Around the Rim: Feeling it in Phoenix


1. Suns run and run and run
The Nuggets exploded for 39 points in the first quarter last night and appeared to be well on their way to win by halftime with a 19-point advantage. But then the Suns rallied. Phoenix posted 81 points in the second half, including 46 in the fourth, to erase a lead that grew to 22 and win 132-117. Coupled with a Dallas victory over the Clippers, the loss slid Denver out of the playoff picture once again, leaving them ½ game behind Golden State for the final slot out West. Amare Stoudemire finished with a game-high 41 points and 14 rebounds to keep the Suns in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the playoffs’ opening round, tying the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead, but remaining fifth overall due to a tiebreaker. Phoenix also got double-doubles out of Shaquille O’Neal (20 pts, 12 reb) and Raja Bell (15 pts, 10 reb).

2. Jazz blast

C.J. Miles finally had his big coming-out party. Uh, not like that; we mean his on-court coming-out party. The 21-year-old who skipped out on playing for Texas to be the 34th pick in the second round of the 2005 draft scored a career-high 29 points to lead Utah past Washington 129-87. For those of you without a calculator handy, that’s 42-point blowout! The Jazz sank a team-high 15 treys while connecting on 50-of-84 shots overall and getting 40 assists. Deron Williams was responsible for 16 of those dimes to go along with 12 points and Mehmet Okur finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists. After dropping an overtime game to the Lakers on Sunday, the Wizards just didn’t have anything left in the tank. And it showed. Washington managed just six fastbreak points and committed 14 turnovers against an undermanned Jazz squad that didn’t have Andrei Kirilenko due to a calf injury.

3. Pacers pop Miami
The season’s end just can’t get here fast enough for the Heat. Their season of futility and frustration continued last night with a 20-point blowout by the Pacers, 105-85. Miami dropped to 13-61 on the year with tough impossible contests against New Orleans and Detroit looming on the schedule. Things are getting so ugly in South Beach that the Heat just might break the franchise record for fewest wins in a season. Pretty hard to believe, but they were actually worse in their inaugural season of 1988-89, totaling just 15 wins for the entire year. Luckily, Pat Riley re-signed Blake Ahearn and Stephane Lasme to a pair of new 10-day contracts. All right, enough about the losers; Jermaine O’Neal made his return to the Indiana lineup after missing 33 consecutive games, scoring nine points in 18 minutes.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Amare Stoudemire vs. Denver 42 min, 41 pts (FG: 12-22, FT: 17-19), 14 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (50-24) @ Denver (45-29)
One day later and the game is twice as nice. If you enjoyed yesterday’s battle between the Suns and Nuggets then you’ll love the rematch tonight because with one less day remaining in the season, the race for Western Conference playoff positioning is even more intense. Expect another run-n-gun shootout between these two.

Buzzer Beater: The Lopez twins threw their names in the NBA draft on Monday and, not surprisingly, even their reasons why are virtually identical.

I have always hoped I would have an opportunity to play in the NBA and I feel now is the right time to make that dream a reality,” Robin Lopez said in a statement released to the AP.

“It is the dream of every basketball player to play and succeed in the NBA and I feel I am ready to take on this new challenge,” Brook Lopez said.

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