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Best of NBA: Late surge lifts Suns over Nets

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Best of NBA: Late surge lifts Suns over Nets

NEW YORK -- Devin Booker scored 32 points, Mike James added 24 and the Phoenix Suns rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-114 on Tuesday night.

T.J. Warren scored 14 of his 20 points during the final period for the Suns, who squandered an 18-point lead in the third quarter when Brooklyn went on a 17-0 run. Phoenix seemed out of it after Ronda Hollis-Jefferson's basket gave Brooklyn a 106-98 lead with 6:35 left in the fourth.

But the Suns, who lost a tough one at Portland on Saturday, quickly answered with a 24-8 run for their first win on their five-game road trip.

D'Angelo Russell scored 33 points and Hollis-Jefferson had 21 for the Nets, who've lost three straight after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers last Wednesday at home.

Warren and James combined on a 7-0 run that closed the lead to 106-101 with 6:15, forcing the Nets to call a timeout.

After a miss by the Nets, Warren tipped in Booker's failed layup to initiate a 9-0 run capped by Dragan Bender's 3-pointer that gave the Suns a 116-108 lead with 2:03 left in the game (see full recap).

George, Thunder cruise to win over Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Paul George scored 20 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder dominated the paint during a 16-0 run to take control early in a 110-91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

Russell Westbrook had 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, while Carmelo Anthony scored eight of his 17 points in the pivotal first quarter.

Oklahoma City went from down four to a 20-8 lead on George's jumper with 4:16 left in the first. It was essentially over from there, especially with the way Westbrook kept finding driving lanes.

The reigning MVP dished off to Steven Adams in the paint when he wasn't taking it to the hoop himself. Adams finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Jerami Grant added 17 points off the bench for the Thunder.

Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting. But the NBA's scoring leader spent much of the first quarter on the bench with two fouls, and the Bucks struggled from the 3-point line, opening 1 of 14.

No other Buck scored in double figures.

The star-laden Thunder taught a lesson to the up-and-coming Bucks, who hope to contend in the Eastern Conference (see full recap).

Balanced Lakers roll over Pistons
LOS ANGELES -- Julius Randle scored 17 points, Lonzo Ball added 13 and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Detroit Pistons 113-93 on Tuesday night.

Larry Nance Jr. had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his third double-double for the Lakers, who had lost the previous three games against the Pistons. Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each had 13 points.

Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson each had 18 points for the Pistons, who were unable to sweep their three-game California road trip. Andre Drummond had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy was unsure about how his team might handle the adulation associated with a surprising 5-2 start, and those concerns proved to be well-founded as the Lakers took a 58-45 halftime lead when Brook Lopez hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer expired.

Rookie Kyle Kuzma had 10 points off the bench in the second quarter, making 4 of 5 shots and knocking down both of his 3-pointers as the Lakers pushed their lead to as much as 14 (see full recap).

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

Our NBA All-Star challenge — describe Embiid in one word

LOS ANGELES —  From trash talking on the court to expressing himself on social media, Joel Embiid is a player of many (many) words. So if his fellow All-Stars had to describe him in just one, what would it be? 

Draymond Green: "'Funny.' He's hilarious. The stuff he says, he goes on TV talking about (Kevin Durant's) burner account, he's talking how he's a savage. His Instagram locations, pretty funny. He's a good guy." 

Andre Drummond: "I’d probably say 'charismatic,' 'funny,' 'savage.' He don’t care, he just does what he wants to.”

Paul George: “Personality,' in all caps."

(Why all caps?)

“Because he’s a big dude.”

John Wall: "He's just 'himself.' He's very confident."

Anthony Davis: “'Savage.' Cool dude, he lives by his own rules. He’s just enjoying life and having fun.”

Jimmy Butler: "'Remarkable' in the fact that his game on the court is insane. Then the way he's always saying something to somebody on social media is really 'remarkable.'"

Bradley Beal: “'Wild.' He has no filter, he doesn’t care. That’s my boy, but he just has no remorse, doesn’t care."

LaMarcus Aldridge: “'Entertaining,' because he’s always on TV expressing how he feels. So, entertaining.”

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

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USA Today Images

New NBA ASG great, but what in the world was before it?

This week’s serving of Rob Rants focuses on the dichotomy of the 2018 NBA All-star Game and the show that comes with it. On the court, the game was a highly entertaining, competitive, tightly fought contest that incorporated a new concept that's a winner. The league also attempted something new prior to the game. That idea did not quite work as well. 

All-Star Games 
I generally am not a fan of All-Star Games. I haven’t watched the Pro Bowl in years. Same goes for the NHL All-Star Game. I find the MLB's midsummer classic to be the most watchable of the four. Plus, they have a captive audience as there are no other options that time of year. In recent years, I’ve taken more to the NBA three-point contest and skills competition rather than the dunk contest or the game itself. Full disclosure: I watched the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night for a few reasons. I wanted to see Joel Embiid’s first All-Star Game. I was curious about the new draft format of player selection. And my 16-year-old son who I was watching it with is a die-hard Sixers and NBA fan. So I watched all the way through. What I found were two polar-opposite productions. 

Premise
Along with ESPN’s College Gameday. I find TNT's Inside the NBA to be as good as it gets in terms of pregame shows. Ernie, Charles, Kenny, Shaq and crew were excellent as always. It’s what happened after they signed off that was a sight to be hold. 

Pregame show?
Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart performed some type of musical/broadway play/comedy/is this really happening? Somehow Rob Riggle, the least funny man in the world, was involved. As were Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and Ludacris. And there were cheerleaders and wild west folk. There may have been others but at that point, I began slipping into some kind of hypnotic coma. It went on interminably long. It was the kind of thing that, if Hart was not so popular and talented, can kill a career. It was that bad. But I strangely could not pull myself away. It was car crash, rubber-necking kind of bad. 

That mercifully ended and you thought it was game time. But we still had the anthems. First, the Canadian anthem, which was followed by the Star Spangled Banner. Fergie decided that she would turn Francis Scott Key’s composition into a steamy, sultry, lounge act from back in the day. To put it kindly, she missed the mark. Charles Barkley said at halftime that he needed a cigarette after her performance. It wasn’t quite Carl Lewis or Roseanne Barr-level of terrible, but it just capped a half hour-plus of strangeness that anyone who watched was never getting back. All of this just reaffirmed why I don’t generally indulge in these exhibitions. But then something funny happened. 

The game
The NBA smartly changed formats for All-Star selection this year. The league went playground style, having two captains choose their teams. LeBron James and Steph Curry were the two captains in charge of selecting from the voted-in All-Stars. The game, unlike recent years, had a different kind of competitive feel from the jump. Yes, it had the usual array of dunks and incredible passes, which the game should have. But there was defense played and fouls taken. Strategy was employed. To the players and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s credit, the changes were a home run. The game came down to the last possession with Team Steph having a chance to tie with a three. Team LeBron played great defense and Curry could not get a shot off, giving Team LeBron the 148-145 victory. The game had the best of both worlds — incredible athletes showing off their skills and a level of care and compete not seen in a long time. And Embiid had an excellent All-Star debut with 19 points, eight boards and a great sequence where he nailed a rainbow three-pointer and then swatted Russell Westbrook at the other end of the floor.

Lesson here: tune in at tip-off. And no more Rob Riggle. Ever.