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NBA All-Star Game: Three takeaways from Team LeBron’s thrilling win

Team LeBron rallied back from an 11-point first-quarter deficit to beat Team Stephen 148-145 in Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game.

LeBron James led his team with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists en route to his third All-Star Game MVP. James selected his team in the NBA’s new pick-em format.

1. The new pick-em format added suspense �� The NBA All-Star Game is usually a lackluster affair of no defense and crazy shots. While Sunday’s game started off that way, it quickly turned into an actual game as both captains appeared determined to win bragging rights (and the $100,000 bonus).

3. Victor Oladipo is the league’s most underrated player �� When the Pacers traded Paul George to the Thunder, gaining Oladipo in return, many thought they had made a mistake. But Oladipo (averaging 24.4 points per game) has exceeded even the Pacers’ wildest expectations. Not only has Oladipo been scoring, he’s looked like a leader, helping the Pacers (33-25) win seven of their last nine games.

Whether Oladipo is donning a Black Panther mask and creating shockwaves at the dunk contest, or high-flying at the All-Star Game, he’s looked like one of the elite players the NBA has to offer. Oladipo finished Sunday’s game with seven points, three assists and three steals.

Giannis Antetokounmpo also recorded a triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. It was Antetokounmpo’s ninth career triple-double, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most in Bucks history.

Thursday’s nightcap saw the Wolves rally in the fourth quarter for their 36th win of the season, fifth-most in league at the All-Star break. Minnesota outscored the Lakers 35-20 in the final period thanks in part to Jamal Crawford’s seven points in just over two minutes to begin the quarter.

With Karl-Anthony Towns (2 of 9) and Jimmy Butler (7 of 20) struggling from the floor, veteran big man Taj Gibson stepped up with a season-high 28 points to pace the Timberwolves.

Jokic starred for the Nuggets but he got plenty of backcourt help from Jamal Murray and Gary Harris who combined for 54 points. Like Jokic (11 of 14), Murray (9 of 12) missed just three field goals on the night.

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It’s a small sample size, but James looks like a rejuvenated player even before the break gets underway. The Cavs are on a four-game winning streak going back to James’ game-winning performance against the Timberwolves last Wednesday, and during the streak, James has averaged 30.0 points, 13.0 assists and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 55.3 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from the 3-point line.

Howard reportedly lived up to his reputation of being a locker-room cancer: former teammates reportedly cheered when he was traded to the Hornets. On the night of Howard’s return to Atlanta, fans booed the big man in solidarity with Hawks players, who probably would have joined in if they were in the stands.

During his time in Atlanta, Scott was known more for the tattoos on his arms than the basketball plays he made with them. During the 2014 NBA playoffs, the eighth-seeded Hawks were threatening to upset the top-seeded Pacers in the first round. National media attention naturally followed the team, and some reporters noticed Scott had emoji tattoos.

A couple of features and an Atlanta series loss later, Scott returned to relative anonymity as an above-average defender and 3-point shooter �� a good, but not great, player. Considering this isn’t the first or last time the Hawks show up on this list, fans shouldn’t be too shocked he got a video.

Despite playing with two high-volume scorers, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, George has managed to keep up his numbers and be effective on the floor. He is averaging 22.5 points, and his 3-point shooting has been excellent, at 43.2 percent this year.

He has also been a force on the defensive end, leading the league in steals with 2.2 per game. He comes into the break on a hot streak, topping 25 points in six straight games (29.8 points per game) and shooting 49.2 percent from the 3-point line in that stretch.

Embiid has missed 11 games, and the Sixers are 3-8 without him, which gives you an idea of his value to this young group. He’s averaging 23.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists, and he was the East’s Player of the Month for January. Before playing just 23 minutes against the Knicks last week, he had recorded eight straight double-doubles.

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It’s easier to create tribute videos for players whose exit is a mutual decision and not the result of a team wanting to upgrade at a position. Beverley was often compared to a junkyard dog because of how he hounded his matchup on defense and took him out of the game, sometimes literally.

Beverley was a solid starter for Houston after his rookie year, but Rockets general manager Daryl Morey decided to move him in order to get better at guard with Chris Paul. That shows what the organization thought of its defensive standout, and why its tribute video wasn’t all that long.

The Thunder’s much-maligned 2012 trade of James Harden to the Rockets wasn’t a total loss for Oklahoma City, as they ultimately netted starting center Steven Adams. It’s also questionable whether Harden would have remained willing to come off the bench for the Thunder, and whether that would have caused drama. The Thunder continued to contend after trading him.

It’s also too early to judge two trades from this past summer that, as of now, look awful. Early returns on the Cavs’ trade of Kyrie Irving to Boston certainly don’t look good for Cleveland, but there’s still much left to be decided, depending on whether LeBron James re-signs and what kind of player the Nets’ pick becomes.

Curry has shot better than 41 percent from the 3-point line in all nine seasons he’s been in the league, including this one. But as the Warriors have slipped to 4-4 in their last eight games since Curry lit up the Celtics with 49 points, his shot has been off �� he is scoring only 19.8 points per game in those eight games and making 32.9 percent from the arc.

If he does not turn it around, the unthinkable could happen: Curry could finish the season below 40 percent from the 3-point line.

He has new star-level teammates, but Westbrook has been his same old self, eighth in the league in scoring (25.4 per game) and first in assists (10.4), while still near a triple-double average (9.4 rebounds).

Oklahoma City has been wildly inconsistent this season, but one thing that’s clear: When Westbrook makes shots at even a decent rate, the Thunder are very good. OKC is 24-12 when Westbrook makes 40 percent of his shots or more, 8-13 when he does not.

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