NBA Sitrep – The All-Star game is back! Donovan’s dunking delight and the red-hot Utah Jazz

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Defense in the All-Star game?

This was the final play of the 2018 All-Star game.

For the first time in recent memory, the All-Star game was decided by defense.

Curry was locked up by LeBron and then Durant, leading to a desperation shot from DeRozen that was released after the buzzer.

Team LeBron defeated Team Stephen 148-145, while LeBron secured his third All-Star MVP with a 29 point, 10 rebound and 8 assist master-class.

Let’s get this straight, there were still stretches of the game where defense was minimal and the offense consisted of open dunks and deep three balls.

But overall, the defense was much better, the players seemed to slightly care and the result was a genuinely entertaining game of pick-up basketball between the world’s best.

The game wasn’t short on highlights either.

This Embiid and Westbrook rivalry is the gift that keeps on giving.

He couldn’t finish the move, but this was just sick by Kyrie.

Next year televise the draft, don’t let Fergie sing the national anthem and just scrap the ridiculous pre-show snore fest.

But other than that, give us more of the same.

The All-Star game is officially back!

Donovan the Dunk King

The All-Star game may have returned to former glory, but the Dunk Contest left much to be desired.

Donovan Mitchell took out the Dunk Champ crown, which was judged by basketball legends such as Mark Wahlberg and Chris Rock.

The only thing stupider than that would be to get DJ Khaled to judge as well.

Oh wait, they did.

There were a few decent dunks here and there, but overall it was another forgettable Dunk Contest.

Dennis Smith Jr. had the best dunk of the night in my non-qualified opinion. So basically, I should be a judge as well.

Larry Nance Jr. tried to spice things up with this double-tap throw down.

Donovan’s final dunk, which according to our esteemed judges handed him the win.

Booker takes out Three-Point crown

Devin Booker took out the three-point contest, which gave the Dunk Contest a run for its money on the disappointment scale.

Booker finished with a record 28 points in the final, eclipsing the previous record of 27 held by the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.

The most interesting point of note from the event.

The LA rims don’t seem to love Paul George as much as he loves the city.

Spencer Dinwiddie took out the Skills Challenge, becoming the first Nets player to win something in a very long time.

Joel Embiid was knocked out before the final, but not before he bent every rule to stay alive in the competition.

https://twitter.com/barstoolsports/status/965035868154224641

Technically after three attempts at the chest pass, you are free to advance, regardless of a miss or make.

Embiid is the first contestant in the history of the Skills Challenge to actually read the rules.

He also forgot to take the tag off his shorts.

Earlier in the weekend, the World Team rolled to an easy 155-124 victory over Team USA.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was named the MVP of the game, dropping 26 points along with seven triples off the bench.

Sweet, sweet music for Jazz

Back to the real basketball, where the Jazz have rolled off eleven straight wins to race into playoff contention.

After entering January five games below .500, the Jazz have knocked over the likes of the Warriors, Raptors, Trailblazers and Spurs on the way to their current 30-28 record.

Donovan Mitchell has upped his already incredible level of play, Rudy Gobert has anchored the defense superbly and the Jazz’s role players have provided the perfect complement to Mitchell’s instant offense.

In the Jazz’s comeback win over the Spurs last week, it was the relatively unknown Royce O’Neale who shut down Kyle Anderson and then Manu Ginobili to seal the win.

Moments earlier, Derrick Favors had blocked Manu Ginobili and saved the ball to give the Jazz possession.

It’s plays and efforts like these which have pushed the Jazz back up the standings and only one and a half games out of the eighth seed.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 6

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Utah Jazz may own the league’s largest current win streak, but Houston is right behind them with their own ten game win streak. Led by CP3 and Harden, the Rockets have leapt above the Warriors and currently hold the number one seed in the West. They have also set themselves up for the second half of the season by signing free agents, Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright to their roster.

Slider

The Nets have lost seven straight games, and are just one from their last ten contests. Only one game currently separates the Nets from the likes of the Magic, Hawks, Kings and Mavericks in the win column, which will have the Cavaliers front office excited about the prospect of a high lottery pick (The Cavs will receive the Nets first-round pick, which was acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal).

Heat Check

Anthony Davis

vs. Pistons – 38 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks

vs. Lakers – 42 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks, 3 steals

A huge week for the Brow, who led the Pelicans to their third straight win and helped them cling to their playoff spot in the eighth seed. If New Orleans is to hold off the Clippers and Jazz down the stretch, Davis will need to continue to stuff the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

Highlights

The pass was nice and the finish was just nasty.

Westbrook wasn’t coasting into the All-Star break.

Back-to-back huge blocks by Jimmy Butler.

https://twitter.com/barstoolsports/status/964353142505771008

Eric Bledsoe finishing with authority.

Jabari Parker putting two Hawks on a poster.

Whoopsie Watch

Dwight Howard – 0 / Orlando Rim – 1

Okafor with the thirteen-second violation!

Steve Kerr is so bored that he is now letting the players do his job.

https://twitter.com/Devin_Walker5/status/963267527643148290

NBA Sitrep – Disaster for DeMarcus, Jason Kidd fired and where is the Love?

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Tragedy strikes for Cousins and Pelicans

The Pelicans just can’t shake the dreaded injury curse.

After Davis’s sketchy history with injury, they have now lost All-Star centre DeMarcus Cousins for the remainder of the season with a ruptured Achilles.

Cousins sustained the injury after following his own free-throw miss with seconds remaining in the Pelicans clash against Houston.

Cousins was just months away from likely making his first playoff appearance, as Davis will now be forced to carry the Pelicans dwindling playoff hopes.

The injury is a shattering blow for New Orleans, who had won eight of their last ten contests and surged into the sixth seed in the West.

Cousins was having a career year, averaging 25.2 points per game, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists through his 48 games.

Andre Roberson will also miss the remainder of the season after he suffered a ruptured patellar tendon against the Detroit Pistons.

https://twitter.com/MeanMugSports/status/957405845242990593

Despite his limited offensive ability, Roberson was having another stellar defensive season and was in line for a first-team All-Defense selection.

All-Star teams locked and loaded

I’m sure the All-Star draft was great, but unfortunately that’s about all anyone can say.

The NBA stuck behind their decision to keep the draft a secret, despite strong pushes from fans, media and even certain players to televise the draft.

Paul George will replace DeMarcus Cousins for Team LeBron, which also features Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook.

Team Steph is headlined by the Greek Freak, James Harden, Joel Embiid and DeMar Derozen.

As for who held the honour of the last pick, well at least Love is honest.

Next year, please televise it NBA.

All Outta Love

It’s been a rough week for Kevin Love.

An illness saw him leave the court early as the Cavaliers got trounced by the Thunder and kept him sidelined for the Cavs practice the next day.

Then the reports started to filter in about an explosive team meeting.

According to the Cavs their team meeting was not nearly as demonstrative as reported. Which is why I’m also guessing it was a complete coincidence that Crowder just momentarily lost peripheral vision and missed Loves outstretched hand.

Then Kevin began plotting his revenge.

He threw his jumper on Jeff Green’s face, who didn’t seem particularly amused.

He then skied over Isaiah Thomas to grab a rebound and handed the ball to him with significant distain.

Cue the Kevin Love trade rumours.

Are you Kidding me?

Jason Kidd’s time with the Bucks is officially over as he was sacked early last week.

The Bucks have struggled this season, despite the presence of Antetokounmpo, and sit in the sixth seed with a 26-22 record.

Kidd took the Bucks to the playoffs twice, but was knocked out in the first round both times.

Assistant Joe Prunty is serving as interim head coach and has led the Bucks to three straight wins since Kidd’s departure.

Sliders/Risers

standings week 3Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

It’s taken half a season, but the Thunder are finally clicking into gear. They have won eight on the trot, which sees them jump into fifth in the West, just one game behind the Timberwolves. The leagues largest winning streak has seen them knock off the 76ers, Pistons, Wizards and Cavaliers. This has been an up and down season for Westbrook and the Thunder, but they finally look to be bringing the offense to complement their stellar defense.

Slider

The Celtics are currently in a mini-slump, losing five of their last six contests. They have fallen to the Pelicans, 76ers, Magic, Lakers and Warriors over the stretch, with the only victory coming against the Clippers. Kyrie Irving is not worried about the string of losses, responding to reporters with “you gotta hit some adversity. We have to hit something. Like we need it as a team.” The Celtics are still the top seed in the East and will look to rediscover their winning ways against the Nuggets tomorrow.

Heat Check

Stephen Curry

vs. Knicks – 32 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 8 made three-pointers

vs. Timberwolves – 25 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals

vs. Celtics – 49 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 8 made three-pointers

Since returning from his ankle injury, Curry has been ripping teams to shreds with his dazzling shooting. His duel against Kyrie Irving (who had 39 points of his own) was a teaser of what we could see come June. After a slow start to the season, Curry has now charged into the MVP discussion with the likes of Harden and LeBron.

Highlights 

It was a week of milestones for some of the games greats.

LeBron joined an elite group as he crossed the 30,000 mark with this jumper.

Melo became just the 21st man to reach the 25,000 point milestone.

DeAaron Fox defied gravity with this game-winning putback slam.

Your weekly reminder that Giannis is very good at basketball.

Joel Embiid is a bad, bad man.

Whoopsie Watch 

It’s been that kind of season for the Knicks.

Should have let the point guard bring the ball up Lauri.

Jeff Hornacek lets it fly from Steph Curry range.

NBA Sitrep – Rockets swing-and-miss vs LA, knock over Warriors instead as Curry & LeBron lead All-Star teams

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Seven-game series anyone?

The best of the West squared off yesterday in their last regular season clash, in what loomed as a preview of the Western Conference Final.

The game didn’t disappoint as the Rockets showed the league that they can hang with the defending Champions.

Harden found his groove in his second game back from a hamstring injury, dropping 22 points on the Warriors and leaving Curry with Kyrie Irving flashbacks with this step-back dagger to ice the game.

Harden then played defense. No, not a typo. He blocked Curry’s last-gasp three ball attempt and the Rockets sunk the Warriors 116-108.

Chris Paul was up to his usual antics, connecting from downtown six times for his 33 points, 7 dimes, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Bring on a seven-game series between these two.

Only in LA

Welcome to Hollywood’s newest Soap Opera – NBA edition.

The script started innocently enough. The Clippers played a heart-felt video tribute to their former captain, Chris Paul, before he received a standing ovation from the Staples Centre crowd.

Then it got interesting.

What followed was must-watch reality television.

First, Blake tried to take Gordons head off.

Then Mike D’Antoni got a little grumpy after Blake ‘accidently’ knocked into him.

And Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverly were their usual annoying selves.

The end result of all this drama. Griffin and Ariza were ejected and the Clippers upset the Rockets 113-102.

Oh, and after the game Chris Paul led James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green down a secret passageway that joins the teams dressing rooms to confront Austin Rivers.

Clint Capela tried to storm the Clippers locker room from the front entrance, but he had the door slammed on him by a Clippers staff member.

Ariza and Green were both suspended for two games and the Rockets – Clippers rivalry was officially born.

Just another day in LA.

Best of the Best

Steph Curry and LeBron James have been named as the 2018 All-Star captains, finishing atop the vote in their respective conferences.

Curry led the West starting line-up consisting of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

LeBron was joined by former teammate Kyrie Irving, as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar Derozen and first-timer Joel Embiid.

Curry and LeBron will now select their starting line-ups from the pool of both conferences in traditional school-yard style. They will also get to select from a number of All-Star reserves, which will be announced by the coaches in the coming days.

The quirkiest surprise of this year’s voting belongs to Manu Ginobili, who somehow managed to poll more votes than Harden and Westbrook in the fan-vote.

The ageless Spur didn’t fare so well in the media and player votes, rightly handing over his starting spot to MVP candidate James Harden.

Injury curse strikes again

The clock is ticking on Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs season as their superstar faces a race against time to be healthy for playoffs.

Leonard’s lingering quad injury has sidelined him for all but nine games this campaign, with a worrying pattern of injury riddled seasons threatening to mar his career.

The Spurs have managed to hold onto the fourth seed (30-18 record) without Leonard, but face little hope of contending without him come playoffs.

Sliders and Risers

standings - 2

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

After falling out of the playoff seeding in December, the Philadelphia 76ers have leapfrogged back into the seventh seed on the back of a host of impressive victories. ‘The Process’ is currently sitting on a three-game win streak, having won eight of their last ten contests. Since the New Year the 76ers have knocked over the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, Pistons and Spurs. If they can hang onto a playoff seed they will feature in post-season action for the first time since 2012.

Slider

In correlation with the 76ers rise, the Detroit Pistons have slid down the standings and currently sit just outside of the playoff race. They have dropped eight of their last ten contests and are currently holding the second longest losing streak in the league (five games, bested only by the Kings with seven).  It has been a dramatic fall for the Pistons, who started the season with a 14-6 record and held a top four seed for much of November.

Heat Check

Damian Lillard

vs. Phoenix Suns – 31 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

vs. Indiana Pacers – 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds

vs. Dallas Mavericks – 31 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 7 three-pointers

It has been the Lillard show for Portland over the last week as their superstar has led them on a three-game win-streak that sees the Trailblazers sitting in the sixth seed in the West.

Highlights

Spencer Dinwiddie laid the nail into the Pistons coffin with this tough finish.

Wiggins you are cleared for takeoff. Jakob Poetel what are you doing?

Wade up top to LeBron. Just like the good old days.

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/954832217716510721

LeBron returns the favour to his former Miami teammate. Behind-the-back and through-the-legs if you don’t mind.

Speaking of assists, is there anything the Greek Freak can’t do!

Whoopsie Watch

CP3 with an Oscar winning performance.

Rodney Hood vs Phone. Fairly predictable ending.

‘The Process’ in action.