Kenrich Williams

Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Nuggets tie Warriors for top seed in West after win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Denver wins, Warriors lose, Nuggets tie Warriors for the top seed in West after win. We know the Warriors are bored with the regular season, but will the potential of losing the top spot in the West spark something in them?

Denver isn’t bored and has things to celebrate — for the first time in five years, the Nuggets are headed to the playoffs. This was a team that has been good for a couple of years — they won 46 games last season, one game short of the dance — but made a leap this season, mostly through continuity. Coach Mike Malone had the right attitude, “I told the guys after: ‘We should feel good about this. Life is about celebrating moments.’” (Via Mike Singer of the Denver Post.)

But this win was more than just a ticket to the dance — at 47-22, the Nuggets are now tied with the Golden State Warriors for the top seed in the West.

Denver did its part going into Boston and getting the win. The early part of this game was telling: Kyrie Irving tried to take over but started 1-of-5 shooting, while the Nuggets moved the ball, shared the load and raced out to a 13-4 lead. Irving would get hot in the second half and finished with 30 points (on 10-of-23 shooting), but Denver had seven players in double figures, led by another night from Nikola Jokic, who had 21 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. More than just the numbers, he impacts every aspect of the game when on the court. He just seemed to make the right decisions all night.

The Warriors fell back to the Nuggets, although this Golden State loss was understandable — on the road against a red-hot San Antonio team that has won nine straight, and the Warriors were without DeMarcus Cousins (although Andrew Bogut had his moments in his debut). The Splash Brothers had more of a perfect Greg Louganis Olympics dive on the night — no splash at all. Klay Thompson shot 5-of-18, while Stephen Curry had 25 points but needed 25 shots to get there, although Curry did hit this.

The Nuggets have a much tougher schedule the rest of the way, which is why fivethirtyeight.com predicts they will finish second in the conference, three games back of the Warriors (the teams play again April 2). But if the Warriors continue to be bored and the Nuggets keep going into places like Boston and getting wins, anything can happen.

2) Isaiah Thomas feels the love in return to Boston. This was the real highlight out of the Celtics-Nuggets game.

Celtics fans never got to give Isaiah Thomas the send-off tribute he deserved. They did on Monday when he returned as a member of the Nuggets.

Thomas was undersized, relatable hero who played like an MVP, led the Celtics to the playoffs, all while playing through hip pain and the death of his sister. He loved the city and was active in the community. He embodied what Celtics fans want to see in their stars.

It was good to see him get that emotional moment.

Thomas was scoreless in seven minutes on the court. Hopefully, he can come back next season fully healthy in a situation where he can showcase his talents.

3) Dirk Nowitzki passes Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on NBA all-time scoring list. Nowitzki — the greatest shooting big man the NBA has ever seen and its best-ever European player — can now add another accolade to his long list of them.

With 8:33 left in the first quarter, Nowitzki took a handoff from Luka Doncic‘s handoff, backed down New Orleans’ Kenrich Williams to get to his spot, then drained a turnaround from the midrange. It was a signature move that gave Nowitzki 31,420 points in his career, one more than the legendary Wilt Chamberlain.

Nowitzki is now sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan).

By the way, the Pelicans won the game in overtime behind the fifth straight triple-double from Elfrid Payton, who had 19 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. Doncic had a triple-double of his own on the night with 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Watch Nowitzki pass Wilt Chamberlain for 6th on NBA scoring list

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DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks became the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer Monday night with another of his signature long-range jumpers.

Nowitzki took Luka Doncic‘s handoff and backed down New Orleans’ Kenrich Williams before hitting a turnaround from the top of the free-throw circle with 8:33 left in the first quarter.

The basket brought Nowitzki to 31,420 points in his career, one more than Wilt Chamberlain. The 40-year-old German trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan. James passed Jordan for fourth place on March 6.

Coming into the game, Nowitzki needed just four points to pass Chamberlain, and he started for just the ninth time this season. His first basket was a 20-footer off an assist from rookie Jalen Brunson.

While Nowitzki stands only an inch shorter than Chamberlain’s listed height of 7-foot-1, the two reached their point totals with contrasting styles of play.

Chamberlain once averaged more than 50 points in a season, dominating inside to such a degree that the NBA widened the paint in an effort to neutralize him.

Nowitzki, meanwhile, has made nearly 2,000 3-pointers in his career, establishing the trend of big men with long-range shooting capabilities. He’s an 88-percent free-throw shooter, 37 points higher than Chamberlain’s mark.

“One of his real legacies is gonna be how he helped this game evolve to what it is today,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “In the ’90s and early 2000s, there was a real crisis. Scoring was down. The way Dirk approached the game helped … nudge the game along and open up space. Eventually the value of the 3-point shot to open up space became a reality. And so today, you don’t hear anybody talking about how there’s not enough scoring or the game’s not exciting.”

Nowitzki is 872 points behind Jordan but may retire at the end of the season, though he has said he will decide on his future when the season is over. He is the only player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with one team.

Nowitzki missed the first 26 games of the season recovering from left ankle surgery and has been reduced to a role player for much of the year, but he has started the past four games and nine out of the last 12 for the Mavs. His season high entering Monday was 15 points.

 

New Orleans signs Darius Morris to compete for guard spot on roster

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The New Orleans Pelicans are looking for depth at the guard and wing spots, and at the wing they are doing and old-school tryout during training camp. At guard, New Orleans has a borderline All-Star in Jrue Holiday (they want to say he’s not the point, he’s the two guard, but are they going to want the ball in his hands or Elfrid Payton‘s?), after that it gets thin.

Now add Darius Morris is going to get his shot at a spot, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Morris last played in the NBA in 2015 in Brooklyn and may be best remembered for a couple of seasons with the Lakers at the start of this decade (they drafted him in the second round in 2011). The past couple of seasons he has primarily been in the G-League, but has played in China as well.

The Pelicans need guard depth. Behind Holiday there is Payton, Ian Clark, Frank Jackson and likely Tyronne Wallace (they put in an offer sheet on him the Clippers are unlikely to match). Rarely is there a lot of drama in NBA training camps, due to guaranteed contracts, but this season in New Orleans will be different — roster spots and minutes will be available. Should be interesting to watch.

Five undrafted players to keep your eye on

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At any given point, about 15 to 20 percent of the players in the NBA were not drafted. Some guys just fly under the radar, take longer to develop, and just mature later and find how they can fit into a team.

This year is no exception, some guys who didn’t get their name called are going to stick in the NBA.

Here are five guys to watch in Summer League and beyond:

• Malik Newman, 6’4” guard (Kansas). In a league where teams are always looking for scoring he is a player who can just get buckets — he’s got great range as a shooter and can slash to the rim as well. He’s not a true playmaking point guard and he’s undersized for the two in the NBA. That size issue leads to concerns on the defensive end. Still, seems worth a second round gamble.

Kenrich Williams, 6’7” power forward (TCU). The 2017 NIT MVP likes to play physically, and is solid at shooting, rebounding, and defending — he can do everything well but does not have one elite, standout skill. That limits his ceiling, but as a high IQ player he has the potential to develop into a solid role player. He will play in the NBA Summer League with Denver.

Rawle Alkins, 6’5” shooting guard (Arizona). Tough, high-motor player who defends well and has the potential to be a good scorer (he’s already a good finisher in transition and can knock down threes). He needs to develop his skills to go with his power and athleticism, he has to work on his passing, and he has to play in control and not turn the ball over. Good potential for a rotation wing player. The Toronto Raptors are giving him a shot at Summer League and maybe into training camp.

• Brandon McCoy, 6’11” center (UNLV). He was heavily recruited out of high school and he did average 16.9 points and 10.3 rebounds a game for Las Vegas last season. He’s not a great shot blocker for his height, and there are concerns about his feel for the game, but he still produced last season. Usually big men with that kind of frame and potential at least get a look from NBA teams.

• Trevon Bluiett, 6’6″ guard (Xavier). The guy can shoot the rock, and that should get him more of a look than he did so far. He averaged 19.5 points per game and shot 41.7 percent from three last season. He’s a senior, there’s a question about his defense and who he guards at the next level. He’s not an elite athlete. But he can shoot and that should get him some attention.

• LiAngelo Ball. 6’5” guard (Vytautas Prienai-Birstonas in Lithuania). Just kidding. He’s not an NBA player, no teams thought so. The Lakers aren’t even going to bring him on their Summer League team (and not wanting to deal with LaVar is part of that).

2018 NBA draft pronunciation guide

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You’ve watched hours of Luka Doncic YouTube videos. You keep reading. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is climbing draft boards. You’re convinced Zhaire Smith is a sleeper.

And you want to tell everyone about it.

One problem: You’re not quite sure how to say any of these 2018 NBA prospects’ names.

Thankfully, the NBA published a pronunciation guide:

Jaylen Adams: JAY-lin Adams

Deng Adel: Deng uh-DELL

Rawle Alkins: Raleigh ALL-kins

Kostas Antetokounmpo: COAST-us Ah-day-toe-KOON-boe

DeAndre Ayton: dee-AN-dray AY-tin

Marvin Bagley III: Marvin Bag-lee the third

Mohamed Bamba: Mo-HAH-med BAHM-bah

Jaylen Barford: JAY-lin BAR-ferd

Keita Bates-Diop: .KAY-tah Bates DEE-opp

Trevon Bluiett: TRAY-vahn BLEW-it

Isaac Bonga: EE-zack BON-guh

Mikal Bridges: Mick-L Bridges

Jalen Brunson: JAY-lin Brunson

Khadeen Carrington: kuh-DEEN KAIR-ing-tun

Jevon Carter: Je-VOHN Carter

Wendell Carter Jr.: Wen-DELL Carter Jr.

Bonzie Colson: BAHN-zee Cole-son

Angel Delgado: Angel del-GAH-doe

Hamidou Diallo: ha-MUH-dew dee-AH-low

Donte DiVincenzo: Donte dee-vin-CHEN-zo

Luka Doncic: LOO-kuh DON-chitch

Trevon Duval: Trey-VON du-VAL

Matt Farrell: Matt FA-rull

Wenyen Gabriel: WHEN-yin GAY-bree-ull

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Shay GILL juss Alexander

Devonte’ Graham: De-VON-te Graham

Donte Grantham: DON-tay GRAN-thum

Isaac Haas: Isaac HAHSS

Devon Hall: DEH-vin Hall

Kevin Hervey: Kevin Her-Vee

Tryggvi Hlinason: TRIG-vee hLEE-nuh-son

DJ Hogg: DJ HOAG

Kevin Huerter: Kevin Hurter

Chandler Hutchison: Chandler HUTCH-ih-sin

Jaren Jackson Jr.: Jair-in Jackson Jr.

Alize Johnson: AL-uh-zay Johnson

Arnoldas Kulboka: are-NALL-duss COOL-buh-kuh

Rodions Kurucs: ROE-dee-ons COO-roox

Jock Landale: Jock Lan-dale

Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.: Joe LOO-ahl ah-CHU-ill Jr.

Daryl Macon: DARE-ull MAY-cun

J.P. Macura: JP Muh-CYURE-uh

Kelan Martin: KEY-lun Martin

Yante Maten: Yahn-tay May-tin

MiKyle McIntosh: muh-KY-ull MAC-in-tosh

Jordan McLaughlin: Jordan Ma-GLOFF-lin

De'Anthony Melton: dee-AN-thony Melton

Chimezie Metu: chi-MEH-zee Meh-tu

Dzanan Musa: JOHN-on MOO-suh

Svi Mykhailiuk: Svee muh-KAI-luke

Malik Newman: muh-LEEK NEW-min

Elie Okobo: EL-ee oh-KO-bo

Josh Okogie: Josh oh-KO-ghee

Theo Pinson: THEE-o PIN-sin

Malik Pope: muh-LEEK Pope

Dusan Ristic: Doo-sahn Wrist-itch

Desi Rodriguez: DEH-zee Rodriguez

Issuf Sanon: ee-SOOF sah-NON

Landry Shamet: Landry SHAM-it

Anfernee Simons: AN-fur-knee SIGH-muns

Zhaire Smith: zhi-AIR Smith

Omari Spellman: o-MAR-ee Spellman

Jared Terrell: Jared turr-ELL

Khyri Thomas: KY-ree Thomas

Allonzo Trier: Alonzo Tree-ER

Moritz Wagner: Mo-RITZ VOG-ner

Yuta Watanabe: YOU-tuh wah-tuh-NAH-bay

Kenrich Williams: KEN-rich Williams

Trae Young: Trey Young