For the first time since his meteoric rise to stardom, the Knicks’ Jeremy Lin faltered on a national stage and glaringly resembled a basketball player from Harvard. Lin struggled in Miami, making just 1-of-11 shots to finish with just 8 points, three assists and eight turnovers. The Heat’s Big Three combined for 67 points and Miami comprehensively held “Linsanity” in check to defeat the Knicks in a 102-88 rout.
The Heat’s most anticipated game of the season had the atmosphere of the postseason, but in the end, Miami celebrated another lopsided victory over their Eastern Conference rival. They imposed their will early-and-often, swarming Lin on every possession and forcing him into submission. And when the Heat weren’t hounding the Knicks, the Big Three were polishing their act for the All-Star game on Sunday. LeBron James, the league’s MVP front-runner, and his fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, energized the sellout AmericanAirlines Arena with an array of dazzling shots and dunks. The play of the evening followed a missed layup by King James, as Wade crashed the boards and ruthlessly hammered home a two-handed slam over the back of a hapless Amar’e Stoudemire, to the chagrin of the many Knicks fans that attended the South Beach matchup.
The Heat, who was put under a microscope after the Big Three joined forces last season, finally appears to be the team that many expected. Bosh had 25 points, Dwyane Wade chipped in 22 and LeBron James finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and five steals, as Miami used its star power to win their eighth consecutive game by double digits. The Heat (27-7) heads into the All-Star break with the best record in the NBA.
We’re at the midway point of the truncated NBA season and already All-Star weekend 2012 is upon us. As the league’s marquee players descended upon Orlando, Fl for a weekend of exhibitions, all eyes will be on the league’s most prominent stars, but there’s only one player that the world will be tuning in to see- Jeremy Lin.
The BBVA NBA Rising Stars Challenge will tip-off the weekend’s festivities tonight at Amway Arena. Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley selected their teams from a group of first and second-year players. Blake Griffin was the first pick on Team Shaq, and will be teamed will Linsanity and Ricky Rubio, as Lob City invades Orlando for the night. Team Chuck, picks of Kyrie Irving and John Wall should make for an interesting guard match up, while Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins will draw the task of grounding Griffin.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge was won last year by Golden State Warriors’ front man Stephen Curry. A injured right foot will keep Curry from defending his crown this year, but the 2011 NBA top draft pick Kyrie Irving is more than capable to stand in. He will compete against Spurs’ veteran Tony Parker, the 2010 No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall, the Thunders’ Russell Westbrook, the Nets’ Deron Williams and the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo. In the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, the Heat’s James Jones will defend his title against teammate Mario Chalmers, Orlando’s own Ryan Anderson, the Nets’ Anthony Morrow, the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love and the Thunders’ reigning two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant. Coming off perhaps the best week in his career, all bets point to Durant as the favorite to take home the trophy on Saturday.
From Dr.J to MJ to Vinsanity to Blake Griffin, the Sprite Slam Dunk contest has a storied history of defining moments and careers. The event was first held in 1984 and, after a two-year hiatus in the late ‘90s, has been held each year continuously since 2000. For years, the NBA has been trying to revive the slam dunk, tinkering with the rules here and there in hopes the event would regain some of the prestige it enjoyed when elite players competed in it. But in recent years, the NBA has used the event to spotlight its emerging talent.
No one benefited more from the marquee players sitting out than Nate Robinson. In 2006, the undersized Robinson made his Slam Dunk contest debut and stunned everyone when he defeated Andre Iguodala to win the crown. In 2009, the 5’9” point guard challenged the defending dunk champion Dwight Howard, the 7’0 Magic center who donned a Superman cape to win it the year before. This time, the pint-sized dunker wore a green “Krypto-Nate” jersey and sneakers and took down his taller adversary by leaping over Howard to complete the dunk and earn his second title. Robinson returned and successfully defended his title in 2010, by defeating DeMar DeRozan 51-49 in the final fan vote to become the first three-time slam dunk contest champion.
Last year, the competition featured a new lineup of emerging stars. The Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin defeated Serge Ibaka, JaVale McGee and DeMar DeRozan, when he jumped over the hood of a Kia sedan and received an alley-oop from Baron Davis, with a choir singing at midcourt, and powered in his final dunk. Griffin was favored to win going in due to his posterizing slams in regular season games, but the creativity of using props in his final dunk pushed him over the other contestants.
In the wake of the New York Knicks Iman Shumpert, and therefore Jeremy Lin, having to pull out of Saturday’s contest- there is little left to be desired in this year’s event. With Shumpert hobbled by an injured knee, Utah’s Jeremy Evans will step in and join fellow newcomers Houston’s Chase Budinger, Indiana’s Paul George and Minnesota’s rookie Derrick Williams in the Sprite Slam Dunk. As the rules of the competition have been modified throughout the years, this year, the format has been reduced to a one-round, three-dunk contest with the winner decided by fan voting. Williams clearly stands out amongst the rest, but as history has shown us- this is the stage where stars are born.
THE MAIN EVENT
On Sunday, the NBA All-Star game will take center stage at Amway Arena. There’s no telling what subplots this game will bring, but we’re certain that the matchup between East and West will be the most entertaining event of the weekend.
The East will be represented by the league-leading Miami Heat duo of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, the Bulls’ Derrick Rose, the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony and Orlando’s own Dwight Howard. Four of the West five starters hail from Los Angeles. The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum will put aside their rivalry with the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to team up with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant to compete against the east. The benches are stacked as well; with Chris Bosh, Deron Williams and Luol Deng among the east reserves, and Dirk Nowitzki, Russell Westbrook and LaMarcus Aldridge are key players for the west.
The matchups are evident: CP3 vs. Rose, Wade vs. Kobe, James vs. Griffin and Melo vs. Durant. Who will get the best of whom? We’ll find out on Sunday. But until then who do you predict will win, East or West?