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Seven biggest All-Star Game snubs: Beal calls it ‘disrespectful;’ Suns GM backs Booker

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There are just 24 NBA All-Star Game roster spots. Ten of those are voted on by the fans as starters (with the media and players in the mix just to prevent the Alex Caruso/Tacko Fall show).

That leaves 14 reserves, seven from each conference, voted on by the coaches. That list came out Thursday.

Inevitably there will be legitimate snubs, players who had the stats but not the votes (plus some players and fan bases who think they were snubbed but really were just not good enough). Here is our list of the seven biggest snubs from this year’s All-Star Game.

Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns). Suns GM James Jones wasted no time backing his guy in a statement after the snub, “I’ve played with and against multiple All-Stars in this league and Devin Booker is undoubtedly an NBA All-Star.”

Booker is averaging 27.1 points and 6.4 assists per game, the sharpshooter is hitting 36.8 percent from three and has an incredibly efficient 63.4 true shooting percentage. His poor defense (improved this season, but not good) and the Suns’ record hurt him (but the Suns have a better record than the Pelicans, and Ingram is in, so…).

Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards). The two-time All-Star is doing everything for the Wizards this season, averaging 28.6 points and 6.3 assists per game (although his three-point percentage has dipped to 31.4 percent as defenses have been able to focus on him. An emotional Beal called getting passed over for the ASG (for a second straight season) “disrespectful.”

Beal’s agent also had words.

Paul George (L.A. Clippers). The six-time All-Star has played well enough to get back to the big stage, averaging 23.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, and grabbing six rebounds a game. This snub was likely the coaches thinking he hadn’t played enough games (26, missing time at the start of the season as he recovered from shoulder surgery.

Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets). The six-time All-Star has put up numbers — 26.8 points and 6.6 assists per game — and looked like an All-Star when he’s played. However, due to his shoulder issues, Irving has played in just 18 games this season. That was not enough to win over the coaches.

Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana Pacers). The former Rookie of the Year has had to carry a heavy load for the  Pacers with Victor Oladipo out (until this week). He’s averaging 17 points and 7.4 assists per game. His teammate, Domantis Sabonis, made it and the voters may have stopped at one.

Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves). When Towns has played this season, he has been a flat-out beast on offense: 26.9 points per game, taking 8.3 threes per game and hitting 41 percent of them, plus 10.7 rebounds a game. He’s improved on defense as well (not that he’s consistent, but there are moments). The problems are injuries limiting him to 30 games, and the fact the Timberwolves had lost 10 in a row as coaches were voting.

Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics). You can make a good case Brown has been more valuable to Boston this season than Jayson Tatum, who will be playing in the All-Star Game. Brown is averaging 20.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, plus he brings the defense. Tatum’s graceful athleticism, and strong season in his own right, won the day.

• Honorable mention, Zach LaVine. They were pushing for him in Chicago, and he is averaging 25.1 points per game, shooting 38 percent from three. However, with the Bulls struggling, those felt like empty-calorie numbers to voters, plus LaVine is not exactly a defensive force. He may be competing in other events through the weekend.

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.


Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.

Spurs playoffs hopes remain alive with 123-105 win over Rockets

Spurs playoffs
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The Spurs aren’t out of it yet.

Keldon Johnson had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and San Antonio kept alive its chances of becoming the first team in NBA history to make 23 consecutive playoff appearances with a 123-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.

San Antonio has won three straight and five out of seven since arriving in the Florida bubble.

DeMar DeRozan added 23 points. Jakob Poeltl finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Johnson said his mindset since the season restarted has been to fill in whatever role is asked of him.

“Whether it’s hustling, running the floor – just doing whatever I need to do to help us win,” he said. “Help from my teammates has definitely helped the game slow down for me.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Johnson is playing with the confidence they saw when they drafted him 29th overall last year.

“That’s what he does,” Popovich said. “He’s a high-energy guy. He’s very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable. He’s just a winner.”

The Western Conference is guaranteed to have a play-in for its final playoff spot, with Memphis beginning the day with just a half-game over Portland and one game ahead of Phoenix and San Antonio.

The Spurs will need help to be one of the teams playing this weekend for the final spot in the Western Conference, but made sure they couldn’t be eliminated Tuesday with their win.

Russell Westbrook had 20 points and seven turnovers in his first game back in the lineup for Houston after missing two games with a bruised right quadriceps. Jeff Green had 17 points. Ben McLemore added 16.

The Rockets played without guards James Harden (rest) and Eric Gordon (ankle).

The Spurs took control in the second quarter, outscoring the Rockets 35-24. San Antonio led by as many as 29 points.

San Antonio built a 19-point lead in the first half. DeRozan set the tone with 15 points in the opening 24 minutes, with Lonnie Waker IV, Poeltl and Johnson each scoring 10.

Regardless of whether the Spurs make the playoffs or not, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is proud of how his young players have stepped up in during their time in the bubble.

“Part of it is you have to be realistic,” Popovich said. “I don’t think our chances of winning the championship were great at the beginning of this, nor are they now. If that’s a fact, then you need to do everything you can to develop and be prepared for next season.

“The development has been off the charts. We’re thrilled with it. So it’s a win-win no matter what.”

Popovich said it would be “thrilling” to get some help and have a chance to extend their season, but he’s not using it as a measuring stick for the season.

“We’ve already accomplished what we thought we were capable of accomplishing, that’s what’s important. If we got in now it would be icing on the cake.”