AP

Nikola Jokic gets triple-double as Nuggets hold off Bucks 121-117

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DENVER (AP) Nikola Jokic returned to the lineup with the first triple-double of his career, and the Denver Nuggets held off the skidding Milwaukee Bucks 121-117 on Friday night.

Jokic had 20 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists after missing three games with a strained left hip. He nearly had his triple-double in the first three minutes of the second half, but went without another assist until late in the fourth quarter.

Wilson Chandler scored 23 points and Kenneth Faried had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Nuggets.

The loss was Milwaukee’s 10th in 11 games and came after a big rally in the second half. Jabari Parker had 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 23 for the Bucks.

The game was tied at 44 midway through the second quarter when Denver took control. Jokic had nine points in the final 6:38 of the period and grabbed four rebounds to reach a double-double by halftime.

Denver led by as many as 22 in the third quarter, but Milwaukee rallied to cut the deficit to nine heading into the fourth.

Antetokounmpo’s block of Darrell Arthur‘s jumper in the lane prevented Jokic from getting his 10th assist and led to a layup by Parker that made it 107-105.

Faried then followed his own shot and then scored on a fast-break dunk – off Jokic’s assist – to give the Nuggets a six-point lead.

Antetokounmpo made it 113-112 with a 3-pointer, but Denver went on an 8-2 run to seal it.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Milwaukee centers Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes, both acquired from Charlotte for Miles Plumlee on Thursday, were undergoing physicals Friday and were not with the team. They are expected to join the Bucks when they play in Phoenix on Saturday.

Nuggets: F Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss at least two games with a left groin strain sustained Wednesday. An MRI on Thursday revealed only a strain, but the Nuggets don’t want to rush him back.

RUMOR MILL

Nuggets coach Michael Malone addressed the subject of trade rumors, specifically ones surrounding Chandler and Emmanuel Mudiay. Malone said Chandler has never asked him to be traded, and the team isn’t shopping the 20-year-old Mudiay.

“In speaking with (general manager) Tim Connelly, I can say he is not actively shopping Emmanuel Mudiay,” Malone said. “The one caveat to that is, everybody’s tradeable in this league. We’re a young team and we have a lot of these valuable, young assets, but it’s not like Tim Connelly is out there trying to get rid of these guys. We really think we have a bright future and Emmanuel Mudiay is one of our young players we value.”

UP NEXT

Bucks: At the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.

Nuggets: At the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night.

Tyronn Lue imitates LeBron James’ criticism of reporter (video)

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After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.

Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.

Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.

In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.

Tony Bradley becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade

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North Carolina hasn’t had a one-and-done player in eight years.

Since Brandan Wright declared for the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, the Tar Heels have emphasized player development over multiple years. That practice has yielded two national titles, including this year’s, in that span.

It also limited freshman center Tony Bradley’s playing time this season, as he was stuck behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

But Bradley shined enough in 15 minutes per game to follow Wright as one-and-done from Chapel Hill.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Bradley is a borderline first-round pick, though this late decision when many expected him to return to school indicates he believes he’ll go in the first round. There’s certainly logic in turning pro before scouts pick apart his game over a larger sample.

Bradley is huge – 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan – but he’s not explosive. The hope is someone in the Rudy Gobert mold.

Whomever drafts Bradley will hope his elite offensive rebounding is a harbinger. But why is his defensive rebounding and rim protection so forgettable?

He moves and passes fairly well for his size, but considering he’s so big, those aren’t necessarily skills for him to hang his hat on. If a teammate sets him up, he uses his size to finish well at the rim.

Beyond his size and offensive rebounding, Bradley doesn’t set himself apart one way or the other. Whether that’s good or bad depends how deep in the draft it is.

PBT Extra: What does Boston do with No. 1 pick?

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Option A: Keep the pick, draft Markelle Fultz No. 1, go hard at Gordon Hayward this summer in free agency and if you strike out with him go hard at other guys, maybe in the 2018 class.

Option B: Trade the No. 1 pick for a package that includes Jimmy Butler (or, less likely, Paul George) and put together a roster to make a hard run at the Cavaliers next year.

Those aren’t the only two options on the table, but they represent the two paths the Boston Celtics can go down this off-season after landing the No. 1 pick in the draft. I delve into it more in this PBT Extra.

Expect them to go with option A — the chance to draft a potentially elite player, and have him under contract for years on an affordable rookie deal, is too smart a long-term move to pass up.

Report: Bucks to make Justin Zanik interim GM, do broad search to find

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The Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond is on his way to Orlando, joining a new front office trying to turn the Magic — and their culture — around.

That means the Bucks need a new GM, and it was assumed long-time assistant GM Justin Zanik would step into the role. However, he may not be the long-term answer, according to a couple of reports.

Zanik will have the job in the short term, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Marc Stein of ESPN broke the news on the broader search.

The Milwaukee Bucks have decided to commission a broad search for a new general manager, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN on Wednesday that Bucks consultant and longtime NBA executive Rod Thorn will lead the search on behalf of Milwaukee ownership, which is hopeful of attracting strong candidates given the Bucks’ on-the-rise status….

Current Bucks assistant general manager Justin Zanik will interview for the GM post and be given strong consideration to succeed Hammond, sources said.

Doing a broad search makes sense, the Bucks should explore their options even if they think the best one is the guy already doing the job. More information is a good thing.

The real question in Milwaukee is how much say Jason Kidd has over the roster — is he a de facto GM? There have been rumors of that for a while, and that it led to friction in the organization. How will whoever comes in handle that dynamic with the head coach?

The Bucks are a team on the rise in the East, they have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker and Kris Middleton, it’s a team that needs to add the right pieces around them and develop into an elite team in the conference over the next couple of seasons. It will take a deft hand at GM to do that. Zanik strikes me as a guy who can do that, but the Bucks want to cover their options.