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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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Giannis Antetokounmpo to miss next 2 games with knee soreness

Milwaukee Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the next two games as the team looks to manage soreness in his right knee.

The Bucks announced Saturday that Antetokounmpo, who already had been ruled out for Saturday’s game against Philadelphia, also will miss Monday’s game against Phoenix.

Bucks backup point guard Malcolm Brogdon is also slated to miss Saturday’s game (personal reasons).

I was picturing myself helping out the team any way possible and I was doing a lot of special teams and things like that, Hunt told Sporting News. When (Ware) went down, I knew I had to step up and take a big role.

Hunt, a third-round pick out of Toledo, took advantage of the opportunity. He totaled 1,782 yards from scrimmage (1,327 rush, 455 receiving) and 11 total TDs, which wasn’t all that far from the 1,878 total yards (1,475 rush, 403 receiving) and 11 total TDs he racked up in his senior season with the Rockets in the Mid-American Conference.

MORE: Ranking the 52 best players left in the NFL playoffs

It didn’t take Hunt long to make an introduction. He totaled 148 rushing yards, 98 receiving yards and three total TDs in the Thursday night opener against New England.

Harden finished with 22 points. Paul added two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

Golden State led by four before Houston went on a 9-2 run, with the first five points from Paul, to take a 109-106 lead with about three minutes left.

Warriors: Green surpassed the 4,000-point mark (4,019) and added seven rebounds to also reach 3,000 rebounds. … Golden State had 19 turnovers. … Young finished with 16 points.

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Michael Bennett ‘committed’ to playing in 2018

Michael Bennett isn’t ready to walk away from the game. Whether his next snap comes with the Seahawks or another team isn’t as certain.

The 32-year-old defensive end expressed his desire to continue playing after Seattle’s Week 17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but spoke as if there was a better chance of him doing so elsewhere in 2018.

Seattle, a team that isn’t getting any younger defensively, is projected to have $19.41 million in cap space in 2018 (per OverTheCap) after squeezing the team’s payroll just under the cap by less than $2 million in 2017. Schneider has becoming known for performing near miracles with cap space in the past, but as they say, this is a business. Cutting Bennett wouldn’t yield massive cap relief, but would fall under that business category.

Has Bennett been told he’s going to be a cap casualty?

No, Bennett said. Just saying you just never know with losses and transitions in sports. It’s just one of those things.

Considering Thomas’ comments — When Seattle kicks me to the curb, please, the Cowboys, come get me — and Bennett’s hinting at his uncertain future, it appears as though the team’s veterans are sensing change is around the corner. Whether Seattle’s future plans include Bennett remains to be seen.

I am excited to have Mike Vrabel joining our organization as our new head coach, Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement released by the team.

We have a chance to build on the solid foundation that we established over the past couple of years and I believe Mike is the right person to continue that progress.

As a player, Vrabel began his professional career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but flourished as a part of New England’s title-winning defenses in the early-to-mid 2000s. Vrabel joined the Patriots for the franchise’s first Super Bowl-winning season of 2001 and excelled there through 2008, winning two more titles along the way. He finished his career on a two-year stint in Kansas City, then retired and returned to his alma mater of Ohio State to enter coaching.

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