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.
LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.
Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:
Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.
James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.
I don’t buy this.
Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.
Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?
I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.
I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?
LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.
The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.
I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.
The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.
Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.
Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.
As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:
Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7
Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.
An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.
Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.
But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.
The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.