Three Stars of the Night: Not Enough Help Edition

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No one really remembers the numbers guys get in losing efforts. Those numbers usually seem hollow; they come off as not worthy of mention. Tonight, though, we honor those guys who put up big numbers in a losing effort. Because as those guys showed out and did their best to help their team win, they didn’t get enough help to make it happen.

So, a sincere apology to LeBron James (40 points, 16 assists, 8 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (39 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists), and Deron Williams (33 points, 8 assists), but tonight we’re going in a different direction for Three Stars. Tonight, we’re looking at the guys who didn’t get enough help and had great nights in losing efforts. Let’s get to it…

Third Star: Marcus Thornton (36 points, 8 made three pointers, 3 assists)

There’s a reason this guy’s nickname is buckets. When Thornton has it going, he can knock down shots from all over the floor and light up the scoreboard in the process. Against the Heat, Thornton did just that, hitting long range shot after long range shot to help keep the Kings close throughout the game. Without his 30 points in regulation there’s no way this game even goes to overtime, much less a 2nd OT. So, while LeBron and Wade will get the big honors in all the highlights, bravo to Thornton who carried a Kings bench that only managed 6 additional points to his 36 on the night.

Second Star: Dirk Nowitzki (21 points, 20 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals)

Lately Dirk has really been playing well. In fact, this is his 2nd straight excellent game in a losing effort (his 30 and 13 against the Lakers was fantastic). Against the Bucks, Dirk did everything he could to lead his team to the win. He hit shots from all over the floor against very good defense, got the foul line, and was a beast on the boards. It just wasn’t in the cards for the big German, however, as the Bucks proved to be too much to overcome down the stretch of the game. Dirk did get some good help from O.J. Mayo and Elton Brand, but the rest of the team was a bit too inconsistent, especially on defense.

First Star: Stephen Curry (38 points, 7 made three pointers, 4 assists, 3 steals)

Curry’s night will likely be remembered for how he rushed Roy Hibbert as part of the Warriors/Pacers scuffle and that’s a shame considering how well he was playing before that all went down. Curry played like the best player on the floor in this game, shaking free from every defender the Pacers sent his way and hitting some fantastic shots in the process. Long range bombs, mid range pull ups, and even a nice finish at the basket were all part of his arsenal tonight, but it just wasn’t enough. It made for some great highlight’s though.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.