Kurt Helin

Blazers’ Meyers Leonard dunks on Stephen Curry, Warriors (VIDEO)

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Portland lost to Golden State Wednesday night, but they tried to view the game as a moral victory — Portland had been struggling, and they just hung with the best team in the West on the road.

That includes this Meyers Leonard dunk all over Stephen Curry.

Leonard came out high and set the pick for Evan Turner, then rolled down the lane and Turner found him — and it turns out Leonard can finish over people. Smaller people, but none-the-less that was impressive.

Curry finished with 35 points, Kevin Durant 30, and the Warriors did get the win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo takes off just inside free throw line for massive dunk (VIDEO)

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When he wasn’t hitting game winners Wednesday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo was putting up other highlights.

For example, this vicious dunk where he takes off from the Brooklyn Bridge just inside the free throw line to throw it down. It may be just the first week of January, but this dunk will end up on year-end highlight packages.

Antetokounmpo went on to have 27 and 13 and take New York by storm with his performance, lifting the Bucks to the win.

PBT Extra: Who should be East’s starting backcourt in All-Star Game?

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Voting for the All-Star Game in New Orleans is open — and it’s not that easy. Well, actually voting is easy (online, Twitter, pretty much anyway you can think of) but the choices are not.

Take the Eastern Conference backcourt situation. Traditionally five guards make an All-Star Roster, but there are six deserving players in the conference: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland), Isaiah Thomas (Boston), John Wall (Washington), Kemba Walker (Charlotte), and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (Toronto).

Who should get the start? We asked people in a Twitter poll, and I discuss the results in this latest PBT Extra. The fans went with Irving and DeRozan, but there are other potential options. Irving seems a lock to me, the challenge comes with the second spot. Fortunately, fans were not down with the idea of Dwyane Wade getting the start.

The real challenge falls to the coaches who pick the reserves — which one of the six guards gets snubbed? Or, do you take six guards and we can start to discuss what frontcourt player gets snubbed? There are not simple, clear choices here.

Mavericks’ Andrew Bogut thinks he could be moved at trade deadline

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Andrew Bogut is on a one-year, $11 million deal in Dallas, a non-playoff team where he is now coming off the bench because he doesn’t pair well with Dirk Nowitzki (and that’s Dirk’s team).

A lot of teams could use a stout defender in the paint, a gifted passer for a big man, and a guy with a ring and plenty of playoff experience. Does that mean Bogut is ripe to be traded as the Feb. 23 deadline approaches?

He thinks so. Here is what the always frank Bogut told Australia’s Sky Sports Radio, via ESPN.

“Thankfully, I’m a free agent here, so I only have a couple of months more here and then will most likely move on,” Bogut told Sky Sports. “I don’t see myself hanging around with everything that’s gone on. It will be an interesting six months ahead.”

Will he get traded?

“You never know. I’ve got a valuable contract … having four months left on my contract, I’m a valuable commodity to be moved,” Bogut said.

Expect Dallas to explore offers. Because he’s essentially a rental for the rest of the season, the Mavericks are not going to get a significant haul in return. That said, they’re going to lose him anyway and this season is a write-off, so Dallas would be foolish not to see if they can get a pick or player to be part of the future for Bogut now.

The last couple trade deadlines have been a disappointment (most of the action happened well in advance of the big day). This season feels different. We shall see how it plays out.

 

Three things we learned Wednesday: Giannis takes Manhattan

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You had other things to deal with Wednesday — maybe a brick wall blocking your front door — so you didn’t watch the NBA’s offerings for the night. We’ve got you covered, here’s what you need to know.

1) The Giannis Antetokounmpo making the leap tour made a stop in New York and the Knicks paid the price. That tour will be making a stop in New Orleans for the All-Star Game next month, then will continue on to the playoffs. We’re starting to reach the “Giannis Antetokounmpo is on, stop what you’re doing and watch” phase of this season, because he just seems to be putting on a can’t miss show nightly now.

He did that in Madison Square Garden Wednesday night, leading a 32-17 Milwaukee fourth quarter charge that gave them a chance for the come-from-behind win. Down a point with eight seconds to go, everyone in North America knew Antetokounmpo would get the rock, and sure enough he did with Lance Thomas bodying him up. Antetokounmpo backed Thomas not so much down but toward the middle, spun over his preferred right shoulder, then put up an unblockable (almost uncontestable) fadeaway that gave the Bucks a 105-104 win. Antetokounmpo is shooting 35.3 percent from that area of the floor this season, but he nailed this one.

That shot handed the Knicks their sixth straight loss. New York’s defense in the fourth quarter — although not on that shot, there was nothing Thomas could do with that step back — let it down again.

Antetokounmpo has made the leap this year from “he has a lot of potential” to an All-Star level, must watch player leading his playoff-bound team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Jason Kidd has unleashed him as a point guard and he is now a force of nature — and one with plenty of room to improve, when he develops a reliable jump shot he will be unstoppable. For now, from New York to Los Angeles, just sit back and enjoy the show from Milwaukee because it is one of the NBA’s best things going.



2) LeBron James and Cavaliers have 2009 flashback, fall to Jimmy Butler and Bulls.
Remember how LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland ended? Every night it was him against the world, with little to speak of as a supporting cast (Mo Williams was the next best player on those teams) and the Cavs were doomed to failure despite how great LeBron played? (And you all were shocked he left that situation… really?)

Wednesday night was a flashback of that. Kevin Love is still too sick to play, he shouldn’t have had the fish. Kyrie Irving tweaked his hamstring and the Cavaliers are, for obvious reasons, going to take it easy and slow with getting him right before bringing him back. That left LeBron — who has been under the weather himself of late, then tweaked his ankle in this one — to take on Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and the Bulls. This ultimately ended about like those 2009 campaigns — 31 points on 21 shots, eight rebounds, and seven assists was not going to be enough to get the win.

The Bulls had six players in double digits led by Butler’s 20 — 14 of those points in the fourth as the Bulls pulled away from the Cavaliers for the win. That win that matters more to the Bulls — it pulled them up to .500 and is the kind of win that helps them in the tight playoff race in the bottom of the East. The Cavaliers will be the top seed and just fine whatever happened in this game.

If you want to hear more in-depth Bulls talk — such as what’s the future of Rajon Rondo, and are they going to trade Taj Gibson? — check out the new PBT Podcast with myself and Sean Highkin, who covers the Bulls for The Athletic.

3) Russell Westbrook tries to give the ball back to the referee, gets a technical. There’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and too often it seems people with power like to focus on the former and ignore the latter. Which leads to foolish decisions.

Russell Westbrook got a first-hand example of that Wednesday night. The Thunder’s Mr. Everything was making a standard NBA play — dribble the ball up the court and get over half court, near the bench, and call the timeout the coach wants. Westbrook then tries to toss the ball to referee Sean Corbin on the baseline, but Corbin turns away and doesn’t see it coming, so the ball just nails him in the head.

Westbrook got a technical for it. He shouldn’t have. I get why you want a rule on the books about hitting the official in the head with a ball — that rule should exist. But there are times to enforce it and times to let it go. Watch the video and it’s obvious Westbrook is just trying to get the ball to the ref during a timeout, like he’s supposed to do, and things accidentally went bad. But nobody was injured, so have a laugh and move on.

In the last week the league rescinded two of the technicals Westbrook got earlier in the season, it should do the same here.