2011 All-Star

Mavs’ math: Game 6 is Game 7

MIAMI – Game 6 is Game 7.

It was a battle cry echoed through the Dallas Mavericks’ ranks, pretty much from the final horn of the victory in Dallas Thursday that put them up 3-2 in The Finals, right through to tipoff Sunday night, In what was, for the record, Game 6.

The mentality was critical, though, for Dallas’ players and coaches to keep their edge and not lapse into any relaxed, “two to win one” outlook.

Not that the Boston Celtics were guilty of any lapsing, but the 2010 Finals did fit the pattern the Mavericks feared. Boston took a 3-2 lead to Los Angeles, then dropped Games 6 and 7 to the Lakers. Losing Celtics center Kendrick Perkins to a knee injury in Game 6 was the sort of bad fortune Dallas wanted to avoid Sunday.

“You don’t want to be in a situation where you give a team hope and you leave it to fate and a Game 7 situation,” Dallas center Tyson Chandler said. “Because in that situation, anybody can win. It’s anybody’s game. When you have an opportunity to close a team out, you need to do so.

“You relax for one second and it’s really just one game. It’s the Super Bowl basically.”

Except on the other guys’ home court, not in some neutral stadium.

The danger is that, if the Mavericks lose Game 6 – or their Game 7, so to speak – they risk a letdown at having to rev up again physically and mentally in 48 hours.

On the other hand, if the Dallas approach is the proper one and pays off with a championship in Game 6, then, er, Game 8 won’t be necessary on Tuesday.

Poetry In Motion

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest ranks as one of the NBA’s most unusual ever and certainly one of the best, top to bottom, in years.

We get to relive it now in this wicked mini-movie, Poetry In Motion, that showcases every single dunk of the contest:

The Golden Era Of Point Guards

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With a handful of the best and most dynamic point guards on display in the 60th All-Star Game, it’s easy to see why so many people left the Staples Center Sunday night raving about all that we saw.

Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo are just a part, the best part, of what we would argue is the most polished crop of point guards the NBA has seen in years and maybe ever.

It makes for an easy night for superstars like Kevin Durant, who was on the receiving end all night.

“Playing with great players, I kind of get lost.  I was trying to find positions for me to get easy shots,” Durant said. “Chris Paul is an unbelievable point guard and has unbelievable vision.  Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook as well and I was able to make some shots.”

As strong as the first tier of point guards has become, there is just as robust a crop of second tier point guards (Raymond Felton, Jameer Nelson, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson and others, including hybrids like Steph Curry) and a veteran group (Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Tony Parker, Andre Miller, Derek Fisher and others) that remains as dangerous as anyone with a game on the line and in the postseason.

There are a handful of virtuoso performances turned in seemingly every night, Jennings did the honors last night (as you can see in the video below). And the head-to-head matchups are always intriguing, Westbrook and Parker matchup tonight in prime time when the Thunder and Spurs go at it at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Good luck trying to win an argument about who might be the best. None of them are identical. They all bring a different set of talents to the table, some defying the stereotype of the traditional, “pass-first” point guard and instead putting their own unique spin on the game’s most important position in what appears to be a golden era for the position.


TNT nets record All-Star viewers

LOS ANGELES — The nation has spoken and they love Kobe and Blake and Los Angeles and everything All-Star. The ratings soared (over a car) for Sunday night’s 2011 All-Star Game and All-Star Saturday Night on TNT.

More than 17 million combined to watch the festivities, making this weekend the most-watched in the 26-year history of the combined events. More than nine million viewers tuned in Sunday, as All-Star MVP/old hometown hero Kobe Bryant led the Western Conference past LeBron James and East in a competitive 148-143 showcase.

“I feel like we have a sense of responsibility and we are voted in for what we do during the season, which is play hard,” Bryant said. “And we come here, that’s what the fans want to see. They want to see us go at it and see us compete and that’s what I try to do and that’s what I try to tell my teammates to do.”

The West’s triumph was the highest rated since Michael Jordan‘s All-Star finale in 2003. All-Star Saturday Night, highlighted by Rookie of the Year favorite/new hometown hero Blake Griffin, tallied more than eight million sets of eyes, setting an all-time record.

TNT saw its ratings grow significantly in every key demographic from last year, demonstrating how entertaining this All-Star weekend must have been to fans across the country. The players involved shared in the fun.

Asked what he took out of the coming-out-party weekend that included the Rookie Challenge, Dunk Contest and All-Star Game, an exhausted Griffin said everything.

“The time I spent with the other guys,” the Clippers sensation said. “I think that’s the stuff I’ll remember the most; appearances and stuff like that, the Dunk Contest, it was all fun, but I think the things that you remember the most are the time you spend with the other guys around you that are going through the same thing as you.”

LeBron was asked about the state of the game today versus the game he watched as a kid.

“You have athleticism, you have guys that can fly, you have guys that can shoot the ball extremely well and you have guys that can handle the ball like no other,” said James, who tallied only the second triple-double in All-Star history. “You have Isiah Thomas and you have Chris Paul; you have Michael Jordan and you’ve got Kobe Bryant; you’ve got Magic Johnson and you’ve got I guess myself, and the list goes on.

“So the game has not changed that much. We just try to follow the footsteps those guys were able to lay down for us and make this game a beautiful game to watch.”

People noticed.

2011 All-Star Game Revisited

LOS ANGELES — Just because you didn’t make it here for the 60th All-Star Game doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the experience.

The pep talk from LeBron James. Kevin Durant‘s clutch play. Kobe Bryant‘s skywalker routine and so much more. We’ve got it all for your here in this fantastic delivery from the HT audio-visual club. Check it out:

A New Deadline For Melo?

LOS ANGELES — If you are willing to walk down this road with us for at least another day, or two or three, we’re going to dip our toes into these Carmelo Anthony rumor waters one more time.

We could have the most significant news in months on the ‘Melo-drama today, with this news from the New York Post that Anthony will decide whether or not he’ll sign that three-year, $65 million extension with the Nets to complete the deal that’s reportedly already in place:

After the face-to-face meeting finally took place Saturday between Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Anthony, initial reports suggested the Russian billionaire’s team was out of the hunt for the Nuggets star. Anthony was described as “non-committal,” maybe even unimpressed.

But other indications say the opposite. Prokhorov himself described the meeting as “fantastic” in an interview yesterday with CNBC and several league sources insisted the Nets are still in the running to land Denver’s star forward. One source claimed an “air of optimism” remained around the Nets.

“Don’t bury them yet,” a source involved in the process urged. Another suggested although there might not be anything significant at the moment, that could change.


Whose House? Kobe’s House!

LOS ANGELES — No one else will decide when Kobe Bryant passes the torch.

Bryant made that clear Sunday night at Staples Center by snagging his record-tying fourth All-Star Game MVP trophy in the Western Conference’s 148-143 win in the 60th ASG.

Someone will have to snatch the torch from Bryant, the same way he did in 2003, when he was the only player willing to go after an aged Michael Jordan in Atlanta. Jordan was eight days away from his 40th birthday and several Eastern Conference stars offered to give up their starting spots to the man they had all idolized growing up.

But Bryant, who finished that game with 22 points as Kevin Garnett snagged MVP honors with a 37-point effort, was the one guy that showed Jordan the proper respect by trying to attack him on both ends of the floor. Whatever reverence Bryant might have had for Jordan, he did a great job of masking it by going after Jordan the way a young Jordan did his elders when he was a youngster.

Sooner or later the future pushes the past aside. It’s a cycle that can never be broken.


More Mixed Signals On ‘Melo Front

LOS ANGELES — Anyone thinking there would be a resolution in the Carmelo Anthony saga during All-Star Weekend obviously hasn’t paid attention to the last six months of this drama.

We are, however, inching closer to Thursday’s trade deadline. And that in turn means that the stakes have been raised for all involved — Anthony, the Nuggets, Knicks, Nets and anyone else interesting in entering these sweepstakes.

Mostly there are mixed signals about Anthony’s ultimate destination. Anthony hasn’t tipped his hand either way while facing a daily barrage of questions about his plans here during All-Star Weekend.

The Knicks reportedly have offered Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler in exchange for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter. But they’re done toying around with that package and will go no further, according reports out of New York.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov met with Anthony Saturday and spoke with CNBC’s Darren Rovell Sunday in an exclusive interview and made clear his intentions to either bring Anthony to New Jersey or make the Knicks pay dearly to do so.

“I think we made a very good tactical decision to force (the) Knicks to pay as much as they can,” Prokhorov said. “So it’s very good, it’s very interesting, it’s very competitive.”

It’s also going to continue to be the hottest topic in the league until Anthony makes a decision or until the trade deadline passes, whichever comes first.

One thing is clear, though, Anthony has not shut the door on any of his options yet. Why else would Prokhorov meet with him after making it clear that he would not?

All-Star Saturday Night Revisited

LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin wasn’t the only man on center stage here Saturday night. He’s just the only one crazy enough to jump over the hood of a car.

A night that ended with Griffin standing on the hood of a Kia as he won the 26th Sprite Slam Dunk Contest was the capper on an at times brilliant All-Star Saturday night.

James Jones left a surprise winner, as did Steph Curry and Team Atlanta. The biggest winners, though, had to be all of us. All-Star Weekend hasn’t seen a Saturday night as satisfying as this one was in some time. And lucky for you, we’ve wrapped it all up in a nice box for you (courtesy of the crack crew in the HT audio-visual club) with All-Star Saturday night revisited:

Blake Jumps Over The Car

LOS ANGELES — Did you see Blake Griffin go over the hood of the car?

Don’t worry if you didn’t. We’ve got it for you right here: