Hawks beat Warriors in battle of league’s top teams


The Hawks have been one of the more incredible stories this season, at one point piecing together a 19-game win streak while playing an equal opportunity brand of offensive basketball that’s been extremely fun to watch.

Despite their gaudy record, however, most considered the Warriors to be the league’s best team. That argument was temporarily settled on Friday, as Atlanta posted a 124-116 home victory over Golden State, and did so rather impressively.

The Warriors lead the league in defensive efficiency by holding opponents to an average of just 97.3 points per 100 possessions, and while the pace in this one was faster than usual, you wouldn’t have guessed that Golden State excelled at that end of the floor, especially in the second half.

The Hawks shot 67.7 percent from the field and 80 percent from three-point distance over the final two periods, on the way to scoring 72 second-half points.

Atlanta may have three of its players heading to New York for the All-Star game next weekend, but as usual, the scoring was distributed fairly evenly in this one. Jeff Teague led the way with 23 points (on just 5-of-15 shooting), but six of his teammates also finished in double figures. Mike Scott was huge off the bench, scoring 15 of his 17 points in a little more than 10 second-half minutes.

On the Warriors side, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did the heavy lifting, combining for 57 points on almost 50 percent shooting. But the rest of the team shot the ball at a low percentage, and — when do we ever say this — simply couldn’t keep up with the efficient way that the Hawks were making their shots.

Golden State fans may point to this game as an anomaly; the blistering second-half shooting display their opponent pulled off isn’t likely sustainable, and the free throw disparity was significant, despite the Warriors taking more than 45 percent of their shots in the paint.

But the Hawks are for real, and they’ve proven it now, just as they have all season long. If they didn’t win under this specific set of circumstances, they probably would have found another way — a league best record of 42-9 essentially proves it.

Jeff Teague blocks a Stephen Curry three, finishes with fast break slam (VIDEO)


Friday’s matchup between the Hawks and the Warriors features the league’s two best teams going head-to-head for the very first time, and the intensity was reflective of that in the game’s opening minutes.

Jeff Teague made this spectacular play early on, blocking a three-point attempt from Stephen Curry before getting out on the break and finishing with a slam in transition.



Why the 3-point-shootout field tops the dunk-contest field


Imagine your ideal 3-point-shootout field.

It’d look an awful lot like the actual field: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, James Harden, Kyrie Irving , J.J. Redick, Wesley Matthews and and Marco Belinelli.

Now, imagine your ideal dunk-contest field.

It’d look nothing, or nearly nothing, like the actual field: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee and Zach LaVine.

Has the 3-pointer replaced the dunk as the premier shot in the NBA? Are 3-pointers now cooler than dunks?

Teams shoot 3-pointers more often than ever, relying on them to generate efficient points and space the floor. As the NBA has loosened defensive rules, the lane has become more packed, limiting dunking opportunities.

But 3-pointers cooler than dunks? No way. A jumper is not more exciting or fun or exhilarating than a slam.

So why don’t we get LeBron James, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook in the dunk contest like we do Curry, Thompson and Korver in the 3-point shootout?

The Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The NBA, as negotiated with the players’ union, can require anyone to participate in the 3-point shootout (or skills challenge or shooting stars contest) with two exceptions:

1. The player isn’t injured.

2. The player hasn’t competed in the event the previous two years (unless he’s the defending champ, in which case he can be required to return).

So, Curry and Irving, both of whom participated in the 3-point shootout the previous two years, were the only two exempt healthy players. Luckily for the NBA, Curry badly wants to win the event, and Irving will participate, too.

The dunk contest is explicitly excluded from these stipulations. In fact, the only players the league can require to compete in the dunk contest are Rising Stars Challenge participants.

Unsurprisingly, all four dunk-contest entrants this year are also in the Rising Stars Challenge.

The CBA calls for more money for the dunk-contest winner ($100,000) than the 3-point shootout winner ($50,000*), but that’s not enough to persuade top players to enter the dunk contest.

*Set before the league increase the participants from six to eight last year, so the figure might have been altered.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN wrote a good article on the changing nature of the NBA, and as he says, there is a buzz for this year’s 3-point shootout – more than the dunk contest. But I don’t see the NBA’s evolution and this year’s All-Star Saturday Night as closely linked as he does.

Elite players want a break more than that cash. Passing on the dunk contest is more about the contractually negotiated right to do so – a right much more limited for the 3-point shootout – than anything else.






Carmelo Anthony to recruit looming free agents during All-Star weekend


Joakim Noah recruited Carmelo Anthony during All-Star weekend last year.

Melo turned down the Bulls to re-sign with the Knicks, but he learned how to persuade free agents.

Even as New York struggles this season, Melo believes he can lure players to the Knicks – and he’ll use All-Star weekend in New York to build his case.

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

Asked after Thursday’s practice in Tarrytown if he hoped the Garden, with its history, and New York City, with its everything, can lure free agents to the Knicks, Anthony said, “I hope so, I hope so.”

“That was kind of the talk of All-Star Weekend last year,” Anthony said. “I’ve had that experience maybe twice now, last year and then the one in L.A. a couple of years back right before I got to New York. Now it’s my turn. Now it’s my turn to extend the favor.”

Melo wouldn’t name his targets, but several All-Stars can become free agents this summer:

  • Marc Gasol
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Paul Millsap
  • Tim Duncan
  • Jimmy Butler (restricted)
  • LeBron James (player option)
  • Dwyane Wade (player option)

The Knicks will probably try to hurriedly add talent, and any of these players would be tremendous gets. New York’s chances might be slim with any of them, but it’s worth a shot.

John Wall, Kyle Lowry highlight lineup for All-Star weekend’s Skills Challenge


In the past, the Skills Challenge event that takes place on All-Star Saturday night had players going through the course one at a time, with those who completed it the fastest advancing to the later rounds.

This year, the format has changed slightly — not only will we have two players running the course at the same time, but there’s a bracket system in place, as well as a three-point shot at the end of the course that should make things extremely interesting.

The list of participants is as follows:

Participant, Team                                                              Pos.        Ht.      Wt.

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz                                                        G             6-1      185

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls                                             G/F         6-7      220

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers                 G             6-6      190

Brandon Knight, Milwaukee Bucks                                 G             6-3      189

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors                                           G             6-0      205

Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks                                             G             6-2      181

Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns                                          G             5-9      185

John Wall, Washington Wizards                                       G             6-4      195

And here’s the bracket of the how the matchups will shake out:


Last season featured a team format, where Trey Burke and Damian Lillard took home the title for the West.