NBA Playoffs: Can Denver beat Utah on the road?

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Stealing a win on the road was a huge break for the Utah Jazz. Utah and Denver were a combined 66-16 at home this year, and went 40-42 on the road. Clearly, both of these teams are a lot more comfortable in their own buildings. Even without Kirilenko and Okur in the rotation, Utah has a lot of momentum going right now. 

That being said, the momentum will go right back to Denver if they can get a win tonight. Considering how many offensive weapons the Nuggets have, it’s never a good idea to count them out of a game. Let’s take a look at how each team can win Friday’s game in Utah and take a 2-1 advantage in the series:
Utah:
-Keep Deron Williams going:

Williams averaged 29.5 points and 12.5 assists on 51.7%/50.0%/80.6% shooting over the first two games. Utah is the more disciplined team at both ends of the floor; if Williams can continue to take over games on his own, they have a great chance.
Contain Carmelo Anthony to some degree:
The Jazz were able to live with Carmelo scoring 32 points on 25 shots in game 2. They weren’t able to handle Carmelo scoring 42 points on 25 shots in game 1. As long as he plays like a normal All-Star instead of going absolutely insane, Utah should be able to score enough to hold on. 
-Be Aggressive offensively:

The Jazz didn’t turn into the Suns during game two, but they did seem to get into their offense much quicker and look for more quick-hitting baskets. The Nuggets are a below-average defensive team, and Utah should look to attack the rim against them rather than settling for mid-range jumpers out of their flex sets. 

Get Something out of Wesley Matthews:

Korver coming off the bench takes some pressure off of Matthews, but going 3-12 from the floor over the first two games is not ideal for a starting shooting guard on a playoff team.
Denver:
-Use Your Big Men:

Like the Lakers, the Nuggets have a tremendous size advantage down low but don’t seem to be cognizant of it. Nene and Martin aren’t traditional post-up bigs, but they have the ability to punish Utah’s injury-riddled frontline if they get set up with chances to attack the rim. Martin and Nene both shot 7-10 from the field in game two; J.R. Smith, who went 3-10, was allowed to shoot just as much as either one of them. That should not be so. 
-Play Under Control:

Eight turnovers for the Nuggets in game one. 17 turnovers for the Nuggets in game two. Guess which game the Nuggets lost? Organized chaos only works if the offense knows what it’s doing. It’ll be hard to stay calm with the Utah crowd screaming their heads off, but it’s what the Nuggets have to do. 
-Attack Boozer and Milsap:

First of all, both Boozer and Millsap are iffy defenders. More importantly, if one of them gets into foul trouble, it means major minutes for Fesenko and Koufos. Those are not the guys Jerry Sloan wants to have to count on in the playoffs. 
-Get something out of Ty Lawson:

In game 1, Lawson had 11 points and 6 assists in 22 minutes, and the Nuggets were a +16 when he was on the floor. In game two, he had 3 points and 1 assist in 14 minutes. Lawson is a better backup point than anyone on the Jazz. The Nuggets should try to turn that advantage into some points. 
-Try to play defense:

I know Denver tries to outscore teams, but they should be capable of holding the Jazz to under 50% from the field or 40% from beyond the arc. Maybe they can start out by doing just one of those things in game three. Baby steps, you know?
Well, those are my keys. Tune it at 10:30 EST to watch either the Jazz or Nuggets win for completely different reasons than the ones listed above. 

WNBA rescinds fines regarding protest shirts

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 13, 2016 file photo, members of the New York Liberty basketball team await the start of a game against the Atlanta Dream in New York. The WNBA is withdrawing its fines for teams and players that showed support of citizens and police involved in recent shootings by wearing black warmup shirts before and during games. WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement Saturday, July 23, the league was rescinding penalties given to the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and their players for wearing the shirts–which was a uniform violation. The players started wearing them to show solidarity after shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and a number of Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets players wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts in warmups after the death of Eric Garner in New York. LeBron and his then Heat teammates wore hoodies for a photo shoot after the Travon Martin shooting. NBA players have made other protest fashion statements, with no repercussions from the league.

But when WNBA players wore black warmup shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-violence protests, the WNBA came down with fines for the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury ($5,000) and players involved ($500) for uniform violations. That led to a lot of backlash — including among WNBA players. Some refused to answer basketball questions with the media after recent games.

Saturday, the WNBA rescinded the fines. As they should have.

The women’s players’ union supported the move, via a statement from the director of operations Terri Jackson.

“We are pleased that the WNBA has made the decision to rescind the fines the league handed down to the players on the Fever, Liberty, and Mercury. We look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with the league to ensure that the players’ desire to express themselves will continue to be supported.”

I want a league — for men or women — where player’s individuality and statements can be made — I don’t want the NBA to be the button-down, cookie cutter NFL. Let the players be themselves. And if players want to weigh in on the biggest social issue of our time, they should. Without fear of repercussion.

Good on the WNBA for coming around to that.

Meyers Leonard says he hopes to be ready by start of Blazers’ season

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 8: Meyers Leonard #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes credit for a foul call during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Meyers Leonard could be poised for a big season in Portland. His minutes jumped last season because he provided spacing. With Portland adding Evan Turner on the wing to go with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, any big who can stretch the floor is going to get run, and Leonard has turned himself into a stretch four.

Leonard just hopes he can show what he can do at the start of the season — he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery. Here is what he told the Associated Press.

“My hope is to be ready right around the start of the season,” he said. “It’s a progression, first introducing rebounding, grabbing stuff overhead, then one-on-one, three-on-three, extending to the full court. We’ll see. You just never know.”

Leonard had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in April (they could have used him in the playoffs), and the timeline then was to have him back around the start of the season. Before he was shut down, he proved enough to get a four-year, $41 million contract extension with the Trail Blazers this summer.

The Trail Blazers will start Al-Farouq Aminu at the four, and Moe Harkless can certainly play there too (I’m far less sold on the future of Noah Vonleh). Leonard wants to get back before someone starts to steal any of his minutes.

Pelicans sign Jones for 1 year, Frazier for 2 years

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 21:  Terrence Jones #6 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a play as Cody Zeller #40 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during their game at Toyota Center on December 21, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Pelicans say they have signed free-agent forward Terrence Jones and re-signed guard Tim Frazier.

A person familiar with the negotiations says Jones, a four-year veteran, signed a one-year deal Friday for the NBA minimum of about $1.14 million, while Frazier has signed a two-year deal worth about $4.1 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Pelicans have not released contract terms.

The 6-foot-9 Jones, who was Anthony Davis‘ teammates on Kentucky’s 2012 national championship team, has spent his first four NBA seasons with Houston, posting career averages of 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Frazier played in 16 games for New Orleans late last season, averaging 13.1 points, 7.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 29.3 minutes per game.

Deron Williams says he is recovering well from sports hernia, will be ready to go at camp

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 01:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Deron Williams will be back with the Dallas Mavericks next season — and be ready to go by the start of the season.

He’d like to say he’d be back for the next few seasons, but coming off a Sports Hernia injury his options were a little limited. However, his recovery is going well he told NBC Dallas in an interview from American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe (which you can watch this weekend on NBC).

“Feeling really good. It’s healing pretty well, I’m doing a lot of work on and off the court. I haven’t got the full-go clearance yet, but that’s coming soon. I’ll be ready to go definitely by the time training camp rolls around.

“I’m running, I’m jumping a little bit. I’m just not going crazy. I kind of have to wait for August 1 for that, to go see the doc and get the go ahead. But it’s not much restriction right now.”

Williams averaged 14.1 points and 5.8 assists per game for the Mavericks last season and was solid at 32. His efficiency slipped a little (to be expected as he is on the wrong side of 30 and has plenty of miles) but he played well for Dallas.

Dallas signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal. Williams was hoping for a little more security.

“I was happy to come back. Would have liked a little longer deal but I’m back for one year and hopefully can build on last year and improve. I think there’s room for a lot of improvement. Hopefully I can stay healthy. I think that’s the biggest key but I’m excited about this year and this team.”

The one-year deal is more about Dallas than Williams — they could see a significant shift in plans when Dirk Nowitzki steps away (he inked a two-year deal but the second year is only $5 million guaranteed, so he could be in his final run if he wants).

Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors to a starting five that also includes Nowitzki, Williams, and Wesley Matthews. If they can stay healthy — no little thing with that group — it’s a quality starting five that coach Rick Carlisle is going to love.