Recapping PBT’s coverage of All-Star weekend from Orlando

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After four exciting and exhausting days in Orlando for All-Star weekend, it’s time for PBT to get out of town. The weather was good, and the city itself might be great, but we wouldn’t know due to spending the entire time shuttled between hotels, convention centers, and of course, the Amway Center downtown. Speaking of downtown, it was an absolute mob scene after the events; a little reminiscent of New Orleans with people spilling out of the bars and clubs and walking (stumbling?) down the crowded streets until well past our normal bedtime.

There were celebrities and recognizable faces at every turn, thanks no doubt in part to lavish events being hosted by the likes of Hennessy VS that the players themselves were often attached to — like this one hosted by Carmelo Anthony that we got to check out.. The basketball brought everyone to town, and once there, the events and parties kept everyone going non-stop until very, very early Monday morning.

As we travel back across the country and catch up on some rest, relive all of our All-Star coverage by following the links below.

– Kevin Durant was your All-Star game MVP, while Kobe Bryant was bloodied and LeBron James turned the ball over with the game on the line by trying to pass instead of taking the big shot. So essentially, just like the regular season.

– Breaking down all of the winners and losers from Sunday night’s All-Star game. We’ll let you guess which one Nicki Minaj was.

– Kobe Bryant surpassed Michael Jordan to become the All-Star game’s all-time leading scorer. Somewhere in Charlotte, MJ threw a remote control at his HDTV.

– Dwight Howard did a good job of not talking trade at all this weekend. He also did a good job of looking as disinterested as possible in the All-Star game.

– Speaking of Dwight, David Stern held a press conference Saturday and said he supports Howard’s right to leave Orlando if he chooses. Stern also said injuries were not increased as a result of the shortened season, and talked a bit about the arena situation in Sacramento.

– Jeremy Evans was your Slam Dunk contest champion, largely thanks to this two-ball dunk over teammate Gordon Hayward. Recapping the event, which could use less schtick and more stars.

– Kevin Love won the Three-Point contest, and Tony Parker took home the trophy from the Skills Challenge.

– Rajon Rondo wasn’t exactly thrilled to discuss his recent two-game suspension, but did eventually admit he might have learned from it.

– The league paired up Deron Williams and Dwight Howard for a charity event. Predictably, Orlando officials were not amused.

– LeBron James said he’d consider entering the dunk contest. As long as, you know, the winner received a million dollars.

– Kyrie Irving was your Rising Stars Challenge MVP. The exhibition was a little rough, but there were still some spectacular playslike this one involving Ricky Rubio, DeMarcus Cousins, and Blake Griffin.

– Jeremy Lin played in the Rising Stars Challenge, but managed only two points. He did, however, debut his own personal Nike basketball shoes.

– Blake Griffin had some dunk contest advice for Paul George … which was not followed.

– Steve Nash continued to remind us he’s not looking to be traded, unlike a certain center in Orlando that we know.

– Dwight Howard danced around those very same trade questions, while Kobe Bryant — now in his 16th season, and knowing he’d be subjected to requests for shout-outs to fans across the globe for 45 minutes — skipped media availability altogether.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.