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Terry Rozier steals show in East showdown

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Terry Rozier steals show in East showdown

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier scored 20 points in 20 minutes, stealing the spotlight from LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas in a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals and leading the Boston Celtics to a 102-88 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Rozier scored the last eight Boston points of the first quarter to give the Celtics an 11-point lead, and had another eight in a row midway through the fourth when they expanded the lead to 21. Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum had 15 points apiece, and Irving and Al Horford each had 11 points and nine rebounds to help Boston to its fourth straight win.

James had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which lost for the fourth time in five games. Playing on back-to-back nights -- the Celtics had been preparing for them since New Year's Eve -- Cleveland shot 34.8 percent.

It was the first time the teams had played since the season opener, when top Boston free-agent Gordon Hayward broke his leg and in a gruesome injury that reshuffled the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Celtics finished with the top seed last year, but lost in the conference finals to Cleveland (see full recap).

Beal, Wall spark Wizards’ win over Knicks
WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal scored 27 points, John Wall added 25 with nine assists and the Washington Wizards beat the New York Knicks 121-103 on Wednesday night.

Playing for the first time since he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Beal followed his 39-point outburst on Sunday by hitting 11 of his 14 field goal attempts for Washington, which was won five of six.

Marcin Gortat had a season-high 21 points, making 9 of 10 from the field.

Michael Beasley had 20 points, including 16 in the second half to lead the Knicks, who have lost six of seven.

Kristips Porzingis scored 16 points. New York has lost 14 of its last 15 to Washington (see full recap).

Harden-less Rockets roll over Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Gerald Green scored 27 points, Clint Capela had 21 points and eight rebounds and the Houston Rockets got by without NBA scoring leader James Harden, routing the Orlando Magic 116-98 on Wednesday night.

Harden was sidelined by a strained left hamstring.

Green made his first five 3-point shots and finished 7 for 10 from behind the arc for the Rockets, who were never behind and led by as many as 28 late in the third quarter.

Eric Gordon added 17 points and six assists to help Houston tune up for its Thursday night showdown with the Golden State Warriors.

Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 16 points after missing his first eight shots. Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja added 14 each in Orlando's 12th loss on 13 games.

The Magic (12-27) missed 16 of their first 18 shots and fell behind by 15 points before the end of the first quarter. A scoring burst by Hezonja kept them in the game in the second quarter but they could get no closer than nine (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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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.