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Passive Nikola Jokic was 0-1 shooting last night in Nuggets loss

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Nikola Jokic raced out to a fast start this season — 15.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 7.8 assists a night with a 63.7 true shooting percentage the focal point of the Nuggets offense so far. He is playing like an All-Star, if not an All-NBA player, and he Nuggets got off to a 9-1 start.

But in recent games Jokic has been more passive, and that came to a head Wednesday in Miami when he took only one shot — a three-ball attempted game-winner with 2.4 seconds left — and Denver lost scoring just 87 points. Memphis was grinding and they dictated the pace and style, Jokic got sucked into it.

What happened? While the Grizzlies did focus on stopping him, Jokic also passed up open looks, instead passing to less open teammates. There’s no one clear answer, but everyone around the Nuggets knows they can’t have their best player be passive. From Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

“He’s gotta be aggressive, but he’s making plays for others, so it’s just a balance of how much you want him to pass, because he’s a great passer and how much do you want him to shoot,” [Jamal] Murray said of Jokic. “I think it’s just a balance.”

“He’s gotta be aggressive,” [Paul] Millsap said. “I’m not going to tell him … he’s pretty much, he’s an All-Star. He’ll find his shot. He’s still doing other things to help this team. He looks a little tired out there, so we gotta do a better job of helping him.”

“We have stuff, we get him the ball in spots,” forward Mason Plumlee said. “A lot of our offense is through him, so he has to take the initiative to take shots. We support that, we want that, and we don’t want him taking his first shot as the game-winning shot. It’s a great shot, I love the play call, but we gotta get him going earlier. He really sets the table, and the thing is he’s such a good passer, he’s always going to get other guys off. But we gotta get him involved offensively too.”

The concern is this is four consecutive games now with Jokic scoring in single digits and averaging 4.5 shot attempts per game in that stretch. The Memphis game was not a total outlier, more part of a recent trend — one Denver needs to reverse if they are going to win consistently. Jokic has said he does not get set up by teammates much, which is true but as the face of the franchise he needs to be more aggressive in creating and taking good looks. Plus, he’s passing up open looks right now.

Whatever is going on in Jokic’s head, the Nuggets need to shake him out of it soon.

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.