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The moment won’t come Thursday. In a popularity contest, Bam Adebayo still has a climb to make to reach the level of Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum.

But if the moment doesn’t come a week from Thursday, that is when Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there will be explaining to do.

Typically, the Heat downplay All-Star voting and All-Star appearances. During the years when he was in contention to coach the game, Spoelstra would almost take an upside-down view of the standings, preferring to miss what otherwise would be a weekend of vacation.

But when you ask a player to do everything, on both ends of the court, and when he does everything, on both ends of the court, that’s an entry point for the conversion.

“That’s not really my nature to go out and campaign,” Spoelstra said after Adebayo went for 30 points and 15 rebounds, including the winning shot, in Tuesday night’s victory over the Boston Celtics at Miami-Dade Arena. “I just think he’s an All-Star.”

With fan, media and player voting completed, the All-Star starters for the Feb. 19 game in Utah will be announced Thursday. With fan voting counting for 50 percent of that process, the popularity contest does not favor Adebayo, who generally is soft spoken with limited endorsement presence.

But with the three frontcourt starters in the East determined in the to-be-announced voting results, conference coaches then must select an additional three frontcourt players as reserves, while also adding two additional All-Stars at any position.

While East frontcourt players such as Julius Randle, Jarrett Allen, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner, Brook Lopez, Paolo Banchero and Kyle Kuzma have had their moments this season, there is hardly enough there to squeeze out Adebayo. Even against teammate Jimmy Butler, Adebayo offers the stronger resume in terms of games available, 44 to 34.

Beyond that, with coaches voting for All-Star reserves, Adebayo, with his two-way play, in many ways epitomizes exactly what coaches seek from their players.

Since being selected at No. 14 out of Kentucky in 2017, Adebayo only has made the All-Star Game in 2020, when both he and Butler were selected as reserves. Butler was the Heat’s lone All-Star last year.

“Certainly, I’m rooting for it,” Spoelstra said, with Adebayo this season averaging a team-best 21.6 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game. “I thought he should have been an All-Star last year. There’s really no reason he shouldn’t have been an All-Star last year. He missed five weeks. So what? He was playing at an All-Star level. There’s been other guys that have missed a month to five weeks and still got in.

“It’s deserving. That’s not really my nature to go out and campaign.”

With the Heat only now climbing their way out of an uneven start, at a season-best five games above .500, Spoelstra said showcase moments such as Tuesday make the best Adebayo argument.

“Thankfully it was a big win,” he said of the victory that came in the absence of Butler. “It was on TV. I hope people notice. But he really impacted the win, particularly going down the stretch. And it wasn’t just the scoring.”

Adebayo said the effort transcended the impending announcement of All-Stars.

“It was the rivalry,” he said. “They booted us in the Eastern Conference finals last year. I feel like a lot of guys on our team carry that.”

But if he won’t campaign, teammates will.

“He’s been a killer all season for us and we go as far as he takes us, one of the best centers in the NBA,” forward Haywood Highsmith said. “He’s definitely an All-Star this year. So when I’m on the court with him, I definitely just see his will and his power, just to will us to a win. Not only offensively, but defensively, as well. He’s a two-way guy.”

A knock on Adebayo had been a lack of an offensive repertoire. This season, as the Celtics can attest, that no longer is a talking point, his feathery 13-foot jumper with 20.4 seconds remaining sealing Tuesday’s victory.

“Coach has done a great job of emphasizing getting me the ball,” he said, “and I’m just taking advantage of my opportunities.”

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News Source: mercurynews.com

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Recapping the Chicago Bulls: Big Three lead the way to a 128-109 victory against the Orlando Magic

The Chicago Bulls had the win in the bag.

With three minutes left in the third quarter of Saturday’s road game against the Orlando Magic, they held a 89-64 lead and every ounce of momentum.

But Bulls fans have seen this film before. They know how quickly the ending can change.

The Bulls let a 25-point lead evaporate to five. But after back-to-back losses done in by leads lost in the third quarter, the Bulls won 128-109 despite their second-half lapse, salvaging the finale of a three-game trip.

The highs
  • The momentum of the game seemed poised to swing in the final minutes of the first half when DeMar DeRozan was called for an offensive foul pushing off on Moe Wagner. DeRozan took immediate grievance with the call, palming the ball in one hand as he raced to argue with the referee — and picked up a technical foul. DeRozan had to be pulled away from the officiating team twice before heading to the locker room, but the frustration only fueled DeRozan, who finished with 32 points and eight assists.
  • Zach LaVine appears to be returning to form after struggling through several games with swelling in a knuckle on his right hand. LaVine played without any tape on his hand for the first time against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday and played without it again Saturday, scoring 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting.
  • With DeRozan fired up, LaVine shooting more efficiently and Vučević back in his Orlando comfort zone, the Bulls offense was set for a high-powered night behind their star trio. They combined for 90 points on 66% shooting on the night. Patrick Williams provided an additional boost with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
  • Goran Dragić returned after missing the last three games because of a non-COVID illness. He scored seven points and made 2 of 5 3-pointers.
The lows
  • Wendell Carter Jr. set a habit of massive performances against his former team in prior meetings, but the Bulls held him quiet Saturday. Carter finished with 11 points and five rebounds. Instead, the Magic bench hurt the Bulls most. Cole Anthony scored 21 points and Moe Wagner added 27.
  • The Bulls held a 25-point lead in the third quarter but allowed the Magic to finish the frame with a 17-6 run to spark a monstrous comeback in the quarter. Anthony cut the lead to 111-106 in the final five minutes of the game before the Bulls froze the comeback.
  • The Bulls turned the ball over eight times in the first half and only once in the third quarter but coughed up three in the fourth quarter to help fuel the Magic’s comeback. The Magic scored 22 points off 12 Bulls turnovers.
Quote of the night

This trip was defined by one trend — the Bulls built a confident lead in the first half, only to let it waste away in the second.

While the Bulls continued that trend in Orlando, they never let the lead drop back under five points, which prevented them from fully losing control of the game.

It’s hard to gauge the significance of this improvement in a game against a team with third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. But the second half was still a welcome change for the Bulls by comparison to their collapses in Indiana and Charlotte, N.C.

“This was different,” Donovan said. “I thought the intensity of the game the last couple games — especially in Indiana when the intensity went way up — we never responded. I didn’t think that was the case tonight.”

Injury report

With the return of Dragić, the Bulls were missing only Javonte Green, who is sidelined for at least two more weeks as he recovers from an arthroscopic debridement in his right knee.

Where they stand

The Bulls improved to 23-26 and returned to 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Up next

The Bulls return home to play host the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

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