It didn’t take long into Monday night’s contest to know this was not the Nuggets night. Maybe it was the early 7-0 Hornets run, or the 15-3 run in the middle of the first quarter, or the Nuggets 33 percent shooting in the first quarter, or… you get the idea.
Denver was having one of those nights. Often when that happens Ty Lawson lifts them out of the doldrums, but he was sitting out his third straight game with a heel injury.
Combine that with the Hornets being on their game — taking care of the ball and slowing the game down — and the result was an easy 110-86 Hornets win. The Nuggets streak ends at 15.
As Gregg Popovich has noted, when teams on a streak lose they tend to drop a few in a row — Denver can’t afford to do that. They, the Grizzlies and Clippers are locked in a fight for the three seed — two of those good teams face off in the first round and the three seed gets a softer Warriors (or maybe Rockets) team. You want the three seed. Denver needs to shake this off and keep winning.
Denver just had one of those nights — they got looks in the paint but shot just 42 percent on those looks. Denver shot 38 percent overall. Shots just would not go down. And credit the Hornets for controlling the glass and not letting Denver have second chance shots.
Meanwhile the Hornets hit their shots — Ryan Anderson’s 23 led six Hornets in double figures. Backup point guard Brian Roberts was dishing, finishing with 18 assists. Denver’s defense was awful, and if you’re going to signal anyone out for that (it was really a team lack-of-effort) start with Andre Miller. Bad night for the vet.
But really, this was a game where Denver just didn’t have the energy to play at tempo, to run their opponent out of the building.
Denver just has to get back up and not let the streak be an aberration in a season that ends early in the playoffs.
Jusuf Nurkic did not enjoy his time as a member of the Denver Nuggets. His trade to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Mason Plumlee was a welcome change of scenery.
On Tuesday night, Nurkic got to take on his old team with huge playoff implications at stake. Portland beat the Nuggets, 122-113, moving a game ahead of their rivals in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and giving them the best tiebreaker between the two.
Nurkic was impressive, blasting his old squad with 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting, adding 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two assists.
Nurkic was interviewed in the arena after the game, and he was obviously happy he helped his team while also sticking it to Denver. Speaking with Portland reporter Brooke Olzendam, Nurkic took one last shot at the Nuggets, telling them to enjoy their summer.
Nurkic quite possibly sent the Nuggets packing for the year with the game at the Moda Center on Tuesday, so he might have been the guy who helped start their summer.
Still, that is ice cold.
Miami Heat forward James Johnson is one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers. On Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons, he yammed down a huge one-handed slam that embarrassed Marcus Morris and drew gasps from the crowd at the Palace.
The play came midway through the fourth quarter with Johnson at the top of the key. After a quick pass over to him, Johnson gave a quick hesitation before driving to his left and past his defender.
With the quick step, Johnson’s only remaining opponent at the basket was Morris, who was unfortunate enough to find himself between the high-flying Heat and the rim.
This is what happened next:
Morris was whistled for a foul on the play.
The Miami Heat took until the final moments on Tuesday night to beat the Detroit Pistons, but it was worth it. With just a handful of games left to play, the Heat need to stave off the Chicago Bulls for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Thanks to a tip at the buzzer by Hassan Whiteside, they’re one step closer to achieving that goal.
The play came with just seconds left in the fourth quarter. James Johnson missed a shot with six seconds to go, and the Heat grabbed the rebound. Goran Dragic then tried his hand, but he couldn’t get it to go, either.
That’s when Whiteside came back with a tip at the buzzer that ended the game.
Miami now sits at 36-38, a game above the Bulls for the No. 8 seed.
Whiteside, meanwhile, is never going to wash that hand again:
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.
Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.
Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”
Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.
Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.
“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.
The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.