Three Stars of the Night: Larry Sanders, DeMarcus Cousins focus on the game instead of the officials

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There are some very good players in the league who let their emotions get the best of them more often than not, and as a result, they have a bad reputation where the officials are concerned.

But sometimes, these guys simply play their games to perfection, and dominate in the process. That’s what we saw tonight from two of our Three Stars.

Paul George (24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals in win at Dallas)

The Mavericks have crawled back into the Western Conference playoff picture after struggling with injuries to key players throughout the majority of the season. Dallas had been playing much better as of late, yet that mattered little to a Pacers team that has been, for the most part, solid all season long.

George’s all-around effort was key in this one offensively, while the Pacers as a team shut down the Mavericks almost completely, holding them to just 38.6 percent shooting and killing them on the glass by a 21-rebound margin.

DeMarcus Cousins (34 points on 16 shots, 14 rebounds in 30 minutes of action)

Cousins had it all going in this one, and any time he focuses on the matter at hand instead of the way the officials (or broadcasters) are calling the game, he has a chance to turn in a special performance.

His effort in this one might have been good enough to earn him top honors of the night, had the Suns actually been interested in fielding a team that featured their best players.

Larry Sanders (Career-high 21 points on 11 shots, 13 rebounds, two blocked shots)

Everyone who follows the NBA closely loves Larry Sanders’ game. He’s athletic, defends, and plays with energy on a nightly basis that makes him fun to watch.

His recent tear of technical fouls and ejections diminished that more than a little bit, but Sanders seems to be back on track, focusing on his game above all else. The Bucks used a balanced attack to dispatch the Lakers on thursday, and when you manage to lead your team in scoring while playing with both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, you know it was a special night.

Scottie Pippen on LeBron James, Michael Jordan: “It’s not a fair comparison”

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The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.

And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.

James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.

But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.

In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).

Via Twitter:

That sounds right to me.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

Associated Press
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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.