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Nikola Jokic, Wilson Chandler help Nuggets roll past Pacers in London

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LONDON (AP) — Italian star Danilo Gallinari and the Denver Nuggets made themselves right at home at O2 Arena.

Gallinari scored 18 points and had what coach Mike Malone said was easily his best game of the season to help Denver beat the Indiana Pacers 140-112 on Thursday night in the NBA’s Global Games series.

“Just to come back to Europe and play in front of these fans, it was great,” said Gallinari, who wore knee-high socks adorned with the Union Jack and London skyline. “Hopefully, the fans had a good show.”

The Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak and ended the Pacers’ five-game winning streak.

“I joked with our guys after the game, `I think we’re going to stay here in London and play our home games here,”‘ Malone said. “Our guys were very comfortable out there and we had one of our best performances.”

Nikola Jokic had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Wilson Chandler added 21 points for the Nuggets. They outscored the Pacers 39-20 in the third quarter, shooting 73.7 percent in the period to put it away.

Denver trailed only once, when Kevin Seraphin gave the Pacers a 31-30 lead early in the second quarter, and finished with a season high in scoring.

C.J. Miles had 20 points, and Jeff Teague added 14 points and nine assists for Indiana. The Pacers had won five in a row, scoring at least 120 points in each victory.

“We didn’t show up tonight. I don’t have a reason for that,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “Denver, they came, showed up and played well, and I didn’t think that we showed up tonight.”

The Nuggets had conceded at least 120 points in each of their five losses, and when Malone asked players before the game what the key to victory would be, Gallinari who spoke up and said defense.

Gallinari, matched one-on-one with Indiana scoring leader Paul George for much of the game, held his counterpart to just 12 points on 2-for-12 shooting.

Gallinari made three 3-pointers in the first 3:08 to set the tone. Denver made six of its first 10 3-point attempts and finished 15 for 32 from the perimeter.

Kenneth Faried added 15 points for Denver. He punctuated the Nuggets’ dominance with an alley-oop from Jameer Nelson that brought the sellout crowd of 18,689 fans to their feet with 8:55 remaining.

After conceding their only lead, Indiana held Denver within four points for much of the second quarter, but three careless fouls – two by center Al Jefferson – and a succession of converted free throws pushed the Nuggets back out on top.

Jokic, who missed Denver’s last game because of an illness, scored 11 points and had five rebounds in the third quarter alone. A minute after knocking down a pair of free throws, he hit a 3-pointer from the right, then made another jumper as part of a 14-4 run by the Nuggets.

A RECORD MARGIN

The game marked the fifth consecutive year the NBA has held a regular-season game in London and the seventh overall. In winning by 28 points, the Nuggets set a record for the largest margin of victory overseas, topping the 23-point victory by the Phoenix Suns over the Utah Jazz in Tokyo on Nov. 2, 1990.

SEEING THE SIGHTS

The teams arrived Monday and had the better part of the next three days to practice and see the sights. The Pacers visited Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace and the Churchill War Rooms at the Imperial War Museum, while the Nuggets visited Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

AN EXPANDING REACH

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before the game that the league is committed to increasing the number of regular-season games it plays internationally, but that the team doesn’t have any firm plans at the moment to take games to new locations. One possibility Silver said the league is closely examining is holding a preseason game in Australia.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Indiana has beaten the Nuggets away from home since Nov. 27, 2007, now a span of eight games. … Thaddeus Young, who entered averaging 1.42 steals this season, needed two to reach 1,000 in his career. He was not credited with a steal against Denver.

Nuggets: Darrell Arthur sat out the game with soreness in his lower left leg. … Juan Hernangomez, from Spain, received a round of applause upon entering the game for the first time with 3:18 left. He finished with four points.

 

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.