Before recapping games and delving into each team's rest-of-season schedule, let's take a look at this year's All-Stars:
Eastern Conference starters: LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade
Eastern Conference reserves: John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, Joe Johnson (!), Paul Millsap, Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert
Western Conference starters: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant*
Western Conference reserves: Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard
Suns at Pacers
Goran Dragic led the Suns to a surprising road win with a team-high 28 points on 11-of-21 FGs and 5-of-7 FTs, despite wearing a sleeve to protect his recently injured left elbow. Gerald Green needed 15 shots to score his 16 points, though he made a few key buckets to keep his former team at bay. The Morris brothers were also solid off the bench -- Markieff Morris scored 15 points with two 3-pointers, three rebounds and one steal in 24 minutes, while Marcus Morris made 7-of-12 FGs for 16 points, six rebounds and two assists in just 21 minutes.
In general, however, this was a one-man show by Dragic. The southpaw PG had some trouble corralling George Hill, and he was quieter in the second half once Indiana switched Paul George onto him defensively, but the Suns' fourth consecutive victory crystallized all the reasons Dragic deserved to make the list of All-Star reserves.
His willingness to play hurt is second to none. His speed in the open court allowed Phoenix to open up a 19-point lead in the first half, and it helped to jumpstart the Suns in the second half when Indiana's defense began to clamp down. Even in the halfcourt his quickness and willingness to absorb contact were invaluable, as he routinely skirted defenders on the perimeter and threw himself into Roy Hibbert's body to either score on a layup, draw a shooting foul, or pull in the defense before passing to one of the Suns' copious perimeter shooters.
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Damian Lillard and Tony Parker have both been excellent this season, and the Blazers' and Spurs' matching 33-13 record speaks for itself. I think Dragic deserved an All-Star nod over either player, however, as he's been the one constant for a Suns' team which is defying everyone's expectations by compiling a 28-18 record and installing themselves as a real playoff contender. Advanced metrics support the idea. Of the three guards, Dragic has the highest Player Efficiency Rating, Effective FG percentage, Total Rebound Rate, Offensive Rating, and Win Shares. He also tops Lillard in Assist Percentage and Defensive Rating.
Don't even get me started on Kyle Lowry. I don't have the space to adequately express my displeasure with his absence from the All-Star squad, and others have already done a fine job in the past 12 hours. Anthony Davis' exclusion is also indefensible, though he's a lock to replace injured Kobe Bryant on the team.
Speaking of All-Star snubs, Lance Stephenson celebrated his with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season. He's flirting with triple-doubles in every game, and tonight's gaudy line came despite a blow to the face which briefly sent him woozily toward the Pacers' locker room. It looked as though he would keel over at one point, but he quickly returned to action and seemed no worse for the wear, so it's safe to assume that he's healthy unless you see an update on the RW Injury Report.
Roy Hibbert racked up 26 points, six rebounds and two blocks as the Suns' frontcourt simply couldn't handle his size and strength in the paint, and ultimately Jeff Hornacek yanked Miles Plumlee (19 minutes) and went with a frontcourt of Channing Frye and the Morris brothers. Hibbert made 9-of-17 FGs (tying his season-high for attempts) and 8-of-11 FTs (his third-most attempts). He was joined in double-digits by Stephenson, Paul George (12 points, 12 rebounds), David West (18 points) and George Hill (17 points), but Danny Granger went scoreless and the entire bench combined for seven points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Cavaliers at Knicks
New York won by 31 points in a massacre at MSG on Thursday, despite playing without Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, Iman Shumpert, Amare Stoudemire or Beno Udrih. The injury-ravaged Knicks were led by 29 points apiece from Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., the latter of whom set a career-high by shooting 11-of-17 from the field, including 6-of-12 from downtown. He's averaging 2.6 triples over the past seven games and should be deployed until he cools off, but bear in mind that he doesn't contribute many rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.
J.R. Smith's play in 35 minutes as a starter was nearly as encouraging -- filling in for Iman Shumpert (shoulder), he scored 19 points with two 3-pointers, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and zero turnovers. He also had a leg-buckling crossover which left would-be defender Tristan Thompson sprawled out on the court, to the delight of the home crowd and the Knicks' bench. Smith has now scored double-digit points in every game since Jan. 11, and he too is averaging 2.7 triples in the past seven games. The Knicks' small lineup with Melo at PF is having a terrific fantasy impact, needless to say, and Smith will remain a solid option when Shumpert returns.
The image of Tristan Thompson laid out on the court adequately summed up Thursday's game for Cleveland. The day began with a headline-grabbing rumor/report from ESPN's Chad Ford, who wrote in a live chat that Kyrie Irving has been "telling people privately he wants out [of Cleveland]." Irving responded by saying after the game, "Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me ... I'm still in my rookie contract and I'm happy to be here. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to be here for a long time." The Cavs can offer him a max extension this summer, and they probably will, so even if he's unhappy now (which is reasonable) there's a good chance that he'll stick around.
Irving scored 24 points in the drubbing and Dion Waiters (21 points) was the only other Cavaliers player in double-digits. The starting frontcourt was particularly atrocious without Anderson Varejao (knee) for a second straight game -- Tyler Zeller had two points and one rebound in 14 minutes, while Tristan Thompson had two points and two rebounds in 22 minutes. They combined for eight personal fouls and three turnovers, and had their shots blocked three times. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jarrett Jack, who shot 1-of-8 and continues to struggle in Cleveland, averaging just 8.9 points on 39.7 percent shooting. With Mike Brown's offense scraping along and no personnel changes in sight, there's no reason to anticipate a bounce-back after the All-Star break.
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