NBA All-Star dunk contest/3-point shootout live blog

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Final note to David Stern: This night only works if you have a couple athletic dunkers and a couple stars. You need Dwight. You need LeBron. You need the stars to make it work. Love Shannon and DeMar, need the star power. Especially in LA next year, where it is all about the stars.

Everyone else, thanks for hanging out.

10: 51 pm And the uninspiring winner is… Nate Robinson. He has the hat trick.

10:47 pm
Really DeMar, that was it? If you can’t leave from the free throw line, you can’t do that dunk. Already been done by MJ and the Dr., you’re measured against greatness with that dunk.

10:44 pm Nate with the power pass off the backboard dunk. That was nice, but may not be nice enough….

10:41 pm
Nate Robinson brings out the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders then does nothing in the dunk with them? That’s it, I want DeRozan now.

10:37 pm  Gallinari comes out and lobs to Nate for a nice one. Great tweet from football Rez Zone guy Andrew Siciliano: That was Gallinari’s most significant contribution to the Knicks since being drafted.

10:33 pm DeRozan wakes up the crowd with the dunk of the night: Weems with the pass off the side of the backboard, DeRozan trailing him grabs it midair and rams it home. Now that was a dunk contest dunk!

10:30 pm Kobe out to throw the ally-oop to Brown. And that was a quality dunk. But the scores not all that great. Can we see if Dwight Howard is in the house and draft him into this? Is it too late?

10:24 pm Nate with the best dunk of the first round — catch the bounce pass mid-air two hand roundhouse. He leads after round one. DeRozan second, then Wallace, Brown. Nobody blowing the doors off the place yet. Crowd loves Nate early. Everyone does. Except D’Antoni.

10:22 pm Brown missed a quality dunk, got cautious. Not how you win this thing. Wallace goes for the power reverse. Nobody has made their first dunk yet.

10:19 pm DeRozan with a nice first dunk, between the legs reverse. But unlike last night, had to do it twice to get it right.

10:12 pm For the record, I’ll take LetShannonDunk in this. But Wallace is close in my mind, although apparently nobody else thinks that.

10:07 pm Odd little note on Pierce: He’s the only Celtic not loathed in Los Angeles, despite the 2008 Finals. He grew up in Inglewood, not far from the Los Angeles Forum (home of the Showtime era Lakers) and still has a lot of friends in town.

10:05 pm
Paul Pierce gets hot, hits the money balls just like he tends to do at the end of games, wins it. He’s lovin’ it, a little more than we are all loving Daryl Dawkins jacket.

9:56 pm Any three point shooter with any ties to a D’Antoni team can’t hit a shot. Coincidence? Then defending champion Cook comes out cold. Pierce and Billups , the two guys moving the slowest of anyone in the competition, take on the rookie in the finals.

9:46 pm Don’t care if Steph Curry is a rookie, that is one of the sweetest strokes in the game right now.

9:41 pm
Wow, did Ray Allen give Paul Pierce three ball advice? He’s better than that.

9:30 pm Finally, something good, let’s get the three point contest going.

9:20 pm So Steve Nash is the most skilled player in the NBA. Yea, that’s a shocker.

9:14 pm From Atomsk: Kobe and KG sitting together; I say put them on the court, give each a
mic and have a trash talking contest.

9:12 pm Westbrook looked slow and inefficient. Williams looked slow but efficient. Westbrook did not listen to Coach Wooden: Be quick, don’t hurry. He should have hurried a little.

8:55 pm Anybody who watches Lakers games knows if you need the desperation half-courter at the buzzer, you need Jordan Farmar, not Pau Gasol. So Team Texas wins the Shooting Stars competition thanks to Dirk Nowitzki, the unofficial host for the weekend. Nice trophy, by the way. But really, where you going put that in the house.

8:47 pm Chis Webber, for the rest of the weekend and maybe beyond, is going to be hearing about how Nicole Powell is a better shooter than he is. And the ribbers will be right, as of today she is. Results don’t lie. Atlanta, been nice knowing you.

8:38 pm Wow Atlanta shooting stars, I’ve seen better shooting from the guys they pull out of the stand at NBA games for the chance to win a $500 at the local Indian casino.

8:31 pm For those of us watching at home on TNT, let us stop for a moment and pray together that the rodeo theme intro pieces are done for the night. I’ll light a candle in church tomorrow. Promise. Thanks God.

8:15 pm What better thing have you got to do on a Saturday night than watch the best dunkers in the world — or at least that would do the contest this year — and the 3-poing shootout as well? Exactly. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, you can make it up to your significant other then. Take them to a nice dinner out. No, the Olive Garden is not a nice dinner out, either. You can do better.

I’ll be watching that (and the shooting stars and the skills competition, where Derek Rose is out) and updating with commentary on the festivities throughout the night. Put your thoughts in the comments below (I may pull some of them up to the post). Also, follow along on Twitter.

Let’s have some fun.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

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Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.

Stephen Curry goes berserk, Warriors beat Rockets by 41 in Game 3

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Stephen Curry had yet another big third quarter. Who could have seen that coming?

On the heels of the Houston Rockets’ 22-point win in Game 2, the Golden State Warriors decided to turn up the intensity as they returned home to Oakland on Sunday. The Warriors leapt out of the gate, scoring 31 points in the first quarter and playing monumental defense at the rim. Houston suffered from blown attempts in the paint for the entire first half, but it was their 3-point defense that stabilized their offense. The Rockets shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

Then, perhaps expectedly, came the third quarter. The realm of 2-time NBA MVP Curry.

Golden State’s golden point guard failed to miss a single field goal in the quarter, helping the Warriors rally to start the half as well as fend off a Houston charge midway through the period. Curry completely took over with around six minutes left, dropping five of the Warriors’ next six made baskets.

It was enchanting, and everything we’ve come to expect from Curry when he’s at his best. After a made bucket, there was a shimmy. After a follow-up layup, a defiant stance on the baseline as he yelled to the crowd about Oracle Arena being his house.

Indeed, it was.

Curry and the Warriors did not let off the gas in the fourth quarter, finally burying the Rockets that both sides called a truce with 5:11 left, subbing out their big stars.

Houston was led by James Harden, who scored 20 points with nine assists and five rebounds, although he turned the ball over four times. Chris Paul had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Eric Gordon helped with 11 points off the bench. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times, allowing 28 points off turnovers to the Warriors.

For Golden State it was Curry’s 35 points and six rebounds as the big story. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists. The Warriors shot 41 percent from 3-point range as every starter scored in double-digits. Golden State was also able to limit its turnovers to just eight.

Game 3 exemplified the stratification between the two teams. Houston was arguably the best team of the regular season, with the caveat being that Curry was out for huge swaths of time due to injury. With Curry back on the floor and playing at full tilt, Golden State again looks unbeatable.

Steve Kerr was able to counter the Game 2 strategy from Mike D’Antoni, who ran everything during Houston’s win directly at Curry on defense to tire out the recently-returned star. Kerr’s tweaks resulted in a complete eruption from Curry, one Houston was powerless to stop. Coupled with the continuous pounding from Durant and the incessant, extra pass 3-pointers, the Rockets didn’t have a counterstrike option.

Game 4 is in Oakland on Tuesday at 6:00 PM PST. We’ll see if D’Antoni can work his magic and come up with another new strategy to try and slow the Warriors.

Marcus Morris: II did a s–t job defensively against LeBron’

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The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t dead. Not yet, at least.

LeBron James helped lead his team to a victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, 116-86, to set the series at 2-1 with the Cavaliers trailing.

James was efficient, scoring 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting while adding 12 assists, five rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. As a team Cleveland shot an impressive 50 percent from 3-point range, dwarfing their marks from Games 1 and 2 in the series.

Meanwhile, the team-first strategy implemented by the Celtics finally got its first big test of the Eastern Conference Finals. A top defensive team, Boston was embarrassed by how it played in Game 3 and they weren’t afraid to admit it. Four of its five starters were double-digit minuses in the box score, including Marcus Morris, who many were touting as a LeBron stopper (or LeBron slower).

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Morris gave his honest opinion of how he played vs. LeBron. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown said he was embarrassed.

Via Twitter:

Sounds about right.

Because you play the same team over and over again, by the time you get to the conference finals it’s all about finding counters to your opponent’s counters. The game-by-game strategy changes so much, and out of necessity.

The Cavaliers finally found their sweet spot, not only from beyond the 3-point line but in limiting the offensive contributions of both Morris and guys like Al Horford.

How Brad Stevens counters Ty Lue’s Game 3 strategy should be fun to watch, and reciprocal changes in the coming games will be the story of the series. Boston still has the edge, but the Cavaliers aren’t letting someone take The King’s crown without a fight.