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.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelican Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.

What happened to Willy Hernangomez’s minutes with Knicks?

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When talking about the Knicks’ young core going forward, Willy Hernangomez was one of the names that got mentioned by the front office (alongside players such asFrank Ntilikina and Tim Hardaway Jr.). The Knicks are crowded at the center spot — Enes Kanter got the start in the opener Thursday night, and Kristaps Porzingis should get minutes there (it’s ultimately going to be his NBA position), and this isn’t even mentioning Joakim Noah — but Hernangomez looked like a developing young player who needed some run.

He got just 3:46 minutes in the opener, and that was during fourth quarter garbage time. Kyle O'Quinn got nearly 22 off the bench at the five. That follows a preseason where Hernangomez saw his minutes drop seemingly game-to-game.

What gives? Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News asked the same question.

“We have a lot of bigs,” Hornacek said. “(O’Quinn) and Enes earned the minutes in training camp. Willy’s not far behind. He’s got to keep working. When you got that many bigs, you can’t play them all. The other guys earned the minutes. I told all three of them it doesn’t matter if you’re in the rotation or out of rotation. If you’re in it, you’ve got to earn it to keep it.”

“I can score. It’s not difficult for me. I think the coach wants to see my effort on defense. That’s why I have to keep working hard everyday,” said Hernangomez, who is also Kristaps Porzingis’ best friend on the Knicks.

Without question, Hernangomez needs to work on his defense, but then again this is a Knicks team starting Kanter so it’s obviously not a requirement.

Hornacek needs to find a balance here — it’s early in the season, he wants to win games, he wants to put his best foot forward. But the Knicks are not a playoff team this season, and they are in the player development business. That means Hernangomez — as well as rookie point guard Ntilikina — need to get minutes, need to be thrown to the wolves a little, and need to learn from their mistakes. Hornacek needs to be coaching for a few years down the line… the problem is he knows he may not have this job that far down the line, so he’s coaching to get wins now.