Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony shoot East to win in highest scoring NBA All-Star Game ever

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NEW ORLEANS — The NBA All-Star Game is never exactly a defensive showcase, it’s an exhibition. But this year’s version was an analytic lover’s dream:

Three pointers and dunks. A lot of them.

In the highest-scoring NBA All-Star Game ever, the East beat the West 163-155.

This was the kind of showcase of athleticism the NBA wanted — Blake Griffin is made for a game where there is little defense and rim runs are rewarded and he had 38 points (four points behind of Wilt Chamberlain’s record) and he shot 16-of-18 at the rim. Kevin Durant had 38 points as well on 14-of-27 and hit a couple of threes from about Bourbon Street. That is four years in a row Durant has had more than 30 points in the All-Star Game.

But it ended up being in a losing effort.

The East had been down by 18 in the third quarter but Kyrie Irving sparked the comeback — he had 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter while hitting 7-of-9 shots. That performance earned Irving the game MVP honors. Carmelo Anthony added six points and finished with 30.

“We got stops and we made shots,” LeBron James said of the comeback win. “And we didn’t turn the ball over. Very key. We wanted this win. (The West) beat us the last three years and they had a lot of bragging rights, so to be able to come through being down 18 was huge.”

LeBron played 33 minutes and finished with 22 points, including probably the best dunk of the night. But he also made some defensive plays — on the first play of the game the West tried to run “elevator doors” for Stephen Curry (something the Warriors do for him) but LeBron read it, stole it and got out for breakaway dunk. He also broke up a couple alley-oop attempts by anticipating pass and closing fast to knock it down as the guy was throwing it up.

The East went a little cold in the second quarter (let’s not pretend there was good defense) and the West stretched lead out to double digits in the first half, and Durant was key to that as he had 22 points in the first 24. The score was 89-76 West at the half — 89 points in a half was an All-Star Game record.

At the start of the second half there was even less defense, if that was possible. But down 18 the East was the first to really start taking that end of the court a little more seriously. Quickly it became a game.

Defense did end up being key for the East in their comeback — coach Frank Vogel switched up the defense and put Paul George on Chris Paul, and it worked.

“We just wanted to put some length on CP3, so it was me instead of Kyrie,” George said. “We just wanted to disrupt him a little… we wanted to take the ball out of his hands, get it over to (Durant) and LeBron did a good job pressuring him.”

Combine that defense with a little Kyrie Irving show and you have an Eastern Conference win.

More importantly, you had an entertaining show. Which is what the All-Star Game is supposed to be.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.