Carmelo the best player, Bulls the best team and get win

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It really wasn’t much along the lines of revenge. It really wasn’t much of a statement either.

What happened when the Bulls beat the Knicks 98-86 Tuesday night is that the better team won. Emphasis on team. And the fact the Bulls did it without Derrick Rose (out with an ankle injury) should scare Knicks fans, because these teams could well meet in the first round.

Yes, the Knicks and Bulls split a home-and-home and some Knicks fans may try to take solace in that. But for the Knicks to win the first game it took a rusty game from Derrick Rose (although Iman Shumpert deserves some credit for his defense), four key late missed free throws by Rose and Luol Deng, some monster tip-outs by Tyson Chandler and an epic game from Carmelo Anthony — and the Knicks still needed overtime. At home.

That’s not going to happen four times in seven games. Even if they get Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin back. The Bulls are the better squad.

Like Sunday, on Tuesday Anthony may have been the best player on the floor — he had 29 points on 19 shots, he got to the line, he played solid defense and he also dished out five assists.

But it was ‘Melo against the world — Knicks not named Anthony shot 37 percent on the night. They got swarmed by the Bulls defense.

On the other side Richard Hamilton found his groove moving off the ball and finding seams, scoring 18 of his 20 in the third quarter to help Chicago solidify their lead. If the Bulls are going to make a deep playoffs run, they need this Rip Hamilton to show up nightly.

Then in the fourth it was the Kyle Korver show as he had 11 points in the final frame. That was enough offense for the Bulls defense.

In both games, the Bulls dominated the paint and the boards. Chicago grabbed the offensive rebound on 35.5 percent of their missed shots and that led to 25 second chance points. If the Knicks are to stand a chance in a potential playoff matchup with the Bulls that has to change — Tyson Chandler had 15 boards but he needs help.

Both of these teams now have key showdown games ahead. For the Knicks it’s the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday — New York is currently one game ahead of them for the last playoff spot in the East. If the Bucks win not only do they tie the Knicks the Bucks will win the season series and have the tiebreaker.

For the Bulls, it’s the Heat on Thursday night in a likely Eastern Conference Finals showdown.

Knicks say they scouted Giannis Antetokounmpo in Greece

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Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s agent, Giorgos Panou, said the Knicks were the only team not to scout Antetokounmpo in Greece before the 2013 NBA draft.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

If the Knicks indeed scouted Antetokounmpo that thoroughly, it’s a shame they were smeared for not doing so.

Milwaukee took Antetokounmpo No. 13. New York had the No. 24 pick and kept it to draft Tim Hardaway Jr.

Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma scores 35, wins MVP, leads USA to victory in Rising Stars dunkfest

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CHARLOTTE — Nobody comes to the Friday night Rising Stars Challenge — the All-Star weekend showcase of first- and second-year stars — for the defense. Which is good, because there isn’t any. Zero. Nada. Your Saturday blacktop pickup game at the local park has guys that care more about defense than you see in this game.

What the Rising Stars has are dunks. A lot of big dunks. And some threes. Then more dunks.

For example, the Hawks’ John Collins was showing off why he was in the dunk contest, complete with a pass off the backboard to himself.

As for the game itself, the USA won 161-144 over the World.

The Lakers Kyle Kuzma raced out to 23 first-half points and finished with 35 to earn MVP honors.

“Last year I didn’t really play that hard,” Kuzma said of his first time in this game. “This year I just came out, one, I wanted to get some conditioning, and, two, why not MVP? You’re in the game. So might as well just try.”

Kuzma also broke out the windmill.

D’Aaron Fox said before the game he wanted to break the assist record for the Rising Stars, and while he fell short of that number he had 16 for the USA. Boston’s Jayson Tatum had 30 and Donovan Mitchell had 20 for the USA. Ben Simmons led the Word team of 28 points.

As for highlights, there were plenty.

Atlanta’s Trae Young hit six threes and had this dime.

He also had the play of the night, nutmegging Deandre Ayton.

Philly’s Ben Simmons had a couple of throwdowns.

The Timberwolves Josh Okogie had the putback of the night (teammate and All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns sat courtside wearing an Okogie jersey).

Hawks’ John Collins passes to self off backboard for dunk in Rising Stars

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CHARLOTTE — The NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge — the Friday night showcase of first- and second-year players during All-Star Weekend — has less defense than your lunch run pickup game at the Y. Even less than the All-Star Game itself.

Which leads to some monster dunks.

Enter Atlanta’s second-year big man John Collins, playing for the USA (vs. The World), who went off the backboard to himself for the best throwdown of the game.

That wasn’t Collins’ only quality dunk in this game.

He looks ready for Saturday’s Dunk Contest.

Report: Nuggets extend president Tim Connelly’s contract

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On the same day the Pelicans fired general manager Dell Demps, the Nuggets extended the contract of president Tim Connelly, who went to Denver from New Orleans.

Nuggets release:

Nuggets President and Governor Josh Kroenke announced today that the Nuggets have extended the contracts of President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and General Manager Arturas Karnisovas as well and also provided multi-year extensions for the entire basketball operations staff.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I don’t know whether Connelly used the threat of the Pelicans job as leverage. But he deserved this extension, anyway.

The Nuggets have only continued to rise since his previous extension three years ago.

Denver has yet to make the playoffs under Connelly, and he declared this season postseason or bust. Denver (39-18) is second in the Western Conference.

Connelly made a second-round pick so good in Nikola Jokic, it altered the course of the franchise. Connelly has done well to lock Jokic onto a five-year extension, surround him with young talent like Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez and get them a good coach in Michael Malone.

If Denver weren’t stuck barely missing the playoffs in the loaded West the last couple years, we might have been singing Connelly’s praises sooner. But his success is undeniable. The Nuggets are in great shape now and in the future, and Connelly should see that through.