Kurt Helin

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 16:  Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers watches a free throw during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 16, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.    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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Cavaliers’ Kevin Love out six weeks following knee surgery, opens All-Star Game slot

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It was a red flag, a sign something was up when the Cleveland Cavaliers asked for a second opinion on Kevin Love‘s sore knee.

Tuesday morning, Love underwent “arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his left knee,” the team announced. Cleveland estimates he will be out six weeks, which would have him returning right about the first week of April, giving him time to get some games in before the playoffs begin.

Love has been having his best season as a Cavalier, having found a comfort zone playing with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — the Cavaliers have been 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with Love on the court than off it this season (although there is a lot of noise in that because he plays so much with LeBron and Irving). It took time, but Love adapted his game to fit with the Cavaliers, such as taking more corner threes — 2.6 per game — than he had at any point in his career. Love has averaged 20 points and 11.1 rebounds a game this season.

Love complained of his knee bothering him, and it has swelled up, following Saturday’s win against the Nuggets. Sunday he had an MRI on the knee, and when the team didn’t announce the results but instead went for a second opinion it was clear something was amiss.

Love was slated to be a reserve for the All-Star Game, which leaves NBA Commissioner Adam Silver with a slot to fill.

Traditionally Silver has gone with the next highest vote getter among the coaches (which is not public). If he decides to follow the NBA’s new voting system (fan vote combined with media and player votes), and if he ignores position, it would be Dwyane Wade. That seems unlikely. The more logical move is for Silver to fill the slot with a frontcourt player, and the next highest vote getter would be the Sixers’ Joel Embiid — but he has missed eight straight games due to injury. Next on the voting list would be the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, and he seems the most logical guy to get a call. But it is in Silver’s hands.

J.R. Smith took the Larry O’Brien Trophy with him to McDonalds

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 22: J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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If you win the NBA title, you get to spend a day hanging on to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Most players invite family and friends around to bask in the glow and remember a championship run.

J.R. Smith took the trophy to McDonald’s.

Because he’s J.R. Smith, that’s why. Just be happy he’s wearing a shirt. And he posted about it on Snapchat, which the folks at Sports Illustrated saved for posterity.

Smith has been out injured but reportedly is ahead of schedule with his recovery and should be back mid-March. The Cavaliers need him back and ready to go for the playoffs — and “ready to go for the playoffs” means laying off the McDonald’s. That’s not on the training table.

Three things we learned Monday: Nuggets serve Warriors slice of “humble cupcake”

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry heads to the bench with a towel over his head as the Warriors fell behind the Denver Nuggets in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 13, 201, in Denver. The Nuggets won 132-110. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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It’s Monday, and you have other important things to do — such as follow the exploits of the “Trumpagator” — so you may not have been focused on the NBA. We’ve got your back, here are the big takeaways from a night in the NBA.

1) Nuggets serve Warriors slice of “humble cupcake.” This is the NBA — if you don’t take an opponent seriously, you will get humbled. Everybody in the NBA can ball. As an example, let’s say you are the best team in the NBA — fresh off an emotional thrashing of a rival in Oklahoma City and wearing cupcake shirts — and you roll into Denver to take on a Nuggets team without Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur, Emmanuel Mudiay or just acquired Mason Plumlee. Easy win, right?

Wrong.

Denver could not miss from the outside Monday night, tying an NBA record with 24 made threes, on their way to thrashing the Warriors 132-110. Don’t come ready to play in the NBA, you get beat.

Denver’s star Nikola Jokic had his second career triple-double with 17 points, 21 rebounds, and 12 assists. Juan Hernangomez had a career-high 27 points including hitting six threes. When I say Denver couldn’t miss from the outside, look at their shot chart.

Nuggets shotchart

Let’s not be silly and say this could portend something if these two teams meet in the playoffs (as of now this would be the first-round matchup). This was a one-off. Golden State is the better team, Monday night Denver was the hotter one. The win also speaks to why Denver may be good enough to hold on to that final playoff slot, and serves as a reminder you can’t just roll the ball out there and expect to get a win in the NBA.

2) The model of consistency, Spurs win Monday secures 20th straight winning season. San Antonio has had its ugly losses this season, too (see Sunday against the Knicks), but there has been no better model of consistency in the NBA than the Spurs.

With a 110-106 win over the Pacers on Monday, the Spurs improved to 42-13, ensuring the franchise’s 20th straight winning season. The last time the Spurs had a losing season (1997) gas cost $1.22, a movie ticket was $5, Tiger Woods won his first Masters, and the Notorious B.I.G. was shot. And remember, they had seven winning seasons in a row before that one, they only fell off the map in 1996-97 due to injuries to David Robinson and others (the Spurs ended up with the No. 1 pick out of that terrible season and drafted Tim Duncan).

It’s amazing how consistent this franchise is, and while Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford deserve all the credit they get, that kind of consistency starts at the ownership level. There is not a better run organization in sports.

3) Charlotte loses again, this time to Sixers, and it’s stunning to see how far this team has fallen. When the calendar flipped to 2017, the Charlotte Hornets were 19-15, with a pedestrian offense carried by Kemba Walker and a top 10 NBA defense.

Since then the Hornets have gone 5-16, with a pedestrian defense overall and an offense that is bottom 10 – it Kemba Walker against the world.

Nicolas Batum tried to motivate the team by guaranteeing a win Monday night against the Sixers. It worked to motivate a team — Philadephia. The Sixers — playing without Joel Embiid (injury) or Jahlil Okafor (holding him out due to serious trade talks) — outworked the Hornets on the glass, and the Sixers won 105-99.

It must be something in the water in Charlotte, first the Panthers under perform and now the Hornets. Charlotte has a decent roster, a good coach, we thought the loss of Jeremy Lin and the depth might have this team take a small step back from last season, but not just drop off a cliff. This team simply should not be as bad as it has been the past couple months, even with the injury to Cody Zeller. Yet here we are. The Hornets are not physical enough, and while other teams — like the Sixers — are coming together the Hornets are not improving and seem to be pulling apart. It’s hard to picture this team making the playoffs at this point (they are just 1.5 games out of the eight seed, but the way the Hornets are playing does not portend a turnaround).

GM Rich Cho, owner Michael Jordan, and coach Steve Clifford need to have a real tough postmortem after this season and figure out how to get this roster moving forward. There is too much talent in Charlotte for this team to be this bad.

Paul Millsap hits floater to force overtime, where Hawks beat Blazers 109-104 (VIDEO)

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That’s the kind of a play your All-Star needs to make.

Deuces were wild as the Hawks were down 2 with 2.2 seconds left in the game when the ball was inbounded to Millsap out at the arc, single covered by Al-Farouq Aminu (probably the Blazers best perimeter defender). Millsap created space and drove across the lane with his left hand, just getting the shot off on time and it fell. Tie ballgame.

Millsap led the Hawks with four points in overtime as Atlanta got the win.

Nuggets tie NBA mark with 24 3s in 132-110 win over Warriors

Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic, right, of Serbia, slips past Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green to take a shot in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 13, 201, in Denver. The Nuggets won 132-110. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press
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DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic got his second career triple-double and the Denver Nuggets tied an NBA record with 24 3-pointers while shocking the Golden State Warriors 132-110 on Monday night.

The Nuggets tied the 3-point mark set by the Rockets in December against New Orleans. They missed two 3-pointers in the final minute, and Jamal Murray passed up an uncontested 3 to dribble out the clock. They finished 24 of 40 from beyond the arc.

The Warriors were just 8 of 32 from long range, including 1 of 11 by Stephen Curry.

Jokic set career highs in rebounds (21) and assists (12) to go with 17 points, and rookie Juancho Hernangomez scored a season-high 27 points, including six 3s. Will Barton added 24 points and Jameer Nelson had 23.

Seven Nuggets sank 3-pointers, but the dizzying array of long-range shots didn’t include any by Jokic.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 25 points 48 hours after his emotional return to Oklahoma City.

The Warriors’ ninth loss of the season matched their total from last year when they set an NBA record by winning 73 games. This also marked their biggest loss since a 129-100 blowout at the hands of the Spurs in the season opener.

Golden State trailed 42-20 after one quarter and 79-54 at halftime after the Nuggets shot 16 of 23 from behind the arc.

Curry tried to keep up with Denver’s surprise sharpshooters but never found his shooting touch.

The Warriors trailed by as many as 28 and were down 107-85 after three quarters. At that point, the Nuggets were 21 of 32 from long range.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr sat Durant, Curry and Draymond Green in the fourth quarter, and the backups cut it to 109-100 before the Nuggets pulled away again, thanks to some more 3s.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Golden State hadn’t surrendered 79 points by halftime all season. … Golden State was without guards Klay Thompson (sore right heel) and Shaun Livingston, who headed home for the birth of his daughter. Also out were Zaza Pachulia (strained rotator cuff) and David West (left thumb).

Nuggets: The 79 points marked Denver’s biggest first-half output of the season. … Denver is banged up, too. Danilo Gallinari (strained groin), Kenneth Faried (ankle) and Darrell Arthur (knee) all sat out along with Emmanuel Mudiay (back) and Wilson Chandler (illness).

NEW GUY

The Nuggets sent bruiser Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers, who are on the Nuggets’ heels for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, in exchange for versatile center Mason Plumlee, prompting coach Michael Malone to say, “We feel we have two of the better passing bigs in the NBA right now.”

Durant agreed with that sentiment.

“Those two are going to play well off each other,” Durant said. “Having two guys, as big fellas, that can do that, it takes the pressure off your wings, your point guards, allows them to play with their athleticism. … Adding another guy that can play definitely helps.”

 

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