Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Eleven games on the schedule makes for the usual: a healthy dose of blowouts (Pacers-Cavs, Mavs-Hawks, Nets-Pistons, Warriors-Hornets, Wolves-Grizz and Lakers-Suns) and a smattering of close ones (Blazers-Sixers, Wizards-Bobcats, Nuggets-Bulls and Knicks-Jazz). We’d like to go outside the box and pick one of these closer games, but was any game more exciting last night than the Heat-Celtics affair from Boston? The Celtics jumped out to a 17-point lead in the second quarter, had control of the game most of the night and even had a 13-point lead with about eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. But as our man John Schuhmann breaks it down (and as you can see in this comeback video), the efforts of Jeff Green and the rest of the Celts weren’t enough to slow the train that is LeBron James and the Heat.
News of the morning
Denver painting a masterpiece around basket — Although the ending to last night’s Nuggets-Bulls game at United Center was wrought with controversy (our man Steve Aschburner has the full details on “tip-in-gate”), one thing that couldn’t be disputed was how often Denver scored in the paint on Chicago last night. The Nuggets put up 119 points on the Bulls’ often-solid defense and a look at the scoring logs reveals a lot of layups and dunks for Denver. Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post takes a closer look at just how efficient the Nuggets have been this season at scoring around the hoop:
Sure enough, Denver scored 64 in regulation time and finished with 68 in its 119-118 overtime victory over the Bulls.
The Nuggets’ brand of basketball leads to persistent paint penetration. It’s NASCAR basketball. The fast-breaking Nuggets entered Monday leading the NBA with an average of 57.6 points in the paint, scoring 60 or more 27 times. In the NBA this season, the six-highest paint-point totals have come from the Nuggets, with 78 as their high.
Nuggets fans should appreciate what they’re watching — few teams win this way. The Nuggets are just different.
“And you go down the roster, there’s speed and quickness,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. “Ty Lawson is as fast as anybody. Kenneth Faried runs the floor as well as any big. Andre Iguodala is a tremendous athlete. So they have a lot of guys who can go. Andre Miller is an older guy who plays at a different pace, but the way he plays allows him to play really fast. And you look at a guy like Corey Brewer, he’s found his niche there. He’s a winning-type player.”
Denver could finish with the highest average of paint points since the league started keeping that stat in the 1996-97 season. The record was set by the 1997-98 Lakers, who averaged 54.1.
Denver entered Monday leading the NBA with an average of 19.7 fast-break points and trailed only the Clippers with 19.7 points per game off turnovers.
Frank no fan of Knight’s ‘posterizing’ moment — The dunk residing at No. 1 on our own NBA.com Dunk Ladder is none other than DeAndre Jordan‘s one-handed alley-oop slam over the Pistons’ Brandon Knight (although, LeBron James‘ jam on Jason Terry last night has a good chance of supplanting it). Even though Pistons coach Lawrence Frank wasn’t on hand in L.A. when Jordan did the deed over Knight, Frank subsequently heard the buzz the dunk created on Twitter, television, Facebook and any other media means you can think of. Frank wasn’t a fan of all the chatter and posterization talk, as he tells the Detroit Free Press’s Vince Ellis:
Frank wasn’t there for the March 10 game at Staples Center when the Clippers center put Knight on a poster as he was away tending to his ill wife.
But when asked casually before tonight’s game about the uproar on social media and ESPN, Frank was critical.
“They’re called ‘game-quitters,’ they’re in the game but they’re really not in the game, so they bail out just because they don’t want to be dunked on.
“I mean, to me, I don’t know what the culture, whether it’s an AAU environment — I hate to blame that — or what the situation is, but when I read that and saw that stuff how it was such a … it just goes to show you we’re celebrating the wrong (stuff), we really are.”
He added: “If Brandon could have fouled the guy (and stopped the basket), DeAndre Jordan, the way he shoots free throws, it would’ve been a total non-issue. But at least Brandon has the courage to put himself out there to make a play. And the fact that people laugh about it and joke about it, I don’t know. There’s a whole lot more things to glamorize in our sport than something like that. I don’t even understand how that’s, like, a story, you know? And you read about how it’s trending on Twitter? Talk about Miami winning 22 games in a row, or talk about something else. But a dunk? Who cares?”
Scola’s playing time dwindling — As a member of the Houston Rockets for five seasons, Luis Scola started a possible 343 of 368 games and played in every possible game in a season four times. After being waived by Houston over the summer via the NBA’s amnesty program, he latched on with Phoenix and was thought to be the Suns’ starting power forward. That was the role Scola occupied at the start of the season before losing the gig … and then gaining it again … and then losing it again. In short, Scola’s role has been unpredictable at best for the Suns, but he hasn’t complained, writes Tyler Killian of the Arizona Republic:
Scola is averaging the least playing time (26 minutes, 11 seconds entering Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers) since his rookie season in 2007-08 with Houston, when he seized the starting power-forward job midway through the year and never again came off the bench for the Rockets.
With the Suns struggling to forge an identity under interim coach Lindsey Hunter, Scola’s role often has been reduced as Hunter experiments with different rotations. The 6-foot-9-inch Argentinian admits to feeling discouraged at times.
“It’s hard for me. It’s hard,” Scola said. “It is (frustrating), but I try to use that frustration to work a little harder. Just try to stay ready and in shape.”
Whatever frustrations he may be feeling, Scola is keeping them private, living up to his reputation as a team player.
“We have no problems with Scola whatsoever,” Hunter said. “He’s the ultimate professional. If he plays 30 or he plays three (minutes), he’s the same guy — consistent. So he’s been great for us.”
Scola is doing his best to provide value in other ways, however, mentoring the younger Suns and helping them through the tougher stretches of the season.
“The NBA is about winning 50, 60 games a year, going to the playoffs and making noise and hopefully winning a ring,” he said.
“Sometimes young guys, all they know is this (losing), and that’s a problem. So the biggest thing for us is to let them know that this is not what they should be looking for.”
Pacers’ Granger OK’d to practice — Indiana waited until late February to get its one-time All-Star forward, Danny Granger, back in the lineup because he was suffering from patellar tendinosis in his left knee. Granger played five games after coming back to the Pacers’ lineup on Feb. 23, but was hardly himself (his averages: 5.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg while shooting 28.6 percent from the field) before he was shut down again due to soreness in the left knee. According to FoxSportsOhio.com’s Sam Amico, though, Granger is OK to practice again with his teammates:
Danny Granger has been cleared to resume basketball activities, Pacers coach Frank Vogel said prior to Monday’s game at Cleveland.
A sore left knee has caused Granger to miss all but five of the Pacers’ 66 games this season.
“We sort of took him off his feet for a little while, so to speak, (but) he’s resumed activity,” Vogel said. “He’ll put in a lot of individual work this week, and practice time when we have practice. We’ll see where he’s at toward the end of the week.”
Granger, a 6-foot-7 forward, led the Pacers in scoring last season at 18.7 points per game. He’s averaging 18.1 points for his career, including 5.4 in 14 minutes per game this year.
ICYMI of the night: Lawrence Frank won’t like this play, but we know a lot of people who do …: