Associated Press

Damian Lillard scores 27 as Trail Blazers start fast, top Hawks 113-97

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ATLANTA (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 27 points and the Portland Trail Blazers took control with a dominant opening quarter to beat the Atlanta Hawks 113-97 on Saturday night.

C.J. McCollum had 22 points and Allen Crabbe added 16 for Portland, which raced out to a 17-3 lead and never trailed.

The Trail Blazers, who have won seven of nine, began the night 2 1/2 games behind Denver for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

The Hawks have lost three straight, including the last two at home.

Atlanta held out four-time All-Star forward Paul Millsap after he experienced tightness in his left knee during pregame warmups. Ersan Ilyasova, who started for Millsap, had 23 points. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22.

The Trail Blazers took command with a strong start, making 11 of their first 12 shots from the field. A jumper by Lillard pushed the advantage to 32-12, and Portland outscored the Hawks 40-18 in the quarter – its biggest margin in any period this season.

Atlanta’s Dwight Howard drew a technical foul after he swung his elbow and Jusuf Nurkic hit the floor midway through the third period. Nurkic was left sitting on the court, rubbing his chin. Officials called the technical following a review of the play.

The Hawks twice cut the deficit to 11 early in the fourth, including at 89-78 following a layup by Malcolm Delaney. The Trail Blazers quickly answered with a layup by McCollum.

Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer immediately called a timeout, charged onto the court and confronted Howard, apparently about the center’s lack of defense on the play.

Howard remained in the game, but the Hawks’ comeback attempt never regained its momentum. Lillard had a 3-pointer and three free throws in a 10-0 run that increased the lead to 101-80.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Portland forward Evan Turner had two points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes after missing 14 games with a broken right hand. The Blazers were 7-7 without Turner, who got hurt on Feb. 7. Turner entered with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter. He played with a protective pad covering part of his right hand. … Instead of returning to Portland, the Trail Blazers flew to Atlanta following Wednesday night’s 110-106 win at San Antonio. … Noah Vonleh had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Nurkic had 12 points and nine rebounds.

Hawks: Howard had 14 points and 10 rebounds. … Ilyasova hit two 3-pointers for six of Atlanta’s first eight points. … The Hawks tried to recover from their woeful 4-for-25 first quarter by shooting 60 percent (12 of 20) in the second. Even so, they outscored the Trail Blazers only 28-23 and still trailed 63-46 at halftime. … Kent Bazemore left in the fourth quarter with a bruised right knee.

 

Elfrid Payton slams chasedown block on LeBron James (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is usually the guy handing out chasedown blocks. He’s famous for them, and has carted out his signature move in the biggest moments of his career.

He’s also not used to having his own shots blocked from behind, and certainly not by opposing point guards.

Enter Elfrid Payton.

During a play halfway through the first quarter against the Orlando Magic on Thursday, LeBron was on a drive to the hole with Elfrid trailing far behind.

Thanks to a pinch by two Magic defenders, LeBron had to try and use brute force a bit deeper in the paint than he wanted to.

That allowed Payton — running at full speed — to catch up and pin The King on the glass.

Cleveland still got the best of the Magic, as Isaiah Thomas hit a clutch free throw to win the game with 11 seconds left, 104-103.

All-Star Joel Embiid doesn’t need Rihanna: “On to the next one”

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For about as long as we can remember, Joel Embiid has famously thirsted after Rihanna on Twitter. Fans have tried to boost his standing with the singer, but it apparently that has not been enough.

In 2014, Embiid mentioned on social media that a “famous girl” — presumably Rihanna — told him to “Come back when you’re an All-Star.”

Well, today is that day.

Embiid is a starter out of the Eastern Conference, and on Thursday night he had his chance to speak to Rihanna (or whomever) via national TV on TNT.

Did Embiid decide to reach out to this famous person? Apparently he’s off it.

Via Twitter:

This is like that scene from Private Parts when Howard Stern hits No. 1 and he tells Paul Giamatti’s character to get lost.

Embiid had the chance to curve Rihanna (or whomever) and took it. Long live The Process.

Here are the weirdest NBA All-Star voting results for 2018

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NBA All-Star voting is over, and now we have the results. The starters are in, and what’s left is for us to wait until they announce the teams after they are picked in double secret ceremony.

Of course, the NBA did release the full voting results via their PR website this week, and as such there are some head scratchers. My boy Patrick Redford over at Deadspin did an excellent job rounding up some of the players who got exactly one (1) vote from other players.

The gag here is that these guys presumably voted for themselves.

Of course, what I found most interesting was actually the guys who got multiple votes from their compatriots without being All-Star caliber players.

My favorite list of player-voted non-All-Stars includes: Michael Beasley (4), Gordon Hayward (2), Boban Marjanovic (2), Jahlil Okafor (4), Quincy Acy (2), Tyler Zeller (4), T.J. McConnell (2), Elfrid Payton (2), Zaza Pachulia (3), Taj Gibson (6), Zach Randolph (5), Maurice Harkless (2), Deyonta Davis (3), Lonzo Ball (9), Mike Conley (3).

There’s a whole smattering of guys in there who either didn’t play enough, aren’t stars, are injured, or who aren’t very good.

That multiple players took time to vote for these guys really speaks to the frivolity of the NBA All-Star Game. At least outside of player contract incentives.

Bring on February!

LeBron James throws behind-the-back, nutmeg pass for assist (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is one of the best passers the NBA has ever seen, but even this is too hard to believe.

During Thursday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron through a ridiculous behind-the-back pass that nutmegged Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

The result of the play was a bucket for Dwyane Wade.

Via Twitter:

I mean, that’s just … insane.