Wow, the All-Star Game was actually good

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all star wade.jpgThe NBA got what it wanted — more people than ever watched a basketball  game live, setting a new world’s record in the new Cowboy’s Stadium. Sure, a bunch of the 108,713 people basically watched the game on the world’s largest television, but it’s a really cool television so the record stands. And will stand, at least until the Final Four comes there in a few years.

Those fans also got an entertaining, competitive game. Yes, a competitive All-Star game. One worth watching. Tied several times in the last minute all the way down to five seconds left. The East pulled it out, 141-139.

Dwyane Wade was your MVP, with a game-high 28 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and five steals. Why does he always seem to have his best games when it’s supposed to be Dirk Nowitzki’s night?

This is the rare All-Star Game recap where one can actually write about the game.

The drama got intense with 43 seconds left and the game tied, The West had the ball and the East played a little defense — how often do you see that in an All-Star game — but Chauncey Billups found an open Deron Williams, who passed on the open three and tried to drive, only to be stripped by Wade. Wade then brought it up and was fouled by Williams, who thought his team was behind and he had to foul. Oh, he is going to hear about that from teammates for a while. Wade hit both, East by two.

Out of a timeout, West coach George Karl drew up a play for Nowitzki — the hometown hero and host of the weekend — to take a three to win it. But Dwight Howard came out, so Nowitzki pump faked then drew the foul driving into him. Nowitzki hits both free throws, game timed at 139-139 with 7.7 seconds left.

East coach Stan Van Gundy then drew up a play for LeBron James — who else? — but he was double teamed (again, defense in an All-Star game, Larry Brown was smiling somewhere) and hit Chris Bosh, who was fouled driving to the hoop. He hit two free throws, putting the East up two.

The West’s final play was a Carmelo Anthony isolation three — he had been the guy on the West trying to take charge of the game all night — but LeBron was focused and up in his face, and Anthony missed and that was the ball game.

Early in the second half it looked like the East might pull away, as they started the third quarter the East started out on a 14-5 run and we finally got the Dwight Howard, LeBron dunk off everybody had wished they had watched on Saturday. LeBron had four reverse dunks by my count (not an officially kept NBA stat — but it should be) .

The West actually made it close again, thanks to a bench lineup of Billups, Pau Gasol, Kevin Durant, Williams and Zach Randolph. Game was tied with 6:30 left to play when that group was done.

Then the end of the game became the Summer 2010 Free Agent Showcase — James, Wade and Chris Bosh took charge.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.