Jazz center Jefferson is defended by Spurs center Duncan, forward Leonard and guard Parker during their NBA Western Conference quarter-final playoff game in San Antonio

Can Jazz come back on Spurs? They will go big to try.


Here is why I am convinced not even the Jazz think they are going to come back from 3-0 down to hand the Spurs a historic upset.

Look at what Utah big man Al Jefferson said to the San Antonio Express-News.

“I just think we’re playing against a team that is at its peak,” Jefferson said. “I don’t see nobody beating them.”

Who says that before they are eliminated?

If the Spurs can win it all is an interesting question, in the next round they will get a stiff test from either Chris Paul’s Clippers or the big front line of Memphis. Then there is the whole Oklahoma City (or Lakers) issue, not to mention Miami out of the East (sorry Boston).

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, which is what Gregg Popovich is telling his charges right now. Not that the veterans of the Spurs need that much reminding.

The ball is in the Jazz’s court to do something, and that something is to start Derrick Favors and go with their big lineup featuring him, Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Multiple sources have reported the Jazz will go that way. It was a lineup, with Devin Harris at the point and Gordon Hayward at the two, that had success late in the season. In the playoffs, coach Tyron Corbin has gone to it more and more each game, clearly learning to trust it as his best five.

Not that it has helped all that much. Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated went into the numbers.

The Jefferson/Favors/Millsap trio has logged 28 minutes in this series, stretches in which the Spurs have won by 10 points, per NBA.com. That works out roughly to a 17-point margin over the full 48 minutes — a blowout. Of course, the Spurs have won the first three games by an average of 19 points, so a slightly less devastating rout would constitute progress for a badly overmatched Jazz team.

Basically, nothing the Jazz can do is going to win them this series. But they can win a game if the Spurs take their foot off the gas and the big lineup for the Jazz gets hot. It is their best lineup, it gets an odd collection that is their best players on the floor together.

It may be enough for one night. It will not be enough for the series. But Jazz fans may get to see a win and maybe the Spurs have to settle for a “gentleman’s sweep.”

PBT Extra bold prediction previews: Can Thunder win 60 games?

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Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka are healthy — just how good will the Thunder be?

The bold prediction in this PBT Extra preview with Jenna Corrado is that the Thunder will win 60 games, something they have not yet done. I wouldn’t bet on them hitting that number — with a new coach, and them making sure Durant and Westbrook get rest coming off injuries, plus the fact they’re in the deep West, that number may be high.

I think they have a better chance to come out of the West than win 60 games. I think they have a good shot to come out of the West.

Gallinari ready to take big role in new Nuggets offense

Danilo Gallinari, Jimmy Butler
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DENVER (AP) — Danilo Gallinari wants everyone to know this: His surgically repaired left knee, the one that took three procedures to fix and nearly two seasons to fully trust, no longer bothers him.

The Denver Nuggets forward doesn’t need to be on any sort of minutes restriction. He doesn’t need days off during the season. And he certainly doesn’t need to be coddled.

He’s Gallo again, the hard-to-guard Italian playmaker who can knock down the 3-pointer just as easily as drive to the hoop or even post up. He believes he will fit in quite nicely into new coach Michael Malone’s system.

“The thing I’m focused on is trying to get (this team) back to the same level that the Nuggets were when I got to Denver, when we were going to the playoffs easy. When we were clinching a playoff one or two weeks before the season was over,” said Gallinari, who was acquired in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. “We need to get back to that level.”

Almost seems so long ago, given that the Nuggets have missed the playoffs two straight seasons after consistently making it for nearly a decade.

Gallinari returned last season for the first time since blowing out his knee in a game on April 4, 2013. His minutes were closely monitored early in the season. He never really got completely on track until late last season, when he averaged 20.5 points over the final 10 contests, including a career-high 47 against Dallas. He’s hoping to carry that kind of confidence this season.

“I’m good to go. I was good to go as soon as the beginning of last year,” Gallinari said. “I was not on the same page with the coach that we had.”

That would be Brian Shaw, who was fired last March after 1 1/2 seasons in charge and going 56-85. Exactly why he wasn’t on the same page with Shaw, well, Gallinari preferred the past remain the past.

“I’m ready to play the new season,” he said. “We need to win games, and get back to the same level we were before.”

Gallinari thinks the Nuggets have the personnel to do just that, especially with a rookie point guard in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gallinari’s knee feeling better than it has in a while. He feels like he has some ground to make up, too, since he said that knee robbed him of some of his prime.

“Playing my best basketball right before I got injured,” the 27-year old said. “Now, we’re back to the same level, hopefully better.

“My knee has been feeling great. It felt great last year. Feeling great during the summer. Feeling great now. I just feel good.”

He spent the summer playing for the Italian team at the EuroBasket tournament, where he averaged nearly 18 points a game. In those games, Gallinari saw quite a bit of time at the four spot on the floor, forcing teams to either use a bulkier big man to cover him and risk getting burned on a drive or a smaller player that Gallinari could simply shoot over.

Malone plans to employ a similar type approach, something they discussed over gelato when the coach visited Gallinari in Italy soon after he was hired.

“He’s 6-foot-10. He can handle the ball. He can play pick-and-roll. He can stretch the floor and shoot the 3,” Malone said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do offensively.”

Gallinari wants the responsibility of being the go-to player for the Nuggets this season, especially at crunch time.

“I’ve always been trying to do that, since I came to Denver,” Gallinari said. “That’s what I like to do. I feel good filling those shoes.

“I want to have the ball in my hands. I do want to have the ball in my hands a lot more.”