Three Stars of the Night: All you need is Love

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So the Mayans had it wrong, and The Beatles had it right. To end the Thunder’s winning streak, all the Wolves needed was Love (of the Kevin variety) and maybe some bruising play from Nikola Pekovic, some serious playmaking from Alexey Shved, and a pinch of J.J. Barea. Having Russell Westbrook join Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club with 28 shot attempts and 8 turnovers didn’t hurt either. The Nuggets, meanwhile, had a hard day’s night, setting a record for NBA futility. As for The Heatles (ugh) against the Mavericks? They had a ticket to ride. How about you say goodbye to all the Beatles stuff, and I’ll say hello to Three Stars:

Third Star: J.J. Barea – (18 points, 14 in the 4th quarter)

With Ricky Rubio’s minutes still being limited, the Wolves turned to J.J. Barea in the fourth period against Oklahoma City. Barea regularly shifts from truly awful to absolutely fantastic on a nightly basis, but luckily for the Wolves, they got good Barea against the league’s best team. Barea’s irrational confidence was off the charts against the Thunder, and the impossible 3-pointers he fired up just seemed to keep falling. I don’t know if “irritating” can be considered a positive trait in a player, but Barea has it in spades. After he baited Kevin Durant into an offensive fall with his signature flop move, Durant lost his cool and picked up a technical foul. How often does that happen? Probably about as often as a J.J. Barea offensive explosion does, but it’s certainly not a coincidence that it came in the same game.

Second Star: Dwyane Wade – (19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)

After a slow start to the year, Wade is getting back in the groove of things and making the same plays only he makes. There are only a few players who control their bodies on drives as well as Wade does (Manu Ginobili is one, Brandon Roy was the other), so it was nice to see Wade get six field goals right at the rim and help keep O.J. Mayo from getting there on the other end. As a nice little bonus, Wade recorded the best single game plus/minus number of his career at +40. With Wade firing on all cylinders, Miami is climbing back into the upper echelon on both ends of the ball.

First Star: Kevin Love – (28 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists)

Kevin Love is a shotblocker’s worst nightmare. Not because of his vertical leap (obviously), but because he makes rim protectors betray their instincts every time down the floor. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins are conditioned to protect the rim. In transition, they run to the rim. When someone else gets beat, they run to the rim. It’s who they are as basketball players. But when you’re guarding Kevin Love, you just can’t do those things. Oklahoma City’s bigs got caught cheating off Love far too often (4-for-9 from 3-point land), and they allowed him too much of a window to throw some nice dimes (7 assists). With Pekovic doing his bull in a china shop routine and Love demanding attention on the perimeter and on the offensive glass, Minnesota is a handful for any frontcourt.

Kevin Durant keeps building up superstar accolades with second All-Star MVP

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CHARLOTTE – When Kevin Durant won All-Star MVP in 2012, he was asked whether he considered himself a star, a label he had resisted.

“I wouldn’t say that just yet,” Durant said. “Hopefully. Hopefully soon I can say that.”

The notion was silly then. Durant had already made two All-NBA first teams and finished second for MVP.

But that All-Star MVP started to change how Durant presented himself. He made another All-NBA first team, again finished second for MVP and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals that season.

“In 2012, I started to feel like I started to hit that elite level,” Durant said. “All that stuff in one year was pretty exciting to me.”

The hits have kept rolling since.

Durant has added an MVP, two titles and two Finals MVPs. Tonight, he claimed another All-Star MVP. The Warriors star scored 31 points on 10-of-15 shooting to lead LeBron James‘ team to a 178-164 win.

“I just keep trying to rack them up, I guess,” Durant said.

That’s seven years between his All-Star MVPs. Few players sustain that elite level – starring among stars – so long. Only LeBron James (12 years), Michael Jordan (10 years), Kobe Bryant (nine years), Oscar Robertson (eight years) have gone so long between their first and last All-Star MVPs.

Durant, 30, appears to have plenty left in the tank.

Of course, the impending question: Where? Durant can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and this weekend included plenty of speculation.

Tonight’s game gave Knicks fans reason to fanaticize. New York’s presumed targets with its double-max cap space, Durant and Kyrie Irving showed strong chemistry. Half Durant’s baskets were assisted by Irving, who sent five of his six assists to Durant (the other an alley-oop to former teammate LeBron).

Asked which of his All-Star teammates he best meshed with, Durant refused to name one.

“You don’t really have to do too much when you’re playing with so many great players,” Durant said. “You can do what you’re just best at.”

Team LeBron starts playing defense first, comes from 20 down to win All-Star Game

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s All-Star Game, Team LeBron started to care.

Down 20 at one point early in the third, Team LeBron came out of a mid-quarter timeout with a different energy. The “bench” guys on the court started defending with the kind of relative intensity usually reserved for the final minutes of this exhibition (when it’s close), the players on the bench were standing and cheering like it was a playoff game, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal started knocking down everything, and the game just shifted. It culminated when Damian Lillard tied the game up with a 35-foot three.

Team LeBron kept up the momentum, owned the fourth as Durant went 3-of-3 from beyond the arc in the quarter, and Team LeBron got the win 178-164.

“It was our second unit that came in — Dame, Klay, Brad Beal, LaMarcus, Ben Simmons, KAT,” LeBron said after the game about what turned the momentum. “They came in and just changed the whole complexion of the game. We got stops, and, obviously, Dame and Klay caught fire from beyond the arc, and that allowed us to get back in the game.”

Durant was named MVP, a clear choice with his second-half play in particular.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul George showed anyone that hasn’t seen him this season how well he’s playing — MVP conversation level — on his way to 20.

This All-Star Game opened with the level of defensive intensity we have come to expect in All-Star Games. Which is to say none.

Well, except when Stephen Curry was guarding Klay Thompson.

The one guy who was intense from the start was Antetokounmpo, who scored the first six points for Team Giannis. He didn’t slow down on his way to 20 first-half points, plus he had one of the game’s great highlights on a bounce pass alley-oop from Curry.

Antetokounmpo wasn’t the only Buck hot to start, Khris Middleton entered the game midway through the first quarter and drained three shots from beyond the arc in a row. In the first nine minutes of the game, the Bucks were beating Team LeBron 28-27.

The favorite crowd moment of the first half was when future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki walked on the court and splashed a couple of threes.

Dwyane Wade was the other Commissioner addition to the game, which means for one last time we got Wade throwing the alley-oop to LeBron.

Curry struggled late, going 3-of-11 in the fourth, but he still got to rub it in Thompson’s face a little.

“It was good to see Steph knock that shot down over Klay, because Klay is always talking trash to him,” Durant said after the game.

Team Giannis was in control most of the first half and was up 13 (95-82) at the half, not that 13 points is much of a deficit in the All-Star Game. Not when one team started to care.

Stephen Curry gets four-point play after Klay Thompson foul, Curry does some taunting

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Stephen Curry is enjoying going against Klay Thompson. Maybe a little too much.

In the first half, Curry was matched up on his Warriors’ backcourt mate and enjoyed that Thompson missed the shot.

Then in the fourth quarter, with the game tight, Curry drained the contested three and drew the and-1 on Thompson — and did a little taunting.

That’s some All-Star fun.

Stephen Curry bounces alley-oop way above rim, Giannis Antetokounmpo slams it down (video)

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CHARLOTTE – Stephen Curry bounced this so high!

I suppose it helps that Giannis Antetokounmpo has such ridiculous reach.