There’s a chance we’ll actually get a somewhat competitive and compelling All-Star Game this season.
Whether we do or not – the past two editions have seen the Western Conference score nearly 200 points each time and win comfortably – is largely up to the players and specifically the captains.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry will be the two captains responsible for picking their teams after leading their respective conferences in voting.
The NBA also announced the All-Star starters on Thursday, determined by a combination of fan, player and media voting.
With the league implementing a new format, this is how the teams will be constructed: James and Curry will pick one after another from the pool of eight starters and 14 reserves – chosen by NBA head coaches and revealed on January 23 – until all players have been selected, regardless of conference.
Because LeBron was the overall vote leader, he’ll get the first pick before Curry.
While results of the draft and team rosters will be revealed in a one-hour special of TNT NBA Tip-Off on January 25, the actual draft won’t be televised.
As a quick aside, it’s a shame the league decided to not air the draft, which would be must-see TV as LeBron and Curry pick between their peers and in the process reveal how they feel about certain players.
Alas, we won’t get that. But what we could still get are rosters that group adversaries together or against each other, resulting in some popcorn-worthy situations.
Would it be more fun to see LeBron and Kyrie Irving together again, or on opposite sides? The caveat is that LeBron will have a say in which scenario plays out.
The same goes with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – who’s not a starter but will definitely be named a reserve.
Just for fun, let’s do a mock draft for LeBron and Curry and try to pick the most fun and narrative-driven teams. We don’t know who the reserves are yet, so let’s just stick to the starters.
With the first pick, LeBron selects… Kevin Durant. After watching the Warriors add the former MVP to cripple his chances of winning another title, don’t you think LeBron wants to break that core up, even if it is for one exhibition game? Plus, Durant is the best player on the board, making it an easy decision.
With the second pick, Curry takes Giannis Antetokounmpo. Few players are more entertaining or awe-inspiring than the ‘Greek Freak’ and Curry will have a ball tossing him alley-oops. And Curry needs Giannis to guard one of LeBron or Durant.
Now we’re within Kyrie range for LeBron. He’s not necessarily the best player left, but he’s perfect for the All-Star Game environment. But all LeBron needs is any excuse to pass on him and with Anthony Davis still available, he’ll opt for one of the two New Orleans Pelicans stars. That way, LeBron gets a big so he doesn’t have to protect the paint, while also assuring he has the ball in his hands more.
Curry has a tough decision between Irving and James Harden now, right? Wrong. Curry and Harden are rivals – team-wise and individually in MVP races – who’ve had a bit of a spicy relationship, while Irving offers Steph the opportunity to stick it to LeBron. This is a good pick to get petty.
That leaves LeBron with Harden, while Curry finally adds some needed size with Joel Embiid – yes, over Cousins, who’s not exactly a first-choice team-mate.
LeBron, being the basketball mind he is, will take DeMar DeRozan to have more of a versatile small-ball lineup, leaving Curry with Cousins anyways.
This draft is not only ideal from a fan standpoint, it’s also incredibly realistic.
And if the players decide to try, we could end up with one of the better All-Star Games in recent memory.
Klay Thompson scored 38 points and Stephen Curry added 30 to spark defending NBA champion Golden State over Chicago 119-112 Wednesday, giving the Warriors a club record-matching 14th consecutive road victory.
Thompson and Curry, nicknamed “The Splash Brothers,” overwhelmed from 3-point range, with Thompson sinking seven 3-pointers and Curry adding six, while Kevin Durant had 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
“Every night we come out it’s a different guy,” Thompson said.
The Warriors outscored Chicago 32-12 in the third quarter to pull away, the Bulls being led by reserve Nikola Mirotic’s 24 points.
Golden State improved to a league-best 37-9 and moved two road wins shy of matching the all-time NBA record away win streak of 16 games, set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1971-72 season as part of their overall record 33-game win streak.
“It’s not about records,” Durant said. “We just want to play good every day. We want to keep getting better, build better habits.”
The Warriors could set a club record with a 15th consecutive road victory on Saturday at Houston, could match the NBA road win streak record of 16 games on January 30 at Utah and possibly break that mark on February 2 at Sacramento.
“Winning on the road is great,” Curry said. “You see opposing arenas empty out pretty quick.”
But not all the news from Chicago was good for the Warriors. Rookie Jordan Bell was taken off in a wheelchair with what was later diagnosed as a sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative from more severe damage but a full diagnosis will not be made until an MRI exam Thursday.
Chicago’s Kris Dunn, averaging 13.6 points a game, chipped and dislocated two teeth with a face-first fall late in the fourth quarter. He was to undergo further evaluation Thursday.
KIWI COMES UP BIG FOR OKC
Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points while New Zealand center Steven Adams added 21 points on 10-of-12 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder over the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 114-90.
Russell Westbook added 19 points, six rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who improved to 25-20.
“We need to just stay disciplined. That’s what makes us win games,” Adams said. “We’ve got to focus on what gets us in that spot in the first place.”
Adams, a 24-year-old 7-footer, says he has found the best way to support superstars Westbrook, Anthony and Paul George, who had 13 points, is to simply play his own game inside.
“It’s just finding ways you can help out the team,” Adams said. “You don’t have to be a stat guy. It will come back to you. These guys are great. The more you help them the more it comes back to you.”
— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2018
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 21 points to lead seven double-figure scorers while Dwight Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds in Charlotte’s 133-109 home win over Washington.
SPURS AVOID ‘DEEP KIMCHI’
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 34 points to power the San Antonio Spurs over host Brooklyn 100-95.
Australia’s Patty Mills had 25 points on 7-of-10 3-point shooting and Spaniard Pau Gasol had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, who are without Kawhi Leonard indefinitely due to a quadriceps injury.
“LA (Aldridge) is the reason we have kept such a good record with Kawhi and Tony (Parker) out,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’d be in deep kimchi if he weren’t playing the way he is.”
Kent Bazemore’s jumper with 3.6 seconds remaining, the last of his team-high 20 points, gave Atlanta a 94-93 victory over visiting New Orleans.
Delon Wright sank two clinching free throws with 5.9 seconds remaining to lift Toronto over Detroit 96-91.
Hassan Whiteside’s 27 points and 13 rebounds led Miami over host Milwaukee 106-101 while Memphis downed New York 105-99 behind 23 points and 10 assists from Tyreke Evans.
Blake Griffin had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Clippers over visiting Denver 109-104 and Donovan Mitchell scored 34 points to lead Utah over host Sacramento 120-105.
— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2018
There’s a decent chance the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers just met for the last time this season.
Considering it’s January and not June, that would very much come as a surprise after the past three seasons have concluded with the teams battling for the title.
But Cleveland are looking less and less capable of flipping the proverbial switch – as they have the past two years – and more like a side that will finally endure a serious challenge from an Eastern Conference foe in the playoffs.
Whether or not the Cavaliers reach the Finals again, the 118-108 win by Golden State on Monday was the last chance to see how the two contenders fare on the same court together before a potential Finals rematch.
Circumstances may be different in June if either team makes a substantial move at the trade deadline or injury hits, but with all the key characters healthy and playing on Monday, it was an opportunity to glean some information.
Here are three takeaways from the match-up:
Isaiah Thomas (right) got his first taste of the rivalry, but the diminutive guard’s impact left a lot to be desired.
In his 32 minutes, he connected on just 8-of-21 shots for 19 points, while dishing four assists. He flashed some of his magic at times, but seemed off on his jumpers and finishes around the rim.
It may have been a case of Thomas still working his way back into rhythm, but the Warriors’ length and ability to smother him on defence also appeared to bother him on his drives, as it has in the past.
Before Monday, Thomas had averaged 19.1 points on 35.5 per cent shooting overall and 27.4 per cent on 3-pointers against Golden State since the start of the 2014-15 season. The Warriors know how to use his lack of size against him to slow down his scoring, which should be a major concern for Cleveland considering the other end of the floor is even more problematic.
Against most teams, Thomas can hide out in the corner or on the perimeter guarding a non-offensive threat, but there’s no refuge when it comes to Golden State.
On Monday, the Warriors didn’t even attack Thomas as much as they could and likely would in a Finals match-up, but it still felt like the Cavaliers were playing four-on-five defensively as Golden State’s sharpshooters effortlessly fired over him or drove by.
The swap of Kyrie Irving for Thomas may have felt somewhat even, but against the Warriors the differences between the two – and the deficiencies of the latter – come to the surface.
It’s time to stop the narrative that the main reason for Cleveland’s defensive woes is lack of effort.
Could they try harder and have a less apathetic approach? No doubt. But the loss to Golden State showed pretty clearly that even when the Cavaliers try, their defence simply isn’t good enough.
Isaiah Thomas aside, the rest of the roster isn’t exactly flush with defensive-minded players and the ones who are supposed to be two-way assets, like J.R. Smith and Jae Crowder, have underwhelmed.
Too often on Monday the Warriors found easy baskets in transition and on simple cuts to the basket. Golden State are unique from that standpoint in that they have skilled players who can put the ball on the floor and attack after grabbing a rebound, while also making brilliant passes, but some of the communication breakdowns by Cleveland were simply inexcusable.
Golden State didn’t even need to shoot well from long range either – 37.5 per cent – to put up 118 points.
These are all issues that can’t be fixed by simply raising the stakes and upping efort. Unless the Cavaliers trade for a rim protector at the deadline – and even then that might not be enough to beat the Warriors – they’ll have no choice but to try and outscore everyone.
The Cavaliers have the best player in the world, but in Kevin Durant, Golden State have maybe the only weapon in the league that can cancel him out in a head-to-head match-up.
Whereas Cleveland need LeBron to be the clear best player on the floor against the Warriors to have a glimmer of hope, Golden State just need Durant to be close enough to mostly cancel him out.
But Durant’s been better than close enough, he’s actually been the best player in a few of the meetings since joining the Warriors.
No one in the NBA scores more easily than Durant and other than LeBron – who would much rather play as a roaming free safety on defence – the Cavaliers have no one to throw at him.
He’s doing it all, which is why since his arrival, the rivalry hasn’t really been much of a rivalry at all.
It was one-sided in the Finals last year, it’s been one-sided so far this season and if – a major ‘if’ – we see this play out again in June, it looks like it will be one-sided then as well.