. That raised $130,000.

Stephen Curry tried to push that to $500,000, but it was Sager’s son that actually did it (with an assist from Shaquille O’Neal).

It was a touching moment for a great cause.