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Gregory Alcala

Gregory Alcala

Brooklyn Nets Beat Milwaukee Bucks 129-127 in Triple Overtime

Brook Lopez Scores Team High 32 Points and 18 Rebounds, 11th Double-Double of the Season; But Joe Johnson Saves the Day

On the first official day of spring, the Brooklyn Nets returned home to a snowy Brooklyn, from a 4-game road trip, going 2-4 against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Some might call that a successful road trip winning two of four, but know that the Nets, in defeating two teams they were expected to beat in Philly and the Wolves, lost to two teams in playoff contention: Heat and Cavs.

The Nets even had the opportunity to exploit the Heat for their own benefit, as far as the race for 8th is concerned and failed to do so.

Tonight, the Nets hosted, yet another team in playoff contention-the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently occupy the 6th seed at 34-34.

In their first meeting of the season, Bucks Head Coach Jason Kidd's first return to Brooklyn since he was traded for two second-round draft picks, the summer prior, the Nets lost in triple OT, 122-118.

In the second meeting of the season, the Nets would experience the same fate, this time losing at the end of regulation, 103-97.

Tonight was the last and final game of the season series between the two teams, and this time around, the Nets walked away with their heads held high.

Any time these two teams matchup, a fight to the finish is expected with extra time usually a strong possibility-which is exactly how this game developed.

Like the Bucks, the Nets needed extra time x 3 to outlast the Bucks, 129-127, because nothing involving the Nets from their perspective can be easy right?

During the early stages of this game, I thought I saw the signs that would prove to be the reasoning of why the Nets would lose the final game of this season series.

For instance, the Nets fell behind in deficits of double-digits during the 1st half.

With 3:30 remaining in the 1st quarter, the Bucks were up by 10, 27-17 as the "Greek Freak," Giannis Antetokounmpo converted one of two free throw attempts.

In the second, Ersan Ilyasova-the pride of Turkey, would connect on a three late in the quarter, heading towards the halftime period which would give the Bucks a 12-point lead, up 68-56 with 30 seconds left until the intermission period.

Just based on the way the Nets season has progressed to present day, I believed that they would struggle to comeback from these deficits and even if they did, in the end, find a way to lose.

But they didn't.

The Brooklyn Nets defied the odds.

They battled back from both deficits due to the strong consistent play of Thaddeus Young, who made key shots throughout the game and down the stretch en-route to 24 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Thaddeus-Young 650x366Brooklyn Nets power forward, Thaddeus Young

But this game was won in the fourth quarter and beyond and that's where the Nets made the plays to position themselves for the opportunity to win.

With the Nets down by three, 101-98 via a Zaza Pachulia two-point shot, who plagued the Nets all night from the post, Joe Johnson responded knocking down a three from the arc, assisted by Brook Lopez, which would evidently send the game into OT, as the Bucks failed to answer.

In the first OT, Khris Middleton, whose play was problematic from the Nets point of view continued his brilliance, converting three of the Bucks four field-goals, each of which the Nets countered.

More of the same would continue in the 2nd OT period with a little bit of deja-vu featuring Johnson, who would bail the Nets out, once again sinking another three to seal the Nets fate for the 3rd OT period.

"They set a great screen, and (Tyler) Ennis was trailing and he got off a great shot," said Jason Kidd during his post-game conference.

"And that's what big players do. He stepped up and made the big three."

In what would be the final OT period of the game, Lopez starred early, posturizing Ersan Ilyasova for the first field-goal of the five-minute period, converting a free-throw after drawing a foul and then hitting his next field-goal which proved to be the push the Nets needed, sealing the win with a series of made free-throws courtesy of Johnson, Young and Jarrett Jack.

Jarrett-Jack Brooklyn-Nets-Media-Day 2014 Brooklyn Nets guard Jarrett Jack

"It was just a good look," said Lopez regarding his dunk in the 3rd OT period, following the Nets win. "They had to respect (Jarrett) Jack coming off the pick and roll, and he made a great pass so I was able to finish it easy."

Lopez finished with a team-high 32 points and 18 rebounds, his 11th double-double of the season.

Johnson, who saved the Nets time and time again from defeat compiled 20 points and 7 assists and Jack contributed 12 and 7.

As for the Bucks, their starting five alone boasted a stat-line that without looking at the Nets score would persuade you to believe that they were indeed the victor.

Michael Carter-Williams: 19 points.

Middleton: 29 points and 6 assists.

Pachulia: 22 and 21 rebounds, a monster game.

Ilyasova, 20 points and 13 rebounds and Antetokounmpo, 23 and 14 rebounds, who actually had the chance to send the Nets home at the end of regulation missing an 8-foot shot as time expired.

"I had a chance to send it home, but I didn't make the shot," said Giannis, reflecting on his missed game-winner.

"It felt good when it left my hand, but after we were up three we let Joe Johnson make a three.

It was Johnson's three that put Giannis in that tough situation, all of 20 years young with the game in his hands and nothing to show for it.

And that's what happens.

You can't make them all but I guarantee that if there was another OT period to play, Giannis would've had another opportunity to make the Nets pay.

The Nets alleviated those thoughts and improved to 28-39 overall on the season while the Bucks dropped their 5th straight game, falling to 34-35 on the season.

Unlike the Bucks, the Nets don't have the luxury of owning the 6th seed, positioned in the playoffs.

They are on the outside looking in, and Jack knows that.

"We don't have much time to celebrate or think about it," Jack said post-game.

"We gotta move on to the next one, go to the next task at hand and be ready to take on a tough Indiana team that plays well in their building."

An Indiana team that is in a favorable spot, currently in a two-team race for the 8th and final spot with the Boston Celtics, both nursing identical records of 30-38.

It seems as though the Nets will only be able to make the playoffs by making a daily commitment to prayer or collapses by the three teams ahead of them.

The Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Pacers all will face their share of tough teams to end the 2014-15 campaign, playing 8, 8 and 9 games respectively against playoff teams.

The problem is, the Nets too will have their own problems to confront in the nine games they will play against playoff teams.

There is a possibility that the Nets can move up if in fact two of the three teams fail to handle their business down the stretch.

But the Nets don't have the luxury of feeling any comfort.

They too have to handle their business down the stretch also.

NFL’s Buffalo Bills Striking First, Readying for 2015-16 Season

Bills Swift Personnel Changes: Acquire Cassel and McCoy; Rex Ryan Ground and Pound Resurrected

In the infant stages of the 2015 NFL off-season, the Buffalo Bills have made it obvious that they are working in Western NY.

So far, their activity this off-season represents the bold and braggadocios nature of their newly minted head coach, Rex Ryan.

On Wednesday, the Bills agreed to send LB Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for LeSean McCoy.

Collage Lesean-McCoy Kiko-Alonso 700x350 Photo left to right: Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso

And the day after, the Bills acquired QB Matt Cassel and an undisclosed draft choice from the Minnesota Vikings for two undisclosed draft picks, according to ESPN.com.

If you are a Bills fan, this is probably too much good news coming to you all at once, right?

How are you handling it?

It's not like the Bills defense set the world on fire last season.

They were actually towards the basement of the league in terms of rankings (29th), so in losing one of their better, young, up-and-coming DB's, the Bills took a step back defensively.

And this is a team coached by Ryan, Rex Ryan right?

Alonso missed the entire 2014-15 season due to a torn ACL; but in his first NFL game against the New England Patriots, although the Bills lost the game, Alonso recorded nine tackles and forced a fumble.

The week after vs. the Carolina Panthers, Alonso would top his first game, with 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a sack.

Week after week, Alonso would contribute conspicuously on defense, and in so doing, he would earn the Defensive Rookie of The Year Award.

And now the Eagles are in possession of Alonso; a player on the brink of becoming one of the better defensive backs in the league, who they will pay $4,300,401 over the next four years.

On the other hand, McCoy just signed a 5-year $45,000,000 contract with the Bills.

It's not like McCoy isn't worth the money, but with McCoy out of the picture, it looks like the Eagles just saved a boat load of money.

And, it's all about the system.

McCoy is one of the best backs in the league going to a team whose Head Coach believes in ground and pound.

McCoy is more of an outside runner opposed to a back that can burst through the middle and run down the field like Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, but Rex believes in running the ball, and that's what McCoy knows how to do better than most.

Run the football.

McCoy is a 3-time Pro-Bowler, 2-time First Team All-Pro, former NFL rushing leader, NFC offensive player of the year and NFL rushing touchdown leader.

In other words he's pretty good and is in the right situation to get those yards on a team with the 22nd ranked rushing attack this past season.

And someone who could be handing the ball off to him, early and often this season is Matt Cassel.

If EJ Manuel doesn't beat out Cassel in training camp, off of a season where he was benched at 2-2 for back-up Kyle Orton, he will sit again.

Cassel is more than capable of being a game manager and that's what the Bills need.

Someone to move the chains down the field, make good decisions with the football, and protect it.

It was never going to work-out in New England, Cassel's first career stop because of Tom Brady.

I don't even know why they employ back-up QB's.

Kansas City gave Cassel a six-year $62.7 million dollar contract in 2009, and after making the Pro Bowl as a fill in for Brady (2010), who was too busy losing in the Super Bowl, Cassel failed to live up to the expectations in KC and was traded once again to the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.

With the emergence of rookie Teddy Bridgewater, Cassel's services were no longer needed and here we are.

I'm not saying that the Bills are going to win the AFC East because the Patriots are still there, but they do look better than the New York Jets right now.

2015 NBA All-Star Game: West Wins 163-158

Russell Westbrook, an Unsuspecting NBA All-Star Game MVP Winner

The 2015 All-Star game is now a page in the history books of the NBA's All-Star weekend, and this year in New York City, there were many story-lines to follow regarding this year's exhibition game.

First, similar to last year's NFL Super Bowl, there was much chatter about getting around for NBA All-Star activities split between two boroughs within New York City in the winter.

The 2015 NBA All-Star logo with its New York City Transit symbolism helped to quell any transportation concerns.

2015-all-star-game-logo

There were your first-time All-Stars in Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls), Kyle Korver (Atlanta Hawks), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) and Jeff Teague (Hawks).

There was the Atlanta Hawks featuring four All-Stars representing the east in Teague, Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford.

Then all the injuries to the first selections of Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Dwyane Wade, replaced by Cousins, Dirk Nowitzki, Damian Lillard and Korver, respectively.

And Thompson joining his teammate, Stephen Curry as the Splash Brothers made their first joint appearance in an All-Star game.

Of course, you can't have an elite selection without complaints about the selection process.

Many believed that Cousins should have been an All-Star, to begin with instead of Spurs Tim Duncan.

Others thought that either Lillard should have made the roster over the likes of Clippers Chris Paul.

And, you could make the case that Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant did not deserve to make the NBA All-Star game final cut due to the amount of games that both players missed, prior to February, compared to other guards in the West.

However, if there was any inclination that Westbrook should not have made this year's team, on Sunday, Westbrook alleviated that thought.

In an exhibition game designed for highlights and zero defense, Westbrook took advantage and carved up the Eastern All-Stars for 41 points in 25 minutes, further distancing himself as the best point guard on the floor, as the West won, in a high-scoring affair, 163-158.

On Sunday, Westbrook was goal oriented, not even Lebron James could have outperformed Westbrook.

lebron-james-2015-nba-all-star-game 650x428 Cleveland Cavaliers forward, Lebron James at the 2015 NBA All-Star game

In case you're wondering, Lebron James scored 30 and James Harden scored 29.

Even Korver shut down his critics chipping in 19 points, shooting 7-12 from three-point range.

Westbrook showed the entire arsenal with easy dunks, steals, five three's and just the mentality of not taking no for an answer, even in an exhibition game of no meaning towards the regular season and playoff seeding.

And who thought the players didn't care about the All-Star game?

An MVP award is the only attainable honor offered to the player who provided the best performance and Westbrook took his first All-Star game MVP award back to OKC, like Durant who won his first in 2012.

Sooner or later, we have to start recognizing that Westbrook, might not just be better than Durant, but could be the best player in the league.

I know Lebron still plays in this league, but fact is fact and there is no defense structured to defend what Westbrook is capable of doing on a game-by-game basis, and that's why you can consider Westbrook for that distinction.

Like NCAA's famed basketball sportscaster, Dick Vitale says, "He's a PTP BABY!!", and Westbrook is every bit of a prime-time-player.

He brings it every night.

And, he doesn't just only score, but finds his teammates for an impressive 8.1 assists per game, 6.8 rebounds and 2 steals.

Basically what I'm saying is, if Durant isn't playing, there is a very good reason why you should still watch the Thunder play.

The reason is; there's another NBA All-Star Game MVP on that roster, effective February 15, 2015.

NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT: The Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Rises Again

Zach LaVine Wins Sprite Slam Dunk Contest and Revitalizes Its Image

With all due respect to the first three events that make-up NBA All-Star Saturday, there's a reason why the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest is slated to end the evening.

It's the event that generates the most demand from the public because of its history.

There was a time when the Slam Dunk Contest mattered.

Players took it seriously and actually cared about putting on a show with the hopes of doing something that hasn't been done before.

Go into the archives and you'll understand why this event was so coveted.

You had his "air-ness," Michael Jordan, in 1985 dunking from the free-throw line, the birth of the jump-man logo.

You had The Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins, punishing the rim with an aerial assault in the late 1980s.

Kobe Bryant channeled his inner MJ in 1997, Vince Carter raised the limitations in 2000, Jason Richardson brought flashes of Dominique and MJ in 2002 and 2003 and Dwight Howard and a few others have made impressive contributions to the contest over the years.

In this current decade, the Dunk Contest has lost its steam, just ask Gerald Wallace from 2010's crop and Jeremy Evans of 2012.

There have been some unforgivable years, and through the tough times we figured that the excitement of the past and the jubilation that the dunk contest once provided, would somehow reinvent itself and reveal itself in the near future.

And it has.

Because Minnesota guard Zack LaVine made it his business to do so, and even though Orlando guard Victor Oladipo did not win, he left a lasting impression, which is more than I can say about the other two participants, Brooklyn's own Mason Plumlee and the "Greek Freak," Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

And that's what the 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest boiled down to, a two-man race between LaVine and Oladipo, judged by New York basketball legends, Bernard King, Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Chris Mullin, Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Julius "Dr. J" Erving.

The best thing about the performances between Zach and Victor was the fact that they didn't save their best dunks for last.

They weren't conservative.

They didn't tease the crowd or shy away from the spotlight.

Oladipo followed Giannis, in the dunk order (Plumlee, Giannis, Oladipo, LaVine) and before he revealed whatever he had planned, he gave us a taste of his personality.

As he stepped onto the court, Oladipo sported a suit-shirt, accompanied by a top-hat and sang his own rendition of Frank Sinatra's- "New York, New York".

Singing is the other talent that Oladipo possesses other than obviously basketball, and once he finished his audition tape for American Idol, Oladipo went to work.

It took him three attempts, but Oladipo was able to complete a reverse 540, two-hand slam, starting from the right corner of the three point line, which immediately warranted a standing ovation.

victor-oladipo orlando-magic-540-degree-man nba-slam-dunk-contestOrlando Magic guard, Victor Oladipo, holding a Mr. 540 sign commemorating his 540 degree dunk in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during 2015 NBA All-Star weekend

Now, the two-man was on, as Plumlee and Giannis quickly became non-issues!

LaVine entered the court to the main theme of the 1996 movie debut of Michael Jordan's Space Jam.

He dismissed his jersey and underneath, the Tune-Squad jersey that Jordan wore to beat the "Monstars" to retrieve the talent back for the NBA's greatest at the time, in the movie stood.

Just moments before LaVine's dunk, entitled "The Space Jam Dunk", Kenny Smith, of TNT's Game-Time crew expressed, through his mike: "You got Jordan on your back, this has to be special."

And that's exactly what it was, special.

Beginning from the right corner of the three-point line, LaVine lobbed the ball into the air, gathered himself, caught the ball at the apex of its bounce in the air with his left hand, pushed it between his legs to his right hand and reversed it, dunking the ball on the other side of the basket.

And the crowd rejoiced in unison.

I've seen different variations of the between the legs dunk throughout the years of this event in Jason Richardson, Gerald Green and even Desmond Mason, but not like this.

From the side camera in slow motion, LaVine looked like he was walking in the air as Jordan once did, which made the jersey the perfect garment for this particular dunk.

With his first dunk, LaVine commenced the 1st round, gaining a score of 50.

In the second round, more of the same would continue.

What Plumlee and Giannis lacked in style and creativity was delivered by Oladipo and LaVine's exploits.

Oladipo's second dunk would've received a higher score if it was executed cleaner with more velocity, in a 360 slam via a pass off of the right side of the backboard from teammate, Elfrid Payton.

And LaVine once again, got the crowd on their feet, this time catching the ball off of a lob and passing the ball behind his back to his right, all in one motion for another dunk.

Oladipo and LaVine would make it to the final round as the top two scorers (LaVine 106, Oladipo 89), where LaVine would do just enough to accumulate a final score of 94 to Oladipo's 72, becoming the second youngest player to win the contest since Kobe Bryant in 1997.

"I'm still on cloud nine," said LaVine during his press-conference. "I feel like I'm dreaming; seeing all the dunk contests and people hoisting the trophy. I just saw myself do it and lived it. So it's a dream come true. I'm glad my family is here to witness it and go through it."

In winning this event, LaVine has been able to enjoy a moment in a season where there hasn't been much to celebrate for his Timberwolves.

The T-wolves are 13-43 currently, headed towards the lottery for their third straight year, and with LaVine's most recent accolade and Wiggins MVP honor via the World vs USA game, LaVine believes that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Twin-Cities squad.

"It shows were on the rise," said LaVine. "We all want to be great. Just be on the lookout for that. We have the right type of mindset. We're all good kids. We really just want to be the best we can."

It will take some time before the T-Wolves can challenge the top teams in the Western Conference due to its young roster, but for one night, the Timberwolves and the cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul saw a glimpse of their future do exactly what they would like to see at the Target Center.

Win.

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