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: This might be hard to believe, but there are only nine more nights of 10-plus games left in the season. Where has all the time gone? A full night like last night’s 14-game schedule leaves plenty of good matchups — even when the not-so-elite/bad teams get together (Milwaukee-Philly and Orlando-Charlotte, we’re looking at you). Of course, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not seen/heard about the Bulls ending the Heat’s 27-game win streak, so we won’t feature that one in this space. We’ll go instead with Pacers-Rockets, which featured a nice contrast of styles (Indiana’s grinding ways vs. Houston’s score-as-fast-as-possible mantra) and, apparently the harsh words Roy Hibbert had for his Indiana mates after Monday’s win against Atlanta worked. The bench, the target of Hibbert’s ire, didn’t let the Pacers down and overall, Indiana’s defense was top notch — particularly Hibbert’s rim defense and Paul George‘s lockdown job on Rockets All-Star James Harden.
News of the morning
Lakers glad to see Miami’s run stopped — The gap between the Lakers and Heat this season in terms of their elite status is pretty wide: the Heat sport the best record in the league and, as of Wednesday night, had a 27-game win streak rolling. The Lakers, on the other hand, have been fighting just to make the playoffs all season (they’re No. 8 in the West) and have dealt with a seemingly endless run of drama, injuries and a combination of the two. Still, the current Lakers take pride in their past and legacy, which includes the NBA’s longest winning streak — a 33-game run put forth by the 1971-72 Lakers. After the Heat suffered a 101-97 defeat in Chicago last night to end their win streak, Pau Gasol and other Lakers are glad the record for win streaks is staying in L.A., writes Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
The 1971-72 Lakers can exhale. Their 33-game winning streak is still the NBA’s longest.
The current crop of Lakers took some pride in its preservation after the Miami Heat’s streak ended at 27 with a 101-97 loss Wednesday to the Chicago Bulls.
Some players were even happy.
“In a big way, I am,” said Pau Gasol, who in his six seasons with the Lakers has become friends with the coach of that ’71-72 team, Bill Sharman. “I’m glad that we kept the streak. It was about time that Miami lost.”
The Heat put together a string of come-from-behind victories to prolong its winning ways since a Feb. 1 loss to Indiana, but it finally ended against Chicago as Bulls fans chanted “End of streak! End of streak!”
The Lakers (37-35) have been pretty preoccupied in recent weeks trying to keep their heads above .500. Most of them still kept at least a casual eye on the Heat streak.
“I guess now that it’s over, it’s kind of nice that the Lakers still have it,” Steve Blake said.
The present-day Lakers weren’t lighting up cigars to commemorate the continued life of the 41-year old record. It didn’t even matter that they also beat Minnesota on Wednesday, 120-117.
Said Blake: “We have too many other things for ourselves to worry about.”
Wall says he’s faster than Westbrook — When it comes to pure on-court speed, which player is faster: John Wall or Russell Westbrook. The folks in OKC are likely to have a much different opinion than the one that Wall shared with John Rohde of The Oklahoman last night after Wall struggled through a 3-for-18 shooting night in a 103-80 loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Going purely off how each of them fared at the Taco Bell Skills Challenge in 2012, Wall technically was faster than Westbrook, as you can read about here. Anyway, here’s Rohde’s report:
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall didn’t hesitate when he was asked if the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook is the NBA’s fastest player.
“No, I’m going to say myself,” Wall said after shooting just 3 for 18 from the field in the Wizards’ 103-80 loss to OKC before a sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Wall wouldn’t even say for certain that Westbrook was the league’s second-fastest player.
“It’s tough man,” said Wall, who was coming off a career-high 47 points Monday against Memphis and finished with 18 points and 12 assists against the Thunder. “There’s a couple fast guys in this league. He (Westbrook) is up there, Derrick (Rose) is up there, when he’s healthy. Mike Conley‘s pretty quick. There’s a couple guys. Ty Lawson‘s quick. So there’s a lot of guys, but I put myself first.”
Wall was still complimentary of Westbrook, admitting he is at a place in his career where Wall hopes to some day find himself.
“We’re both young, athletic, fast point guards and that’s very rare that you see that in this league,” Wall said. “I’m trying to take the same steps as he’s taken, being an All-Star, making the playoffs and that type of thing, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Give a lot of credit to how he’s working and how he’s helping this team.”
Woodson raves over Smith’s shot selection — As one of the streakiest shooters in the game today, Knicks swingman J.R. Smith has long been known for his ability to shoot his team into (and more than a few times) out of games during the course of his career. Smith’s gunner mentality often drew the ire of coach George Karl when Smith was a sixth-man type for the Nuggets and that mentality has also been known to irk his current coach, Mike Woodson. Yet as the Knicks have picked up steam of late winning five straight games, Woodson has been impressed with Smith’s discretion on the court, writes John Jeansonne of Newsday:
Just because he can doesn’t mean he should. Knicks shooter J.R. Smith is just that, a shooter, who can nail jump shots from binocular range.
But what coach Mike Woodson has liked about Smith’s contribution to this Knicks season, and particularly to the team’s six-game winning streak down the stretch, is that “he’s starting to figure out some things. He’s not just taking jump shots. He’s taking it to the rim, getting to the free-throw line. He’s rebounding, he’s playing defense.”
He had 35 points, the night after scoring 32 against Boston. In a reserve role, as usual, he made 10 of 18 field goals — 3 of 7 three-pointers — and, as Woodson said, earning free throws. He made 12 of 13 and shared team-high rebounding honors with Carmelo Anthony (7 apiece).
All those numbers matter as the Knicks watched a 30-point lead in the last minute of the first half melt down to four in the final minute of the game.
“I wanted to establish my game on the inside and move on from there,” Smith said. “I got a lot of calls, I made my free throws. My body is killing me but I’ll take it.”
So will Woodson, who acknowledged that Smith came to the Knicks last year with a reputation for relying too much on his outside shooting skill. Smith — his given name is Earl Joseph Smith III, though he goes by “J.R.,” which these days could stand for “Judgement Revised” — has appeared to learn a lot of new tricks in his old age, 27, and eighth NBA season.
“I can’t speak for other coaches [who had Smith],” Woodson said. “When I saw him last year, I liked what he brought to the table. It’s my job as his coach to show him some love, put him in positions to be successful. But still coach him.
“Younger players are different from older players. I probably would’ve been a little tougher on him when he was younger, and pat him, too. I still try to coach him, but be demanding of him. Sometimes he fights me. That’s part of coaching, give and take. He’s still got a ways to go but he’s getting there.”
Nets’ Evans hits 20-20 mark — Early in the offseason, the Brooklyn Nets picked up rebounding maven Reggie Evans from the Clippers for the right to swap second-round picks in 2016. So far, Brooklyn has looked like winners in that trade as Evans is the team leader in rebounds and has more than twice as many rebounds than the forward the Nets threw a lot of money at in the offseason, Kris Humphries. Evans was at his rebounding best last night in Portland, tearing down 26 boards and scoring 22 points to join some elite NBA company, writes Sean Highkin of USA Today:
The Brooklyn Nets’ recent hot streak has been defined by the stellar play of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. But on Wednesday, Reggie Evans did something that has only been done 13 times this season, and mostly by players of much higher stature. His 22 points and 26 rebounds were what powered the Nets to a 111-93 road blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Here are the other players who have had games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds this season:
- Zach Randolph
- DeMarcus Cousins
- Joakim Noah (twice)
- Dwight Howard
- Nikola Vucevic (twice)
- David Lee
- Al Horford
- Enes Kanter
- Kevin Love
- Tim Duncan
- Dirk Nowitzki
That’s three future Hall of Famers (Howard, Nowitzki and Duncan), five players who were All-Stars this season (Randolph, Noah, Howard, Lee and Duncan), and a few of the most highly regarded young big men in the league (Cousins, Vucevic and Kanter). Not bad company for a role player like Evans to be in.
Jazz tweaking offensive gameplan? — Anyone who has watched Utah over the last three seasons knows the game plan whether it was Jerry Sloan or the current coach, Ty Corbin, leading the squad: get the ball to Al Jefferson as early and as often as possible. While Jefferson is the Jazz’s leading scorer for the third straight season, Utah also fell out of the playoff chase thanks to a dismal start to March which included several road losses. Neither some nor all of those losses are Jefferson’s fault, but the Jazz have changed things up a bit of late on offense and it might be paying off as they have won three straight games, writes Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune:
Jefferson took 23 shots on Wednesday. His role in the Jazz offense is not diminished. But is it changing?
That was the sense given by both Mo Williams and Paul Millsap following the Jazz’s 103-88 win over the Phoenix Suns. Jefferson finished with 25 points on 12-of-23 shooting, and he scored six of the team’s first 10 points to start the game. However, both Williams and Millsap said the Jazz have changed the offensive philosophy at beginnings of games, which could explain the fast starts in Monday’s win over Philadelphia and Wednesday.
Both nights, the Jazz made their first six shots.
“I think we got a little carried away with just coming down, starting the game, just throwing it down to Al, letting him work.” Millsap said. “It made it too tough on him, made it too tough on everybody else. It’s basically just getting everybody moving, moving the basketball around.”
Millsap said the Jazz’s focus needs to be “getting different options.”
Here’s Mo Williams’ explanation of what the Jazz are doing:
“I think we’re coming out and we’re running different stuff than we usually run. More and more pick and roll situations. We’re going to eventually go to Al — a lot. I think it’s better when we come out and we get some pick and rolls, which we have, and kind of getting Gordon going early, getting him in motion, getting some ball movement. Getting bodies moving, instead of just coming in and going to Al. The perimeter first shots or the jump shots, those are tough.”
ICYMI of the night: Check out the All Ball blog for a Horry Scale breakdown of this play, but what a great heartbreaking bucket by Jeff Green … :