Lawson thinks Denver could beat Miami in playoff series. Okay.

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You want your players to be confident entering the playoffs — you don’t want to hear: “Are you high? There is no way we could beat the Thunder in seven games.”

But that confidence can lead to some interesting statements.

Like Ty Lawson saying not only could the Nuggets reach the NBA finals but could beat the Heat once there. He meant it.

Here is the quote via Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida.

“I think so,’’ Lawson said when asked if the Nuggets could beat the Heat for the title. “They beat us twice early in the year when we weren’t really in sync. We were still trying to find ourselves. So I feel like if we play them now it would be a better game and we could actually beat them…

“Teamwork, and we could throw a lot of people at LeBron (James) and (Dwyane Wade), and not just one person,’’ Lawson said. “We can throw (Andre) Iguodala and (Danilo Gallinari) and Corey Brewer and Wilson (Chandler). You can throw so many people at (them). And then we have so many weapons.’’

I know Denver is confident after that 15-game win streak, but… no. Just no.

First, the Nuggets would have to get out of the West. I don’t see that.

Then the Nuggets would want to run with the Heat and teams that do that just can’t keep up the same scoring pace as Miami. Plus, the Nuggets have not had to deal with the kind of defensive pressure the Heat put on teams on the perimeter. Sure, Denver does have Andre Iguodala to take on LeBron James, but do they have role players who can show up four games out of seven at that level.

Denver is an interesting playoff team — they play solid defense (it was good defense during the win streak) and they beat you with transition points, balanced team play and depth. Those work great in the regular season but come the playoffs depth matters less as coaches can shorten their rotation (they know there are days off between games). And as teams focus their defense it helps to have that star player who can score and create shots — Lawson is good but he’s not LeBron or Kobe Bryant. Their team is unconventional for playoff success — but can they break the mold?

If Denver gets home court in the first round I can see them advancing, but if they draw the Thunder in the second round… I’m not sold that’s a track meet they can win. And I’m not sure they have the discipline the Spurs will certainly bring.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.