The Spike Game: LeBron’s greatest night as a Cavalier

Going into Game 2 of the 2015 Finals on Sunday, a 2-0 Warriors lead was seen by many as a foregone conclusion. 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists later, LeBron James was memorably spiking the ball high off the Oracle Arena hardwood and into the Oakland sky with the series tied at 1-1 and his greatest night as a Cavalier in the books.

This was a special performance, and it stemmed from his improved shot selection.

I wrote after Game 1 about two competing versions of LeBron on offense, about how too many Bad LeBron sightings kept his 44-point night from being one of his better Finals performances.

In Game 2, he set the tone with a first half that was Good LeBron in the extreme: a player making the most of his talents as a passer, scorer and dominant physical force, carrying his team to a surprising lead.

In the first quarter, he attacked the paint time and again both off the dribble and out of the post-up. He took ten shots and I had to compile them all in one YouTube video because every single one of them was smart:

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My 2015 NBA All-Star ballot

With a quarter of the regular season in the books, NBA All-Star balloting began in earnest yesterday.

Of course I took the first available opportunity to vote for my ten most deserving starters – three frontcourt players and two guards from each conference:

Western Conference

FC: Anthony Davis (New Orleans)

25.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 32.9 PER, 10-11 record

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NBA Finals, Game 1: screenshot diary

The Finals are here and it’s the Heat/Spurs rematch we anticipated all year long. A Game 1 screenshot diary is a must.

Pre-game

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Remember when the NBA used to get adults to sing the national anthem?

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Duncan and Sean Marks stroke hands, and we’re ready to go. Little known fact: six of Marks’ 11 starts as an NBA player came with the Heat.

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Is Joe Johnson the worst All-Star selection in modern NBA history?

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Kyle Lowry, Arron Aflalo, Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson each had a better case to make the All-Star Game than Joe Johnson, who was voted in as a reserve this week by NBA coaches. His inclusion must go down as the most baffling in modern All-Star memory.

At this stage in Johnson’s career, he is a one-dimensional scorer who is not particularly good at that one dimension. At 15.7 points per game, he is 53rd on the league’s leading scorers list – just slightly ahead of Gerald Henderson, Carlos Boozer and Dion Waiters – and ranks just 141st in PER.

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Selecting the correct Western Conference All-Star reserves

The starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game were announced last week. As usual, the fans got it wrong: Kobe Bryant (6 games, 13.8 PPG) and Kyrie Irving (42.8% shooting, 16-29 record in the putrid Eastern Conference) have no business being in the starting lineups.

Tonight, the reserves will be announced. Who should be selected?

Let us ignore the East – with all due respect to the likes of Paul Millsap, Arron Afflalo and Kyle Lowry – and skip straight to the ultra-loaded and more meaningful West, where there are far more deserving candidates than there are available All-Star roster spots.

After much deliberation, here are the seven players – three frontcourt, two backcourt and two wild cards – who should join Kobe, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin on the squad:

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Nick Young shoots the brick of the season

The Nick “Swaggy P” Young experience is an eventful one. He recently attempted a ridiculous 540-degree layup, and the next ill-advised shot is never far around the corner.

Last night, he put the cherry on the top of this brutal possession by wedging the ball between the rim and the backboard – a huge rarity on a 3-point shot:

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Howard’s post game still ugly, ineffective and over-utilized in Houston

The tutelage of Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston has had as much impact on Dwight Howard’s post game as that of Patrick Ewing in Orlando and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Los Angeles: none.

Howard is getting roughly the same number of post touches than he did in Los Angeles, and is still just as feckless at taking advantage of them. His go-to move, if you can call it such a thing, remains an awkward sweeping hook that sometimes goes in and sometimes careens straight off the backboard to the other side of the rim:

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NBA greats’ questionable knowledge of NBA greats

Several weeks ago, Karl Malone named his all-time NBA starting five. Upon close inspection, his selections were dubious. The Mailman, it turns out, is not the only great player with less-great knowledge of NBA history. This summer several all-timers have offered their takes on who’s greatest. Let us examine their picks.

Most recently, Gary Payton was asked to name his all-time top three. He went with Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell.

No Michael Jordan, GP? “I like old school dudes” was Payton’s completely incomplete reasoning. There is likely some heavy ’96 residue in effect here; it was Jordan’s Bulls who defeated Payton’s Sonics that year in their only trip to the Finals.

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Payton always believed he could contain Mike one-on-one, and still maintains the Sonics would have won the series if he’d had the chance to guard him from Game 1 (cheers, George Karl). On the other hand, perhaps GP is just a flat out bad judge of talent. After all, he still considers Kobe Bryant to be the best player in the league.

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