Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony shoot East to win in highest scoring NBA All-Star Game ever

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NEW ORLEANS — The NBA All-Star Game is never exactly a defensive showcase, it’s an exhibition. But this year’s version was an analytic lover’s dream:

Three pointers and dunks. A lot of them.

In the highest-scoring NBA All-Star Game ever, the East beat the West 163-155.

This was the kind of showcase of athleticism the NBA wanted — Blake Griffin is made for a game where there is little defense and rim runs are rewarded and he had 38 points (four points behind of Wilt Chamberlain’s record) and he shot 16-of-18 at the rim. Kevin Durant had 38 points as well on 14-of-27 and hit a couple of threes from about Bourbon Street. That is four years in a row Durant has had more than 30 points in the All-Star Game.

But it ended up being in a losing effort.

The East had been down by 18 in the third quarter but Kyrie Irving sparked the comeback — he had 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter while hitting 7-of-9 shots. That performance earned Irving the game MVP honors. Carmelo Anthony added six points and finished with 30.

“We got stops and we made shots,” LeBron James said of the comeback win. “And we didn’t turn the ball over. Very key. We wanted this win. (The West) beat us the last three years and they had a lot of bragging rights, so to be able to come through being down 18 was huge.”

LeBron played 33 minutes and finished with 22 points, including probably the best dunk of the night. But he also made some defensive plays — on the first play of the game the West tried to run “elevator doors” for Stephen Curry (something the Warriors do for him) but LeBron read it, stole it and got out for breakaway dunk. He also broke up a couple alley-oop attempts by anticipating pass and closing fast to knock it down as the guy was throwing it up.

The East went a little cold in the second quarter (let’s not pretend there was good defense) and the West stretched lead out to double digits in the first half, and Durant was key to that as he had 22 points in the first 24. The score was 89-76 West at the half — 89 points in a half was an All-Star Game record.

At the start of the second half there was even less defense, if that was possible. But down 18 the East was the first to really start taking that end of the court a little more seriously. Quickly it became a game.

Defense did end up being key for the East in their comeback — coach Frank Vogel switched up the defense and put Paul George on Chris Paul, and it worked.

“We just wanted to put some length on CP3, so it was me instead of Kyrie,” George said. “We just wanted to disrupt him a little… we wanted to take the ball out of his hands, get it over to (Durant) and LeBron did a good job pressuring him.”

Combine that defense with a little Kyrie Irving show and you have an Eastern Conference win.

More importantly, you had an entertaining show. Which is what the All-Star Game is supposed to be.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.