Three things to know: All-Star teams are set; Team LeBron is stacked

0 Comments

The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.

1) The All-Star teams are set… and Team LeBron is stacked

If you’re picking from 24 of the top players in the game — as LeBron James and Kevin Durant did Thursday night when picking their teams for the All-Star Game this Sunday in Atlanta — you can’t really go wrong. There are no bad choices.

But damn, Team LeBron is STACKED.

LeBron used his first pick on reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the one after that on former MVP Stephen Curry, and it went from there. What did Antetokounmpo think?

Here are the All-Star Game teams:

Team LeBron

Starters
• LeBron James, captain (Lakers)
• Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
• Stephen Curry (Warriors)
Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)

Reserves
Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
Ben Simmons (76ers)
Chris Paul (Suns)
Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
Paul George (Clippers)
Domantas Sabonis (Pacers)
Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

Team Durant

Starters
Kyrie Irving (Nets)
Joel Embiid (76ers)
Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
Bradley Beal (Wizards)
Jayson Tatum (Celtics)

Reserves
James Harden (Nets)
Devin Booker (Suns)
Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
Zach LaVine (Bulls)
Julius Randle (Knicks)
Nikola Vucevic (Magic)
Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

Durant (who will not play in Atlanta due to the hamstring issues that have sidelined him for weeks) did what every captain of an All-Star team has done — used his picks first on his teammates. He took Irving with his first pick of the starters, then Harden with his first pick of the reserves. The Nets are together.

The interesting twist of the process was Mitchell and Gobert of the Jazz being the last two players selected — Charles Barkley called it “slander” against the NBA’s best team so far this season. LeBron’s answer dumped salt on the sounds of Jazz fans:

“There’s no slander to the Utah Jazz,” LeBron said. “You’ve got to understand, just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. As great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we would never pick those guys in video games.”

Ouch.

The All-Star Game — with the Skills Challenge and Three-Point Competition beforehand, then the Dunk Contest at halftime — takes place Sunday and will be broadcast on TNT.

2) Jrue Holiday caps wild ending, gets Bucks the win against Grizzlies

Ja Morant thought he hit the game-winner for the Grizzlies. Morant drove to his left, got into the middle of the lane, split the defense, got to the rim, and hit the acrobatic lay-up — Memphis was up 111-110 with :07.3 seconds left.

That was enough time for Jrue Holiday to do this.

The Bucks held on for the 112-11 win. It helped that Milwaukee was out of timeouts and was forced to play fast, which caught the Memphis defense scrambling, and Holiday took advantage getting to a spot he is comfortable.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 26 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, while Khris Middleton scored 22 and added 10 boards for Milwaukee. Morant scored 35, while Dillon Brooks added 23 points for the Grizzlies.

3) Damian Lillard is NBA’s best clutch player — scores 10 in a row to get Blazers win

He probably will not win it, but Damian Lillard has to be in any MVP conversation this season, in part because his clutch play has the Trail Blazers winning.

Lillard did it again on Thursday night. Sacramento hot just gotten a Harrison Barnes‘ layup and Buddy Hield three to go up 108-103 with 3:49 left. Then it was Lillard time — he responded with 10 straight points (including a couple of threes). With just more than a minute left, it was 115-108 Portland, and it would hang on to win.

Lillard finished with 44 points on the night.

More impressively, Portland is 21-14 heading into the All-Star break, having had to play most of the first half of the season without their second and third best players — CJ McCollum (who has been cleared for contact workouts and should be back not long after the break) and Jusuf Nurkic — both out with injuries.

Portland has been one of the “luckiest” teams in the NBA this season — it has the net rating of an 18-17 team (via Cleaning the Glass; Basketball-Reference suggests 17-18), but the Blazers have an additional three or four victories because Lillard keeps winning them clutch games.

Portland sits fifth in the West and needs to keep winning those close games to hold on to that spot after the break.