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Three Stars of the Night: LeBron’s milestones steal the night

Jan 17, 2013, 2:20 AM EDT

Miami Heat LeBron James looks on during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland

Every night in the NBA offers some sort of impressive performance. Three Stars attempts to filter through them and give you, the reader, a chance to know who did what the best.

But on some nights, it’s about more than one game’s worth of work that makes up a performance. Tonight is one such night.

Because while some guys went for season highs (we’ll tell you about one in a second) and another became unguardable by catching fire from mid-range (we’ll tell you about him too), tonight was more about a decade’s worth of work coming to a head in a single night and culminating with some eye popping numbers.

Without further ado, here are our three stars:

Third Star: Russell Westbrook (32 points, 12-20 FG’s, 4 assists)

At first glance, Westbrook’s numbers are impressive but don’t necessarily stand out. And then when you realize that he only played 28 minutes in this game and was part of a hot start that helped to bury a very good Denver Nugget team, it becomes more impressive. Westbrook started out hot, scoring 16 points in the first period (the Nuggets as a team had 18) and 25 in the first half. Westbrook absolutely blitzed Denver with his mid-range jumper and then exploited a defense worried about that shot by getting all the way to the rim to score there too. On nights like this, Westbrook shows why he’s one of the elite players in the league and mutes his critics.

Second Star: Carlos Boozer (36 points, 12 rebounds, 16-24 shooting)

It’s not been discussed very much, but lately Carlos Boozer has been playing very well and tonight he continued that trend against the Raptors. In what ended up being a very close game that Bulls tried to give away, Boozer was the main reason the Bulls were up big in the first place and the key they didn’t fall all the way behind and lose this game in regulation. By bullying his way close to the basket, Boozer set up shop in the paint and scored easily. When he wasn’t camping down low, he hit his mid-range jumper to keep the Raptors off-balance. His 36 points represent a season high and when combined with his work on the glass, the Bulls surely would have been on the wrong end of the scoreboard without him tonight. I guess the only extra thing Boozer could have done was hit the game winner, but that honor belonged to Luol Deng:

First Star: LeBron James (25 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds)

Ho-hum. Just another night at the shop for LeBron, falling 3 rebounds shy of a triple double while putting his imprint on the game in every way imaginable. Dominant defense? Check. Great shot making? Check. Setting up his teammates for easy shots close to the rim and wide open jumpers from behind the arc? Check. But it wasn’t just LeBron showing off his versatility that made tonight special. No, it was the fact that in the process of manhandling the Warriors, LeBron scored his 20,000th career point and handed out his 5,000th assist. James became the youngest player to break the 20K barrier (besting Kobe Bryant). A special night for a special, special player.

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