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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.

 

David Stern: ‘Shame on the Brooklyn Nets’

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Brooklyn rested Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker for its final game this season, which had huge playoff implications. Not for the Nets, of course. They were long eliminated from postseason contention.

But the Bulls beat Brooklyn to reach the playoffs over the Heat, who also won that night.

Miami fans were obviously ticked, and they have company in former NBA commissioner David Stern.

Stern, via Sam Amick of USA Today:

“I have no idea what was in the mind of the executives of the Brooklyn Nets — none — when they rested their starting players,” Stern, who still holds the title of Commissioner Emeritus, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday on the NBA A to Z podcast. “If you’re playing in a game of consequence, that has an impact, which is as good as it gets (you should play your players). Here we are, the Brooklyn Nets are out of the running. They have the lowest record in the sport. But they have an opportunity to weigh in on the final game with respect to Chicago. And they sit their starters? Really? It’s inexcusable in my view. I don’t think the Commissioner maybe can, or even should, do anything about it. But shame on the Brooklyn Nets. They broke the (pact with fans).”

The resting dilemma takes slightly different forms when it involves a team like Brooklyn rather than a certain playoff team, but the underlying conflict remains the same:

The team is better off resting its players.

The NBA is worse off, at least in the short term.

The league was robbed of an important competitive game that could’ve drawn higher ratings. The Nets had just beaten Chicago a days prior, but that was with major contributions from Lopez and Lin. Without them, Brooklyn had little chance and lost by 39.

The Nets weren’t playing for anything, not even a higher draft pick. They owe their first-rounder to the Celtics and already clinched the worst record anyway. Brooklyn was better off resting those veterans at the end of a long regular season.

There’s no easy answer. If the NBA bans resting, teams will sit players and assign to minor or made-up injuries. If the league shortens the season, it will lose revenue.

The best solution is to improve at the margins – provide more rest days (which the league will do next season) and schedule nationally televised games outside of grueling stretches of the schedule. That’s obviously no silver bullet, though. Bulls-Nets wasn’t nationally televised, and Brooklyn had the day off before and the entire offseason off after.

Another potential solution: Shaming teams into playing their top players. Stern is giving that one a go.

NBA looking into Rockets’ owner interacting with referee during game

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Like every Rockets fan — and, let’s be honest, every fan of every team — Leslie Alexander is convinced the referees were screwing over his Rockets.

Except that Alexander is the owner of the Rockets.

And he approached a referee during game play.

The NBA is understandably investigating this, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

The NBA said an investigation “is underway” into Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander’s getting up from his courtside seat to have a few words with official Bill Kennedy in the first half.

Alexander appeared to say something to Kennedy during a Thunder possession before returning to his seat. Alexander declined to give any detail beyond he was “upset … really upset.” Rockets guard James Harden said he didn’t see his owner get up. “He did that?” a surprised Harden said after the game. “He’s the coolest guy. I would have helped him.”

The NBA doesn’t let players or coaches cross a line when talking to officials, but they are at least allowed to interact and discuss calls with a ref during a game. It’s something else entirely for an owner to get in the ear of an official during game play.

I’d expect Alexander will see a fine for this.

Whatever he thought of the officiating, the Rockets won to advance on to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Steve Kerr to see Stanford specialists about back issues, is optimistic about return to bench

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If he were not coaching a perennial contender and a team where he genuinely has a deep bond with the players, the GM, and his fellow coaches, Steve Kerr might have walked away from basketball for a while. The pain from spinal fluid leakage from a couple of back surgeries he had two summers ago (the ones that led to Luke Walton coaching the first half of the season in Golden State) would have been too much.

But he tolerated and managed the pain as best he could, until a few days ago when it became too much. Kerr did not coach the final two games of the Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers and said he would not return to the bench until healthy enough to do so.

Kerr’s next step is to talk to specialists at Stanford University’s medical program, and Kerr is optimistic about the long-term prognosis, he told Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

He revealed to NBCSportsBayArea.com that in recent days he has spoken to several people who have experienced the debilitating effects of a cerebrospinal fluid leak and been able to overcome it. He says that because his symptoms have intensified over the past week, in an odd twist, that may make it easier for specialists to trace the precise source.

“That’s what the next few days are all about,” Kerr said, standing down the hallway from the visitor’s locker room. “They’re trying to find it. If they can find it, they can fix it.”

He’ll begin in the coming days by consulting with specialists at Stanford Medical Center, which has some of the more respected surgeons in the world.

Kerr said his spirits have been lifted by other people who went through this, people who told him doctors found the leak and it changed their lives, that they bounced back to 100 percent. He said that the first back surgeries did their job in relieving his lower back pain, but it has led to spinal fluid leakage that is worse than the symptoms the first surgery solved.

Whether a fix can happen to get him back on the bench these playoffs is immaterial, we all hope it happens just so Kerr the person can go back to enjoying his life without chronic pain. He’ll be around the team as much as he can through the playoffs, but there are far more important things going on with him than basketball right now.

 

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

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The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.