No. 1: Booker’s big night — While the Kentucky Wildcats were knocking off UCLA to advance in the NCAA Tournament, a recent UK guard was having himself a career night in the NBA. Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker scored 70 points in the Suns’ 130-120 loss in Boston. Some of the Celtics players weren’t appreciative of the way the accomplishment occurred, but Booker and the Suns had a night they’ll never forget, as Doug Haller writes in the Arizona Republic …
When it was over, after Devin Booker had scored the last of his franchise-record 70 points, Suns veteran Tyson Chandler found his teammate on the court and embraced him.
“I was proud of him at 50, but Jesus, 70?” Chandler said, recalling his thoughts on the court. “I told him, I said, ‘Listen, you’re 20 years old and you had your name being chanted in the Garden. You turned the Garden around.”’
The Suns are in a free fall. Counting Friday’s 130-120 loss to the Celtics at TD Garden, they have lost seven in row. Most fans are more interested in the draft lottery than this season’s final few weeks. For one night, however, Booker lassoed their attention once more.
In front of 18,624 fans, Booker became the sixth player in league history to score at least 70 points in a game, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and David Robinson. At 20 years and 145 days, he also became the third youngest to record a 50-point game, behind Brandon Jennings and LeBron James.
“You’re in the gym alone,” Booker said. “You’re taking shots. You’re making them consecutively. That’s what it starting feeling like for me. I felt comfortable (like) I was in my home gym, training. It started getting easier and easier.”
Just a few days ago, Booker was in a slump. Entering Thursday’s loss at Brooklyn, while battling ankle soreness, he had made just 13 of 55 over three games. Against the Celtics, Booker looked more like himself. Once he got rolling, he didn’t stop. He hit a bank shot in transition. He canned a jumper and was fouled. He scored in the post.
Overall, Booker sank 21 of 40 from the field and 24 of 26 from the foul line. He had 19 points at halftime and a career-high 42 through three before exploding for 28 in the fourth.
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No. 2: Shaq, Kobe reunite at statue unveiling — Last night, the Lakers unveiled a 1,500 pound statue of Shaquille O’Neal that will dangle off the side of the Staples Center in perpetuity. And the mark the celebration, Shaq and Kobe reunited with Phil Jackson and other Lakers great for the evening, as Tania Ganguli writes in the Los Angeles Times …
The two of them sat next to each other on stage. They laughed, they joked, they acknowledged each other’s place in the franchise’s lore.
As they did it, a fraught chapter in Lakers history closed.
“Brother, thank you,” Shaquille O’Neal said to Kobe Bryant, standing on a stage at Star Plaza in front of Staples Center, as Bryant sat near him, smiling. “We pushed each other. We had our battles. We had our times. We always had respect for each other, and we were able to win three championships. Definitely couldn’t have done it without you. I appreciate you very much.”
Moments later, the crowd chanted a countdown, then a gold cloth fell, revealing a bronze sculpture hanging from a Staples Center awning, depicting O’Neal hanging from a rim after dunking with both hands, his feet swinging into the air.
“I’ll probably come back out later tonight, about three, four in the morning, and just sit there,” O’Neal said. “Looks good. Sculptors did an excellent job. Muscles look great. The face though looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin but that’s OK. They did a great job.”
On Friday afternoon, O’Neal’s statue became the seventh at Staples Center. It hung just behind Jerry West’s statue, and not far from Magic Johnson’s. Hockey players Luc Robitaille and Wayne Gretzky, late broadcaster Chick Hearn, and boxer Oscar DeLa Hoya also have statues outside the arena.
“It was good to see them on the stage together,” Lakers Coach Luke Walton said of Byrant and O’Neal. “They’re great people. They’re obviously one of the best duos of all time. What they accomplished together was just incredible. To see them up there, paying respects to each other, laughing on the stage, was a lot of fun. I think it was great for everyone that has loved the Lakers and the NBA.”
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No. 3: LeBron takes some lumps — The Cleveland Cavaliers squeaked out a hard-fought 112-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets last night. But they may be without LeBron James tonight. As Joe Vardon writes for Cleveland.com, James suffered a scratched cornea that required a doctor’s consultation, as well as a hard fall on his lower back …
LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.
James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry. He was poked in the eye by Jeremy Lamb on his way to a layup with 31.2 seconds left in the third quarter.
James returned to the game, and in the fourth quarter fell hard on his lower back after he was fouled on a layup attempt by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”
The Cavs play the Wizards Saturday night at The Q. They are 0-6 without James this season and hold just a one-game lead over Boston for first in the East.
The Hornets’ physician who examined James after the game returned to the Cavs’ locker room later Friday evening to administer some eye drops.
James called timeout for extra time to shake off the injury, and converted the free throw afterwards.