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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.”

Report: Heat complained to ‘highest levels of the league office’ about favorable calls for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker (15) is congratulated by Jeremy Lin (7) after making a basket against the Sacramento Kings in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Hornets won 127-122 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Heat and Hornets are clearly tiring of each other, six games of testiness culminating with Game 7 today.

One particular battle line being drawn is over Jeremy Lin (6.3) and Kemba Walker (5.5), who lead players in this series in free-throw attempts per game.

Marc Stein:

ESPN sources say that one of the factors that ramped up the tension between the teams stems from Miami complaints to the highest levels of the league office after Game 4 about what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker.

Lin and Walker relentlessly driven to the basket. That’s why they’ve attempted so many free throws. If Miami wants to keep them off the line, trap them harder on the perimeter.

That said, this is part of playoff gamesmanship. If the Heat plant a seed with referees – through the league office or otherwise – that Lin and Walker are drawing too many fouls, maybe that affects a call today. With the margins so narrow, every little bit helps.

Watch LaMarcus Aldridge drop 38 on Thunder

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Oklahoma City has more than a few adjustments to make after a brutal defensive effort in Game 1 of their series against San Antonio, but at the top of the list is sticking with LaMarcus Aldridge on defense.

He was killing them from the midrange, and more than half of his looks were uncontested — the Thunder know he can knock down that shot, right?

It was a fantastic performance from Aldridge; we’ll see if he faces tougher defense in Game 2.

NBA: Trail Blazers scored after uncalled illegal screen by Trail Blazers in final minutes

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Should we be preparing for Game 7 of the Trail Blazers-Clippers series today?

If the officials had called the final minutes of the last game correctly, maybe.

Portland won Game 6 to take the series 4-2, but a missed call a key missed call helped clinch.

With 1:45 left, Mason Plumlee got away with offensively fouling Jamal Crawford, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Plumlee (POR) sets the screen on Crawford (LAC) without giving him room to avoid the contact.

A correct call would’ve meant a Trail Blazers turnover. Instead, Damian Lillard ended the possession with two made free throws.

Portland’s advantage when the Clippers began intentionally fouling: two.

Would the Clippers have won if the refs called Plumlee’s offensive foul? Impossible to say. The final 1:45 could’ve played out much differently.

But this missed call, the only error in the Last Two Minute Report, certainly boosted the Trail Blazers’ odds.

Four Things to Watch in two Game 7s Sunday

during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 29, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  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.
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It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:

1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.

2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.

3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.

4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.