Kevin Love sprains finger, Minnesota beats Denver without him

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You would think the injury gods have exacted their pound of flesh from the Timberwolves already this season, but they were not done. However it could have been a lot worse.

Kevin Love left the game in the third quarter after spraining the middle finger on his right hand. The good news for Timberwolves fans is the X-rays were negative (which considering he already broke this hand once this season is a good sign). Love didn’t return to the game, he had 12 points and 17 rebounds, but he did return to the bench and should not miss much if any time.

Minnesota didn’t need him anyway. They came from behind in the fourth quarter riding 12 points from J.J. Barea to beat the Nuggets 101-97. Denver had won 9 in a row at home but didn’t really earn this one, the brought inconsistent effort and defense all night.

This game was decided by Denver’s inability to stop or contest the Timberwolves guards Barea, Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved who combined for 48 points (Ricky Rubio is out). Denver has more athletic guards with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, but the Nuggets switched pretty much ever pick-and-roll all night and the Timberwolves started to exploit that. The Minnesota guards either drove on the big man on them or waited for their big to post up the smaller man on him. Plus all night the Timberwolves guards were knocking down good look midrange shots.

Denver had good moments of play from Lawson, who scored the first eight points for Nuggets in fourth quarter and finished with 16 points off the bench. And Andre Iguodala brought good effort most of the night, finishing with 14 points. But it wasn’t enough.

That’s because Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee were just not impressive all night. They were part of the problem on defending the pick-and-roll, they didn’t bring much energy to match the active front line Minnesota has.

The Timberwolves bench bright the energy — it was them that put together the 14-4 run that gave Minnesota the lead. The one starter making plays in the fourth was Ridnour, who hit a key three and had 9 of his 14 in the quarter.

These games matter. Denver and Minnesota are in a fight with the Rockets, Lakers, Mavericks, Trail Blazers and Jazz to get the last three playoff spots in the West. Denver can’t have a lot of off nights like this from their bigs, their energy guys.

PBT Extra: Rockets, with Chris Paul trade, show fearlessness in face of Warriors’ dominance

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The Rockets and Clippers both turned aggressive with today’s Chris Paul trade.

Houston is making a bold attempt to overtake the Warriors (a plan that could include other big moves). The Clippers are launching into rebuilding.

Kurt Helin breaks down what it means for both teams.

PBT Extra: With Phil Jackson discarded, Knicks face next challenge

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The Knicks did well to part ways with Phil Jackson, but where does New York go from here?

Masai Ujiri? David Griffin? Someone else?

Kurt Helin breaks down Jim Dolan’s options – and the approach the Knicks owner should take.

Report: Kings to sign Bogdan Bogdanovic to three-year, $36 million contract

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The Kings have a decent crop of low-paid young players: Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis and Malachi Richardson.

Soon, Sacramento will add a highly paid young player to the group: Bogdan Bogdanovic, whose rights the Kings acquired when trading down from No. 8 with the Suns in last year’s draft.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

Because Bogdanovic was drafted three years ago (No. 27 by Phoenix in 2014), the Kings can exceed the rookie scale to sign him.

Bogdanovic is a talented 24-year-old, but this deal removes much of the value usually tied to rookies on cost-controlled scale contracts. It’s hard to see Bogdanovic’s production exceeding his salary over the next four years.

Still, what else was Sacramento supposed to do with its cap space? Just getting Bogdanovic to jump from Europe might be worth it. The Kings already have more cap flexibility than they know what to do with – especially after letting Ben McLemore become an unrestricted free agent.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Sacramento took McLemore No. 7 in the 2013 draft then spent the next four years watching his value depreciate.

Teams will line up to take a flier on him. Will someone pay him as if he’ll pan out even a little? That question will drive his unrestricted free agency.

Report: In wake of Chris Paul trade, Clippers focus on re-signing Blake Griffin

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Chris Paul is on his way to Houston in an attempt to form a superteam to challenge Golden State.

Now what for the Clippers?

They have two options: One, tear it all the way down and rebuild.

The other: Re-sign Blake Griffin, run the offense through him and put his underrated passing skills to the test while surrounded by shooters.

The Clippers are opting for door No. 2, at least for now, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

The fundamental question is: Does Griffin want to stay? The Clippers can offer more money and a larger contract, five -years starting just shy of $30 million a year. However, he will have good teams from the East calling. Miami is interested, and they have a strong point guard in Goran Dragic, a good wing defender in Justise Winslow, and a guy inside who can defend, rebound, and finish dunks in Hassan Whiteside. Plus, no state taxes on all that new money. Also, Boston (if they strike out with Gordon Hayward) and other teams will come calling. Griffin will have options.

If Griffin does stay, this could be interesting if the team is built right. Griffin is an underrated passer and playmaker — he averaged more than five assists per game last season, and that was with Chris Paul on the team. The Clippers would need to use him sort of like Denver uses Nikola Jokic, running the offense through him out high where he is a threat to score from with a midrange jumper, put the ball on the floor, or make a pass. Griffin would need to be surrounded by shooters and guys willing to work off the ball, such as J.J. Redick. Who is almost certainly gone.

If Griffin leaves, the Clippers don’t have much a choice and will have to start shopping DeAndre Jordan around and rebuilding the team (they got a fairly good haul for CP3 for that, considering the situation, Sam Decker and Montrezl Harrell are good young players who can be part of a rotation). Then Los Angeles will have two rebuilding teams, and that always makes for a great rivalry.