After Monday night’s emphatic Varsity victories for both UoN basketball teams, get up to speed with stories from around the NBA so far this year.
The Indiana Pacers (43-13) and the Miami Heat (40-14) are dominating the Eastern Conference, with the Toronto Raptors (32-25), the Washington Wizards (29-28) and the Charlotte Bobcats (27-30) surprisingly in playoff contention. The New York Knicks (21-36) and the Boston Celtics (19-39) have disappointed.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (43-14) and the San Antonio Spurs (40-16) are followed by the Houston Rockets (39-18), the LA Clippers (39-20) and the Portland Trail Blazers (39-18) at the top of the Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns (33-23) are not far behind, but the Denver Nuggets (25-31) and the LA Lakers (19-38) have failed to live up to their credentials.
The 63rd NBA All-Star Game, just like pretty much every All-Star Game, compromised defence for gravity-defying dunks, slick passes and ankle-breaking crossovers. However unimportant, the Game is always a spectacle. 2014’s edition in New Orleans saw the highest-ever total of points scored as the East beat the West 163-155 behind Kyrie Irving’s MVP performance (14 of 17, 31 points, 14 assists). You may recognise Irving from Pepsi’s Uncle Drew ads.
Mardi Gras season, the midway point of the NBA’s, tipped off in style as the records continued, with Kevin Durant hitting 17 three-pointers, Carmelo Anthony draining eight buckets in a row from behind the arc and Blake Griffin making 19 field goals, nine of which were in a single quarter.
Pharrell provided the Half-Time entertainment with a 45-minute set featuring Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Nelly.
In the All-Star Celebrity Game, a man named Duncan ended up with the MVP award. Not San Antonio Spurs veteran Tim, but US Secretary of Education Arne. Kevin Hart, who initially won the fan-voted prize despite his poor performance, sportingly handed the trophy over to Duncan, who racked up a record-setting 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Despite the farcical new format of the Slam Dunk Contest, where the two conferences compete with a lack of a final round, John Wall and the East came out on top in a star-studded field of dunkers. In the first slam-jamboree featuring three All-Stars since 1988, a Most Improved Player (Paul George), a Rookie of the Year (Damian Lillard) and 2013 Dunk Contest champion (Terrence Ross) showed off their three-sixties, windmills and rim rockers. But it was Washington Wizard Wall who won the Dunker of the Night award with this double-pump overhead flush over his G-Man mascot. Props to the celebration, too.
The Rising Stars Challenge featured the league’s brightest young players in an exhibition match as Detroit Pistons centre Andre Drummond stole the show with 30 points and a record 25 rebounds (including 14 offensive boards). In a contest typically featuring a shootout between skilful guards, as Tim Hardaway Jr. (game-high 36 points) and Dion Waiters (31 points, seven assists) showed this year, UConn product Drummond took home the MVP award (but not before the trophy was dropped in the handover by BBVA president Angel Cano…)
Chris Bosh and his teammates Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash won the Shooting Stars title, where a current NBA player, a Legend and a current WNBA player take turns to sink half-court jumpers. Team Bosh edged out the trio of Kevin Durant, Karl Malone and Skylar Diggins after the Miami Heat centre/forward drained a shot from halfway after 31.4 seconds.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard took part in the Rising Stars Challenge, the Three-Point Shootout, the Skills Competition (which he won last year), the Dunk Contest, and Sunday’s main event. He won the Skills Competition again with Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke as they made their way around the obstacle course of targets and trammels 0.1 seconds faster than finalists Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo.
San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, who ranks second in the league in three-point shooting (44.8 percent), hit 13-of-15 from behind the arc in one minute to defeat Bradley Beal in the 3-Point Contest tiebreaker round. The Italian had eliminated an array of stars including Kevin Love, Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving from contention.
While the 2014 trade deadline lacked any blockbuster deals, there were a few significant movements between teams around the league. A last-minute move by the Indiana Pacers to swap veteran forward Danny Granger for Philadelphia 76ers pair Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen deepened their roster and signalled to the Miami Heat that the Pacers are here to play. The Sixers also shipped out centre Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Golden State Warriors got a reliable backup for Steph Curry in the form of Steve Blake from the LA Lakers. Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves rejected LA after rumours of a trade, saying he’s “not s*itting on the Lakers, but [Minnesota] have the better team, the better foundation.” The California outfit lie dead-last in the Western Conference with their talisman Kobe Bryant still sidelined by a long-term knee injury.
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