Celtics-Heat Game 4: Celtics can survive a LeBron onslaught, can Heat survive another Rondomination?

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Here’s the secret to this series, and the Celtics’ postseason in general. Kevin Garnett getting points off the pick and pop and in the post over Ronny Turiaf and yelling and barking and cursing is nice. Paul Pierce getting an inefficient number of points per FGA is fine. Ray Allen hitting some in-between freezeouts is fine, and Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling having “playoff home team bench performances” is all well and good. The Celtics would still be doomed, and I mean “Greek tragedy, female-characters-in-a-Joss-Whedon-story, Blazers-top-draft-pick doomed” without Rajon Rondo.

Rondo is who answered when the Heat cut the lead into single digits in Game 3. Rondo kept them with a chance to win in Game 2. Rondo has answered every call, made every play, responded in every opportunity to keep the Celtics alive and kicking. Without him, they’re and old team that can’t stay in front of the Heat for 48 minutes. That’s just the reality. The Celtics played great as a team in Game 3, and still would have been ruined by the fourth quarter onslaught of the Heat if Rondo hadn’t kept attacking and making smart plays.

This series is about Rajon Rondo vs. LeBron James. James is up 2-1, and each has a prolific performance in a loss, though Rondo’s far exceeds James’. Miami has tried everything. Playing under, he nailed jump shots. Playing him off-ball, he slices to get free. Trap him, he racks up the assists. Hedge, he gets the corner. The Heat defense is not overrated. It is not a sham. It is as good as advertised, as is Boston, when they have the energy to execute. Neither team can do much of anything against the opponent’s best player, but that’s what this will come down to. Both sides will get contributions from the other players. Dwyane Wade will snap back. Paul Pierce is going to have a Truth game. But this series rests on the shoulders of Rondo, who as primary weapon and best player on the Celtics, has never lead them to the title, and James, who has never lead his team to the title.

Forget KG screaming. Forget Truth popping his jersey. Forget the Ray Allen resurrection, Chris Bosh’s status, Dwyane Wade’s performance. This is about two of the modern age’s best players, models of efficiency, production factories, and whoever can make the right play, not the most plays, will carry his team forward. This is the stuff of legend.

The James Kingdom or Rondoworld. Game 4 looms.

Hamidou Diallo is Superman for a night, wins 2019 Slam Dunk Contest

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.— The Oklahoma City Thunder have more athletes on the wing than those couple of guys whose names you know playing in the All-Star Game on Sunday.

They have Hamidou Diallo, and he can climb the ladder with the best of them and knows how to throw it down.

Diallo had the best dunk of the night — a Superman-themed elbow dunk over Shaq — and is deservingly your 2019 All-Star Dunk Contest.

The problem with practicing a dunk over Shaq is the man himself is not around to practice with.

“It’s tough,” Diallo said. “My man Chuck (Millan) from Team Flight Brothers, we tried a bunch of things. We tried having people stand, putting basketballs on top of them, just to make sure I could clear the shot. So it was tough.”

Diallo edged out the Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr. in the Finals. On his first Finals dunk, Smith tried to go with a between the legs 360 but missed twice. He changed it up for his third and final dunk attempt, a high bounce tomahawk, but he missed that one too. The judges generously gave him a 33, but he was destined to lose after that.

Smith still put on a show. On his second finals dunk, he brought out Stephen Curry and Dwyane Wade, taking the pass from Curry and leaping over Wade, and after a couple of misses he finally nailed it — for a full 50 from the judges (which the crowd in the arena didn’t agree with).

The contest itself was hit and miss (and for stretches much more miss), and the crowd in the arena did not seem into it, but there were highlights.

John Collins came out first and had one of the more underrated dunks of the night, slapping the backboard on one side then reverse dunking on the other. The judges gave him 8s across the board, which was low for a high degree of difficulty dunk.

On Collins’ second dunk he brought out a mini-replica of the Wright Brothers plane, went with some “first in flight” gear, and…he clipped the plane but made the dunk.

Diallo was next and pulled Russell Westbrook out of the crowd. Westbrook threw it off the side of the backboard and Diallo grabbed it and threw it down. His 48 (out of 50) had him in the lead after the first round.

In the second round, Diallo brought out Shaq for that dunk of the night. That got him into the Finals.

Smith Jr. was next and started with a high bounce catch and dunk but had to do it a couple times after he missed the first one. His second dunk was one of the best of the evening — he brought out J Cole (Sunday’s halftime performer), put on Cole’s high school jersey, then did not hold back.

Charlotte’s Miles Bridges had the hometown crowd behind him, but when he missed every dunk attempt in the first round his night was destined to be short. For his second attempt, he brought out Charlotte legend Muggsy Bogues, rocked the Larry Johnson jersey, then went off the side of the backboard with Kemba Walker for a perfect 50.

Hamidou Diallo elbow-dunks over Shaq (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Vince Carter‘s elbow dunk in the 2000 dunk contest is legendary.

Hamidou Diallo just one-upped it.

The Thunder forward put his entire forearm through the rim – while dunking over Shaquille O’Neal.

Compare that above video to Carter’s iconic dunk. Diallo’s path to the rim is far more impressive than Carter’s:

John Collins breaks airplane on Wright Brothers tribute dunk (video)

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CHARLOTTE – In North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers took flight, John Collins paid homage in the dunk contest. The Hawks big put on a cap, scarf and goggles befitting the Tuskegee Airmen and brought out a large model airplane to jump over.

Removing the goggles was disappointing enough. Then Collins broke the darn plane!

I love gimmick dunks, but you can’t break the prop.

Joe Harris holds off Stephen Curry in 3-point contest

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHARLOTTE – Three years ago, Joe Harris got waived.

Tonight, he beat the greatest shooter of all-time in the NBA’s 3-point contest.

Harris posted a 26-point final round, topping Stephen Curry‘s 24 and Buddy Hield‘s 19, to win the middle event of All-Star Saturday Night.

“I think you look at the makeup of our Brooklyn Nets team, and it’s a lot of guys that were sort of cast off and had a second opportunity,” said Harris, who washed out with the Cavaliers then got sent to the Magic in a trade-and-waive. “I personally was one of those guys.

“I got lucky going into a situation, going to a Nets organization that had such a strong value and emphasis on culture, skill development. And I’m sort of a byproduct of that system.”

Even as he has gained prominence in Brooklyn, it wasn’t certain Harris would get invited to the 3-point contest. He’s making 47% of his 3-pointers this season, but Spurs forward Davis Bertans is shooting 48% from beyond the arc on nearly as many attempts per game and didn’t get invited. In the greatest 3-point shooting era ever, spots in this event are hard to come by.

So, Harris made a promotional video to aid his campaign. He said his the Nets and his agency pushed it.

“Obviously, I was all for it,” Harris said. “I think to experience All-Star is quite unique.”

Full results

Round 1

Stephen Curry 27

Buddy Hield 26

Joe Harris 25

Danny Green 23

Devin Booker 23

Damian Lillard 17

Dirk Nowitzki 17

Seth Curry 16

Kemba Walker 15

Khris Middleton 11

Round 2

Joe Harris 26

Stephen Curry 24

Buddy Hield 19