Welcome back to the NBA Star Index -- a weekly gauge of the players who are most controlling the buzz around the league. Reminder: Inclusion on this list isn't necessarily a good thing. It simply means that you're capturing the NBA world's attention. Also, this is not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order as it pertains to the buzz they're generating. This column will run every week through the end of NBA Playoffs.
James has had too many virtuoso postseason performances to count, and Game 3 against the Rockets was another one: 36 points on 13 of 23 shooting, including 4 of 9 from deep, to go with seven rebounds, five assists and four giant blocks, all of which came in a third quarter that the Lakers held Houston to just 18 points.
Here are two of them on back to back possessions:
James was aggressive to score from the start of Game 3, looking for his shot and knocking down a pair of early 3s. The Rockets didn't look to trap the ball out of his hands, as the Lakers eventually did to James harden in the second half, and LeBron made them pay. He was great on the defensive end, as well. The blocks will get the attention, but James was flying around in the second half as the Lakers rotated like crazy after trapping Harden.
Davis scored 26 points in Game 3 on 9 of 13 shooting, combining with LeBron for 62 points on 61 percent shooting. This win was the Lakers' championship blueprint: The two stars dominate, the defense clamps down, and a third guy breaks out. This time it was Rajon Rondo, who finished with 21 points on 9 of 11 shooting. Kyle Kuzma was also great.
Next game the No. 3 guy might be Danny Green (although he has looked awful), or Alex Caruso, or maybe Markieff Morris gets hot from behind the arc. That third wheel will be a rotating cast of contributors, but the constant has to be Davis and LeBron dominating. They don't have the top-end depth for that not to happen. The good news is LeBron and Davis look to be peaking, together, at the perfect time.
Tough way to end what started as a potentially historic season for Giannis and the Bucks, who were eliminated on Tuesday by the Miami Heat. Antetokounmpo wasn't able to play in Game 4, ironically the only game Milwaukee was able to win in the series, with a bum ankle, and he didn't make it to the second half of Game 5 after re-aggravating it.
So let the rumors begin about where Giannis, who will almost certainly be awarded with his second consecutive MVP shortly, will be playing in 2021, or whether the Bucks will try to trade him before that if they get the scent that he's going to leave for nothing. He is eligible to sign a five-year max extension this offseason, or he could wait until 2021 when the salary cap potentially goes back up. If he does that, Milwaukee is in for an anxious year.
For what it's worth, the Bucks are adamant they will not trade Giannis even if he declines a contract extension this offseason, according to ESPN's Tim Bontemps, and Giannis has already said he will not request a trade like Anthony Davis did from New Orleans. A lot of people say a lot of things. We shall see. For now, here is our Sam Quinn's power rankings of the teams that have the best shot to land Giannis long-term.
Harden is averaging 32 points on 53 percent shooting, including 48 percent from 3-point range, against the Lakers. But he's fading in the fourth quarters, with five final-frame points in each of the first three games of this series. The Lakers are getting more aggressive with their traps later in games, and particularly late in the clock.
Moving forward, Harden has to find a way to put more of a scoring stamp on the clutch minutes of this series, because Russell Westbrook simply cannot be relied upon in these moments and the Rockets are still right there with a chance to beat the Lakers. Harden has to be the guy to put them over the top.
Leonard fell one assist shy of a triple-double on Wednesday, finishing with 30, 11 and 9 as the Clippers took care of the Nuggets to take a 3-1 lead in that series. Leonard continues to get wherever he wants on the court, and his ability to leverage the attention he draws into easy shots for his teammates has evolved to the point of being a lethal weapon.
Also, he blocked a shot with one finger in Game 3:
Lowry was incredible in helping to keep Toronto's season alive on Wednesday, posting 33 points on 12 of 20 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block in 53 of the most intense minutes you'll ever see. The Raptors survived the Celtics in double overtime to knot the series 3-3, and it was a tough turnaround jumper by Lowry, who is quietly cementing himself as a future Hall of Famer, that sealed the deal.
Game 7 is set for Friday. Buckle up.