Your 2012 All-Star Game winners and losers

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It’s an exhibition, but it’s still a competition. Someone has to win (the West, 152-149). Someone has to lose.

We’re here to sort it all out for you. The winners. The losers. And even how you can be both.

Winner: Kevin Durant. The game MVP did it all — he had maybe the best dunk of the night (off the backboard from Chris Paul), hit 3 threes, and added to his legacy as one of the game’s elite players. When the game was open he owned it, but he only had two points in the fourth quarter as the East picked up its defensive intensity and focused it on him. But his MVP is well deserved and likely the first of several.

Loser: Dwight Howard. This was supposed to be his night and laughed, joked around, played at one-quarter speed and was a complete non-factor. In a sign of how serious he took everything, he was 0-4 from three. He got dunked on by Kevin Love, made a bad inbounds pass after that which was stolen, then five seconds later Kevin Durant dunked on him. He likely was tired after playing host all weekend, but he was a mess.

Winner:
LeBron James. He put up 36 points and if the East had succeeded with their comeback he would have deserved the MVP. In the first half he was a dunking machine, then he comes out at the start of the third quarter and knocks down a couple threes, including one from about Daytona. He had eight points in the fourth quarter and was key to the East’s comeback.

Loser: LeBron James. He is never going to hear the end of that pass with 1.9 seconds left that was stolen by Blake Griffin and cost the East a shot to tie or take the lead. Because it was a terrible pass. Kobe was barking at LeBron to take the shot, but LeBron said afterward he saw Wade come open near the basket the first time but hesitated then when he threw the pass it got picked off. And the “LeBron is not clutch” meme gains more fuel. Only a ring will quiet it (and likely a couple are needed).

Winner: Kobe Bryant. Any time you pass Michael Jordan in anything – this time to become the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history — you are a winner. Kobe being in 14 All-Star Games is a tribute not only to his skill but also to how well he has taken care of his body and how he has been able to stay relatively healthy. Or at least play through the pain.

Winner: Dwyane Wade. He had an All-Star Game triple-double — 24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists. That’s impressive.

Loser: Andrew Bynum. Finally gets the All-Star nod he has craved thanks to the fans, but a sore knee means he plays just 5:31 and goes 0-3 from the floor.

Winner: Mary J. Blige. She absolutely killed it with an a cappella version of the Star Spangled Banner. Note to young singers: She did it without autotune.

Loser: Nicki Minaj. What was that? And why was there so much of it? She needs to watch Mary J. and see how it’s done.

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.