It shouldn’t be, but those are the news stories of the day, which Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports’ ProBasketballTalk discuss in this podcast. Other topics include your Twitter questions on the Bucks, Lakers and if Durant could end up in Toronto.
Will Barton knows how to throw it down. He just picked the wrong year to enter the dunk contest.
The Nuggets’ Barton has been throwing down amazing in-game dunks all season, and you can add this double-pump to the mix. The Nuggets got to the rim all night and became the latest team to put the beatdown on the struggling Suns, 116-98. Barton had 17 off the bench.
Three takeaways from NBA Thursday: Kobe says goodbye to LeBron with vintage performance
1) Kobe Bryant drops 26 on LeBron James in final meeting, but Cavaliers cruise past Lakers for the win. We knew how this game was going to end, didn’t we? Sure, the Lakers beat the Warriors last week, but lightning striking twice and all that. The Cavaliers are clearly the more talented team, pulled away in the second quarter with an 18-8 run, and never looked back on their way to a 120-108 win.
But the fans fill Staples Center now to see Kobe, and the guy known for rising in big moments throughout his career was in rare form for his final meeting ever against LeBron. If your kids play basketball, have them watch Kobe’s footwork clinic — he works LeBron more than once with just perfect execution on his way to 26 points.
2) The Spurs execution slowly kills the Bulls, and San Antonio improves to 55-10 on the season (and remains perfect at home). There were moments of hope for Chicago fans, their team would hang around seemingly within striking distance. But then the Bulls would turn the ball over — they did that 21 times — or miss an open look, and suddenly on the other end Kawhi Leonard would be getting the shooter’s role on a three and the moment would pass. San Antonio did to shorthanded Chicago (no Jimmy Butler still) what they do to everyone — execute. Relentlessly, consistently all game long. Until the other team’s errors become their undoing. It’s not flashy like Golden State, but it’s just as effective (the Warriors have the better record, but the Spurs have the better net rating). Leonard had 29 and LaMarcus Aldridge 26 in the San Antonio win.
3) Toronto found its defense again, at least for a night, and handled Atlanta. Before the All-Star break, the Toronto Raptors had a top 10 defense, which helped fuel them to the two seed in the East. Since the All-Star break, the Raptors have allowed 7.6 points more per 100 possessions and have been 24th in the NBA defensively. Their offense has continued to carry them to wins, but if they want to win in the playoffs they are going to have to get their defensive groove back. Which is why this Raptors 104-96 win over Atlanta Thursday was a sign of hope — the Hawks had an offensive rating of just 96.1 points per 100 possessions. Toronto held key players like Jeff Teague — 4-of-15 shooting — in check. Start to do that consistently and everyone in Toronto can get back to worrying about how their weakness at the four will get exploited in the postseason. By the way, DeMar DeRozan was a beast and dropped 30.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James put on a show in final matchup (VIDEO)
The game itself went pretty much as you’d expect: The Lakers made a few plays but couldn’t make any stops, Cleveland was sloppy for stretches but by far the more talented team, and the Cavs won 120-108.
But nobody tuned in for the game.
Everyone tuned in to see Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James, and they didn’t disappoint. Kobe finished with 26 and LeBron 24.
After the game, LeBron had nothing but praise for Kobe.
DeMarcus Cousins takes to Instagram to say he was in the right
If DeMarcus Cousins feels he’s been wronged, he cannot and will not let it go. It’s true of battles big and small. Not with a referee, not with his coaches, not with anyone. It’s why his argument with George Karl during a timeout in the Kings’ loss to the Cavs Wednesday night spilled over into the locker room after the game with Cousins even venting to GM Vlade Divac. That got Cousins suspended for Friday’s game by the team.
Still he’s not going to let it go.
Cousins took to Instagram Thursday night to make his point. Not just once. Not just twice. But three times.
Cousins will come back and say all the right things publicly. But the Kings have some serious work to do to have their star and their coach/front office on the same page (which isn’t easy when the owner keeps turning that coach/front office page all the time).