Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, celebrates after hitting the second of back-to-back, 3-point baskets against the Chicago Bulls in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 115-110. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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.

PBT Extra: Despite Russell Westbrook’s triple-double pace, James Harden is MVP frontrunner

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The NBA’s MVP race is down to two men. Sure, you can make a case for Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James, some even want to throw Isaiah Thomas in the mix, but the best any of them is going to do is down the ballot in the final three slots.

The top two are reserved for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

In this PBT Extra, I discuss that while Westbrook is on pace for a historic season — averaging a triple-double of 31.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists a game — it is Harden who is lifting his team to higher heights, and that very well could win the beard the award.

As Texas legislature considers it’s own “bathroom bill,” Adam Silver hints it could cost Houston All-Star Game

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks with the media during a press conference at Smoothie King Center on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — The 2017 NBA All-Star Game is co-existing with the start of Mardis Gras in New Orleans right now because of the North Carolina legislature.

When that state passed bill HB2, commonly called “the bathroom law,” the NBA owners and Adam Silver rightfully drew a line in the sand and said, in so many words, “we’re not bringing our All-Star Game to your city if that discriminatory law is on the books.” Of course, there was no way a Republican-controlled legislator and governor were going to cave on a red meat issue for their base like that one in an election year. So the NBA joined numerous businesses that pulled out of the state, as well as some musical acts planning concerts, and took their business elsewhere.

Right now, the Texas legislature is considering a similar bill.

Houston is considered a frontrunner to land the 2020 or 2021 All-Star Game, the NBA has opened the application process for those games and Houston is interested.

Could the bill kill Houston’s application before it even gets to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s desk? Silver is too smart a lawyer and negotiator to box himself in a corner and say there is no way Houston gets the All-Star Game if the law passes, but he made it clear it could.

“You know, I’m not ready to draw bright lines. Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games,” Silver said at his annual All-Star Weekend press conference.

“I think the issue is we’d have to look at the specific legislation and understand its impact. I mean, I’m not ready to stand here today and say that that is the bright line test for whether or not we will play All-Star Games in Texas. It’s something we’re, of course, going to monitor very closely. What we’ve stated is that our values, our league-wide values in terms of equality and inclusion are paramount to this league and all the members of the NBA family, and I think those jurisdictions that are considering legislation similar to HB2 are on notice that that is an important factor for us. Those values are an important factor for us in deciding where we take a special event like an All-Star Game.”

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is headed to Los Angeles, and there is no concern that California is going to pass such a law. The 2019 game is officially unscheduled right now, but the NBA’s hope is to give it to Charlotte if HB2 is rolled back or eliminated. The uproar over the law is part of the reason the former governor Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid last November to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper.

“I have talked to Governor Cooper, the new Governor of North Carolina since he was elected, really to express our desire to return to North Carolina [in 2019] for our All-Star Game,” Silver said. “We have a team in North Carolina. We have a development team, soon to be a G-League team, in North Carolina. And 20 other teams will visit North Carolina this season. So we’d very much like to get back there.

“We had a discussion so I understood, certainly, his position, when he was running for office, was anti-HB2, the bill that ultimately led to our leaving. So I really was talking to him more to understand, from his standpoint, how he was hoping to move forward in terms of changing that law. My pain purpose of talking to him was to express our desire to return.”

The HB2 law covered a variety of issues, but what drew the most attention was that it restricts transgender bathroom use — you have to use the bathroom for the gender with which you were born. The law also superseded anti-discrimination ordinances put in by the city of Charlotte and other North Carolina cities, laws that tried to block discrimination against gays and lesbians. 

While any state has the right to put on the books laws it sees fit (within the framework of the Constitution), those actions can come with consequences. Just like Texas has the right to put the law on the books (not a sure thing, there has been pushback from the business community in the state), the NBA has the right to decide where it will do business. And bringing an All-Star Game to a city is a big economic boost — Charlotte lost an estimated $100 million in spending without the game, according to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Kevin Durant introduced as ‘OKC’s own’ (video)

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Kevin Durant attended the Three-Point Shootout, which was a perfect time to introduce the high-profile Warriors star.

It just happened in an incredibly awkward way.

Report: Former Magic teammates had ‘real issues’ with Serge Ibaka

Orlando Magic forward Serge Ibaka, of Congo, reacts after being called for a foul while defending a shot by Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 125-112. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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In trading Serge Ibaka to the Raptors, the Magic didn’t just get assets (Terrence Ross and a first-round pick) for a player who seemed increasingly likely to leave in unrestricted free agency this summer.

Orlando apparently also got rid of a headache.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

Going from the winning Thunder to the lowly Magic probably didn’t bring out the best in Ibaka, and thats understandable, though not entirely excusable.

I also wonder how much of this was situational rather than anything Ibaka actively did wrong.

His presence forced Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green from their ideal position of power forward to small forward. That narrowed Mario Hezonja‘s path the the court. Any minutes Ibaka received at center cut into Bismack Biyombo‘s and Nikola Vucevic‘s playing time.

Both elements probably worked in concert. Ibaka disrupted the play of several teammates just by being there, which likely led to them giving him less benefit of the doubt about his attitude.

Don’t absolve Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, though. He built a roster overloaded with bigs. He asked for leadership from a newcomer who was third banana at best on his previous team and is entering a contract year. It’s not a huge shock this dynamic soured on and off the court.