Lakers take Game 2 behind Kobe’s 38, but Denver shows some signs of life

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The Lakers took Game 2 from the Nuggets 104-100 on Tuesday, and took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series in the process. Kobe Bryant was spectacular for the majority of the night, and finished with 38 points. Andrew Bynum had a career playoff high of 27 points, to go along with nine rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Pau Gasol was once again more than solid, and he and Jordan Hill once again helped control the glass with 10 rebounds apiece.

Despite all of that, however, this game was nowhere near as easy as Sunday’s win to open the series. The Lakers had leads of as many as nine points in each of the first two quarters, and went on a monster 14-0 run that lasted more than six minutes near the start of the third quarter that pushed the lead to 19.

Given the way the series started, it would have been a perfect time for the Nuggets to fold — only they didn’t. Denver began to get the tempo they wanted, led by Ty Lawson attacking the paint and getting to the rim for easy buckets. Lawson had 17 of his 25 points in the second half, and Denver had the lead all the way back down to five near the beginning of the fourth.

As the Lakers pushed it back to 13, Denver once again fought back, this time with a quick 8-0 run that had the game once again within reach. It was a four-point game with under three minutes to play, and Lawson missed a three that would have cut it to one.

It honestly never felt like the Lakers would lose; the four-point lead seemed like one that was much larger. But the point is, the Nuggets got going a little bit in this one. They were able to get the tempo they wanted at times, and held the Lakers to just over 37 percent shooting in the second half, while clawing back into the game multiple times. L.A. was able to hold on thanks to the team’s size advantage down low, and the fact that 13 second-half offensive rebounds led to 15 second-chance points.

It is more than possible that some of the positive things that Denver was able to do in Game 2 will carry over, and that they’ll shoot much better at home and be able to force the Lakers into playing at a faster pace than they’d like, and for more than just the spurts that we saw in Game 2.

It’s more likely, though, that the combination of the Lakers’ bigs and the way that Bryant has been able to perform will be too much for the Nuggets in this series, and they might not even be able to do what they need to for 48 minutes in order to win a single game — even as the series shifts to Denver for the next two.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.