Game of the night: Denver, Portland prove sloppy can be entertaining

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This was kind of a guilty pleasure of a game — it was fun to watch, it came right down to shots at the end, there were some stunning highlight plays. And it was sloppy and messy and filled with missed perimeter shots. Not how you want future generations to play the game, but it was fun for a night.

In the end Portland won 86-83 because its defense (and the continued absence of Kenyon Martin and Chris Anderson) had Denver living and dying by the outside shot. And with the game on the line they missed.

Yes, Denver fans, Arron Afflalo probably was fouled on that last three ball (or maybe two ball, if you look at his foot). But you’re not going to get that call in that spot often. That’s not what cost you the game, anyway.

The Nuggets bigger issue is that they settled all night — they had just 16 points in the paint and most of those came on fast breaks. A lot of those fast breaks came in the later stages of the first quarter when Portland — also plenty happy to settle for jump shots all night — went ice cold and turned the ball over for a stretch. The result was a 17-0 Nuggets run that gave them a comfortable early lead.

That didn’t last because Wes Mathews got hot from three. Mathews has been getting the run with Brandon Roy out and he is not nearly the shot creator or offensive initiator, but he can hit shots. He hit key ones here, along with Lamarcus Aldridge knocking down some midrange, and the game was close again and would stay that way.

The fourth quarter went to Portland 17-12. As the score indicates, we weren’t looking at pretty basketball. Portland turned up the defensive pressure and combined with better rebounding it was all contested perimeter jumpers for Denver. When the Nuggets weren’t turning it over.

That gave Portland and opening they barely walked through. Rudy Fernandez was impressing nobody for three quarters but nailed some shots when it counted. Portland as a team played with passion. No Roy, the Greg Oden news and this team still brought it. That is saying something.

Denver didn’t have that same passion. Part of their problem is still the lack of an inside game right now. Part of it is that Carmelo Anthony fouled out with three minutes left so in a battle of contested two pointers they were missing their best player. But it’s still hard not to wonder if the Anthony trade situation doesn’t sometimes bleed onto the court.

J.R. Smith got a DNP-Coach’s decision tonight. After the game he tweeted “This too shall pass.”

Watch Michael Jordan’s best highlight from each of his playoff runs (video)

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I’ve become a sucker for this highlight format.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.