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Tuesday/Wednesday recap: Mario Chalmers goes crazy from three; most everyone else takes it easy before the All-Star break

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) collides with Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) on a shot during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. Oklahoma City won 119-104.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) collides with Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) on a shot during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. Oklahoma City won 119-104. by Nick Gerik

  • Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics) scored on the first possession against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and went 0-for-4 (with three free throws) for the rest of the first half as OKC sprinted out to a 72-49 halftime lead. Pierce came back to score 18 points in the second half (13 in the third quarter) and even hit a foul shot to cut the score to 108-102 with three minutes remaining in the fourth, but the Thunder held on for a 119-104 victory. Pierce finished with 23 points (5-for-15 overall, 1-for-4 from three, 12-of-16 free throws), five rebounds, eight assists and a steal in 38 minutes (full stats here).

  • Xavier Henry (New Orleans Hornets) had two points, two rebounds and two assists on Wednesday as the Hornets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 89-84. Henry’s one made shot came on four attempts in 11 minutes (full stats here).

After the game, Ryan Schwan of Hornets247.com wrote:

I’ve never seen a guard so reliant on one hand in my life. On his best play of the game, a slick baseline drive, he did two jab steps and a spin move just to get his defender to shift far enough to the right so he could drive left. There was no intention of going right at all. It’s weird.

  • Kirk Hinrich (Atlanta Hawks) scored five points in 15 minutes on Wednesday as the Hawks fell victim to Linsanit... I mean, the New York Knicks. Hinrich’s points came from a three-pointer and two free throws, and he added two rebounds, a steal and zero assists to three turnovers as the Hawks lost, 99-82 (full stats here).

  • Brandon Rush (Golden State Warriors) played just 15 minutes against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The Warriors squandered a 21-point lead but held on, 106-104, and Rush had just two points and four rebounds in his limited time on the court (full stats here).

  • Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns) made just one of his six shots on Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors, but it was a memorable one. Unfortunately for Markieff, he played just 10 minutes — all in the first half — and was benched for the entire second half as the Suns rolled exclusively with starter Channing Frye, who played 37 minutes. The Suns lost, 106-104, despite overcoming a dismal 39-22 first quarter. Markieff finished with four rebounds to go along with his two points (full stats here). Surprisingly, Markieff, who played four minutes during Phoenix’s abysmal first quarter, had a plus/minus of +1. That means the Suns actually scored one point more than the Warriors while the rookie was on the floor — a small victory on a night when Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry shredded his team in the postgame presser.

  • Drew Gooden (Milwaukee Bucks) sat out for the third game in a row on Wednesday night. Gooden had been playing with a slightly torn ligament in his right wrist and took an early break before All-Star weekend to let it heal. The Bucks lost to the Chicago Bulls, 110-91 (game stats here), and Gooden told reporters that he hopes to return after the All-Star break.

  • Nick Collison (Oklahoma City Thunder) did not play again on Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics. It was Collison’s second missed game due to a quad contusion. The Thunder beat the Celtics, 119-104, despite allowing a 27-point lead to shrink to just six late in the fourth quarter (game stats here). OKC plays tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, but with just one game until the All-Star break, Collison will likely rest again.

  • Cole Aldrich (Oklahoma City Thunder) was set to fill in once more for injured fellow Jayhawk Nick Collison on Wednesday night as the Thunder played a nationally televised game against the Boston Celtics. But OKC ended up playing small-ball to match up with the Celtics (who were without bigs Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox), and Aldrich picked up a DNP-CD as the Thunder won, 119-104 (full stats here).

  • Marcus Morris (Houston Rockets) didn’t get off the bench Wednesday in his first Rockets game back from a stint in the D-League. Houston played (and won) a garbage-minutes-less game against the Philadelphia 76ers, 93-87 (game stats here).


Tuesday recap

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) prepares to shoot over Sacramento Kings' Isaiah Thomas (22) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Tuesday, Feb., 21, 2012. Miami won 120-108.

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) prepares to shoot over Sacramento Kings' Isaiah Thomas (22) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Tuesday, Feb., 21, 2012. Miami won 120-108. by Nick Gerik

  • The NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest began early for Mario Chalmers (Miami Heat) on Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings (to steal a phrase from Sun Sentinel writer Ira Winderman). Chalmers sank six three-pointers in the first three quarters and finished with 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting from distance. He added two rebounds, three assists, a steal and two turnovers in 29 minutes as the Heat won, 120-108 (full stats here).

Chalmers is fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (67-of-144 for 46.5 percent) — the best of the six competitors at the Three-Point Contest — but Vegas is giving him just the fourth-best odds to win on Saturday. The breakdown of the field, as of Wednesday afternoon:

Anthony Morrow (NYJ) 5/2; Ryan Anderson (ORL) 3/1; James Jones (MIA) 7/2; Mario Chalmers (MIA) 4/1; Joe Johnson (ATL, injured, not competing) 13/2; Kevin Love (MIN) 13/2.

Chalmers isn’t letting that deter him, though. From the Sun Sentinel:

James Jones and Mario Chalmers, the Heat's contestants in Saturday's 3-point contest during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, practiced Wednesday for the competition, Jones shooting off ball racks before practice, Chalmers afterward.

"He gave me a couple of techniques, a couple of pointers," Chalmers said of Jones, who won last year's competition. "So I'm just using my technique and a little bit of his technique and working on it."

Asked about his chances, Chalmers first asked a member of the Heat staff, "Can I answer that how I want to?"

Told he could, he said, "I'm gonna win it."

  • Xavier Henry (New Orleans Hornets) scored five points on 2-for-3 shooting in 12 minutes on Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers. Henry also had three rebounds and zero turnovers as the Hornets lost, 117-108 in overtime (full stats here).

After the game, Michael McNamara of Hornets247.com noted that “the offense stalled when the ball was in his hands.”

Also:

Xavier Henry simply can not use his right hand effectively enough to get to the basket. Whenever he dribbles with his right hand, he is moving laterally, rather than attacking. If he can work on his handles and stroke in the offseason, the kid has some potential due to his defense and toughness.


Other notes

  • Brady Morningstar (NBA D-League - Tulsa 66ers) had an uuuuuugly shooting performance on Tuesday night as the 66ers lost, 86-84. Morningstar made just 4 of 18 (!) attempts, including a dismal 0-for-6 showing from three-point range. He finished with eight points, three rebounds, two assists, one steal and a block in 37 minutes. He also had just one turnover (full stats here). Morningstar hit the same number of shots on Wednesday night, but this time he finished with nine points off of just eight attempts in 27 minutes. Tulsa still lost, 114-87, and Morningstar had one rebound, five assists, one steal and a turnover (full stats here).

  • Josh Selby (NBA D-League - Reno Bighorns) put up another big number on Tuesday with the Memphis Grizzlies’ NBADL affiliate. Selby scored 23 points with five rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes. He scored in a variety of ways, making 7 of 16 shots (3 of 7 three-pointers) and 6 of 8 free throws. Selby also had two steals and four turnovers as his team won, 126-116 (full stats here).

Earlier in the week, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins told the Commercial Appeal that Selby’s D-League stint would give him a chance to evaluate the rookie:

“We've been trying to patch him in at point guard. Is he a point guard? We don't know. Is he better at the off-guard spot? We don't know. He's never played it for us. I'd just like to get an opportunity to see him when he's playing a lot of minutes."

  • Brandon Rush (Golden State Warriors) had a slim chance at making it into this weekend’s All-Star Three-Point Contest when Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson pulled out with an injury. Unfortunately for Rush, the NBA’s leading three-point shooter, the league replaced Johnson with Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant instead.

  • Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns) remained at No. 8 in Grantland.com’s weekly NBA rookie rankings. This time around, Grantland’s Sebastian Pruiti wrote:

Morris' game has fallen off since his fast start to the season, but he still does two things very well on offense. First, he knocks down spot-up jumpers. His 45.8 percent shooting and 1.213 points per possession in spot-up situations puts him in the top 8 percent of NBA players. Morris also plays well in the post. Despite shooting 42.3 percent on the block, Morris posts a PPP of 0.897, which is in the top third of NBA players. He does this by getting to the free throw line 16.9 percent of the time when he posts up. Morris' strength and his ability to use the pump fake allow him to get defenders out of position, draw contact, and earn free points at the line.

LeBron. CP3. Nick Collison. Dirk. One of these players doesn't belong, right? Uh, wrong. That is if you count yourself among the adjusted plus/minus rating faithful. During the previous two seasons, Collison, the OKC reserve PF, was ranked among the top 10 players in the league in that category, a list otherwise populated by NBA royalty.

"I'm very aware of that," (OKC coach Scott) Brooks says. "I like looking at plus/minus. And I love Nick."

What does that say about a guy who averages 4.6 ppg and 4.0 rpg in 20.4 minutes? That the lone member of the team from the pre-Presti days excels in the subtle aspects of the game. On defense, Collison uses his anticipation and quickness in reading and reacting to call out screens, to tip balls and to hedge aggressively before rotating back. He was second in the league in charges drawn with 57 in 2009-10 and was fifth, with 51, in the league last season. On offense, he passes and screens at exactly the right moment and excels in running the two-man game with James Harden. "Well, James does most of the work," Collison says modestly. But for a guy who is a member of four of the Thunder's five most-effective lineups, the stats say Collison does plenty of work himself.


Jayhawks in upcoming NBA games

Thursday, Feb. 23

  • 6 p.m., TNT, Mario Chalmers and the Miami Heat vs. the New York Knicks

  • 6:30 p.m., Kirk Hinrich and the Atlanta Hawks vs. the Orlando Magic

  • 8:30 p.m., TNT, Nick Collison, Cole Aldrich and the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. the Los Angeles Lakers

Friday, Feb. 24 (All-Star Weekend)

  • 8 p.m., TNT, Markieff Morris in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge

Saturday, Feb. 25 (All-Star Weekend)

  • 7:30 p.m., TNT, Mario Chalmers in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

Sunday, Feb. 26 (All-Star Weekend)

  • 6:30 p.m., TNT, Paul Pierce in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game

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