Kurt Helin

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, center, of Serbia, looks to pass the ball as Toronto Raptors guard Cory Joseph, left, and center Bismack Biyombo, of DR Congo, defend in the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 112-93. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press

Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Rookies Nikola Jokic, Myles Turner breaking out


While Americans focused on what Iowans thought about Donald Trump (this is where we are as a nation?), the NBA season kept on rolling along with some impressive breakout performances. Here is what you need to know from a Monday night around the Association:

1) Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic puts up 27, Raptors’ 11 game win streak ends in Denver.
Toronto’s franchise record 11-game win streak was expected to end somewhere during their six-game road trip this week and next (making way for setting up the All-Star Game in Toronto on Valentine’s Day). Not sure we expected the Rocky Mountains to be where it ended, but Denver has been quietly playing better of late, and the Raptors learned that the hard way.

They also learned that Nikola Jokic is a beast — hulking, active, can score inside or knock down the three, and he can pass. The rookie out of Serbia (second round pick in 2014) scored Denver’s first 11 points on his way to a career-high 27 points and 14 boards, plus he dished out four assists. Jonas Valanciunas couldn’t handle his activity. Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay are starting to develop chemistry — brought along beautifully by coach Mike Malone (that is how you develop players Byron Scott) — that could be a foundation for the team for years. Toronto had a bit of an off night (Kyle Lowry‘s wrist, is it bothering him more than is being let on?), that happens. They are the better team. But for a night we got to see what Jokic and the Nuggets can do.

2) Myles Turner is turning heads in Indiana. Myles Turner was starting his third game for Indiana and had looked good in the first two (28 points, 15 boards, +8), but going against the Cavaliers puts everything on a bigger stage — and Turner was up to the task. He had his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, plus he did this to LeBron James:

Turner is still a rookie doing rookie things — with a tie game and less than 10 seconds to go, Turner was supposed to come across and set a screen for Paul George so Monta Ellis could pass to George for a last-second shot to win it. Instead, Turner stood wide-eyed on his side of the court and watched Ellis wave at him, so Ellis was forced to try to take his man one-on-one and got off a tough two that missed. The Pacers went on to lose in OT. It happens with rookies, and there are downs with the ups, but Turner is developing.

For Cleveland, it’s the kind of win good teams get — you need to grind out tough wins on the road sometimes. The Cavaliers are 5-1 under Tyronn Lue and continue to take steps in the right direction, toward more cohesive team play. It’s a process, but the Cavs are going a better direction now.

3) Earl Watson gets the interim job in Phoenix.
After firing Jeff Hornacek as coach, the Suns first call was to much-beloved former point guard Steve Nash to come back and coach. That’s not what Nash wants — he’s got too many off-the-court interests, wants to spend too much time with his family, and has too bad a back to be an NBA coach. (Front office person, from consultant to person with actual power, that may be a better role for him.)

When Nash said no, Earl Watson got the interim job. He will make his debut Tuesday at home against the Raptors. Watson may be a good coach, but he’s not going to have much more success than Hornacek because of the roster — Eric Bledsoe is gone for the rest of the season, Brandon Knight has been banged up and may not be able to go (same with Ronnie Price and T.J. Warren), and the front court is leaning heavily on Jon Leuer. The Suns front office has the real work to do in this franchise. The coaching could have been better, and the coach is always the scapegoat because GMs won’t fire themselves, so Watson gets his chance.

4) Brandon Jennings goes off the backboard to Andre Drummond. This was the highlight of the night — and was two of Drummond’s 21 points to lead Detroit to a 105-100 win over Brooklyn.

5) Russell Westbrook had a triple-double against the Wizards as Thunder pick up an easy win.
The Thunder are playing very well; the Washington Wizards are not. That’s a bit simplistic, but it sums up this game fairly well. The Wizards have fallen from a top-five defense last season to 20th this season, and that is the reason they can’t pick up wins. Although, they are far from the first team to struggle stopping Westbrook, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists on the night. This makes seven triple-doubles for Westbrook on the season — I think the triple-double stat can be vastly overrated, but if you’re racking up seven in a season you’re doing something right.

Nuggets end Raptors’ 11-game winning streak, 112-93

Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, left, of Italy, looks to pass the ball as Toronto Raptors forward James Johnson defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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DENVER (AP) — The Toronto Raptors were ready for Danilo Gallinari. They didn’t have an answer for Nikola Jokic.

The rookie center had 27 points and 14 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets ended Toronto’s 11-game winning streak with a 112-93 victory over the Raptors on Monday night.

Jokic’s totals were season highs. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds against San Antonio on Nov. 28 and now has four double-doubles in his past five games. The 20-year-old Serbian has surpassed even his own expectations for this season.

“When I came here I didn’t think I would play,” he said. “Now I have trust from the coach.”


His effort Monday eased the burden on Gallinari, Denver’s leading scorer. Gallinari had just 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and let Jokic dominate Toronto.

“He had a good game. I’m very happy for him,” Gallinari said. “I told him the challenge is for him to do that every night.”


Will Barton scored 20 points and Randy Foye had 16 for the Nuggets, who swept the season series. They won in Toronto on Dec. 3 to stop an eight-game losing streak.

The Raptors entered with the NBA’s longest current winning streak but couldn’t duplicate the success they had in January. They led by one midway through the second quarter but trailed by double digits for most of the second half.

A frustrated Dwane Casey emerged from the locker room after the game with a crumpled boxscore.

“You can describe it any way you want to,” the Toronto coach said. “That was a stinker. That was one of our worst performances of the year. We played like we were playing in mud. You can blame it on the altitude, whatever it was. We stunk.”

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 24 points. His All-Star backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry, scored just nine and went 1 for 6 from the foul line.

Lowry said Casey was angry with the performance and suggested his players use the boxscore as toilet paper.

“That describes this night for us,” he said. “We just didn’t have it tonight and they kicked our (butts).”

Jokic was a problem for the Raptors from the start. He nearly had a double-double in the first half with 15 points and seven rebounds. He started slowly in the second half but scored six straight points late in the third quarter to give the Nuggets a 73-60 lead. His last basket in the sequence came when he cut through the lane and dunked off a pass from Emmanuel Mudiay.

Jokic went 2 of 4 from the line in the final 1:57 of the third to tie his career high. He came in late in the fourth and set new highs for his rookie season.

“What a performance. Every time I think he’s kind of maxed out for his rookie season, he finds a way to keep on impressing me,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “You can talk about some of these other young bigs, who are all talented, and I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the world. He’s a special young man and a special young talent. He’s only going to get better as he gets stronger.”

The Nuggets put the game away early in the fourth. Barton scored the first eight points of the quarter to make it 88-65. Foye hit a 3-pointer to make it 97-70 with 8:03 left.


Raptors: F James Johnson left late in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. He was hurt when he collided with Gallinari at midcourt. … Casey was selected the Eastern Conference coach of the month for January. The Raptors were 12-2 in the month, including seven straight wins at home.

Nuggets: G Jameer Nelson was inactive with a sore left wrist. Nelson missed six games with the injury before returning for two. He aggravated the injury in Saturday’s overtime loss at Indiana. … A winter storm that rolled through the Denver area Monday contributed to the low attendance of 10,007 at Pepsi Center.


Gordon Hayward has 27 points as Jazz beat Bulls in OT

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gordon Hayward had 27 points and 12 rebounds, Rodney Hood added 19 points and the Utah Jazz beat the Chicago Bulls 105-96 in overtime on Monday night.

Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 12 rebounds to help Utah win its third straight.

Jimmy Butler scored 26 points and Pau Gasol added 19 points and eight rebounds to lead Chicago. Derrick Rose chipped in 14 for the Bulls, who lost for the third time in four games.

Chicago and Utah traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter. Rose’s 3-pointer with 18.5 seconds left put Chicago ahead 93-90.

Hayward made 1 of 2 free throws, but the Jazz grabbed the rebound and Hayward drove for the tying layup with 4.8 seconds left in regulation.

In the extra period, Hayward made back-to-back pull-up jumpers and followed with a dunk to give Utah the lead for good at 102-95 with 59.9 seconds remaining.

Gasol gave Utah’s defense fits in the first quarter. He scored baskets on his first four shots and totaled 11 points in the quarter. Three baskets came on jumpers from the same spot at the top of the key and Gasol’s final one, a dunk over Gobert, tied the game at 21-21.

His efforts helped the Bulls weather a hot start by the Jazz offense. Utah made nine of its first 13 shots from the field and took a 21-17 lead on back-to-back layups from Raul Neto and a pair of free throws from Hayward. Chicago kept pace and the Bulls briefly darted ahead 31-26 early in the second quarter on Tony Snell‘s 3-pointer.

Burke and Hood answered with back-to-back 3s to help Utah regain the lead. It sparked a 14-0 run for the Jazz which culminated in another set of back-to-back 3s from Neto and Hayward, giving Utah a 40-31 lead with 6:42 left before halftime.

It didn’t take long for Chicago to bounce back. The Bulls scored 10 straight points, culminating in a go-ahead 3-pointer from Butler, to take a 41-40 lead less than two minutes later. Chicago did not ease off the gas pedal. The Bulls strung together a 18-2 run overall – punctuated by Gibson’s dunk that gave his team a 49-42 lead with 1:35 left before halftime.

After trailing for the bulk of the third quarter, Utah finally surged ahead on back-to-back baskets from Gobert. He put the Jazz up 67-66 on a dunk with 1:25 left in the quarter.


Bulls: Rose needs five more assists to pass former Bulls guard John Paxson for 7th place in franchise history in career assists. … Chicago fell to 0-5 in overtime games all-time against Utah.

Jazz: Hayward extended his streak of consecutive made free throws to 35 before finally missing two attempts in the fourth quarter. Hayward went 8 for 10 from the line against Chicago. … Neto scored a career-high 14 points. His previous career high was 13 in a 103-101 loss to Sacramento on Jan. 14th.


Derrick Rose nails clutch three, takes a bow (VIDEO)

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Statistically, this seemed like a good play by the Jazz with the game tied and time running down — cut off Jimmy Butler attacking the basket, let Derrick Rose have the three. Rose is shooting 25 percent overall from three this season and is 2-of-6 from that zone of the court all season, let him beat you from there.

It’s a make-or-miss league, and Rose made it.

Then he took a bow.

The shot put the Bulls up three, but it didn’t end up being enough. Gordon Hayward was fouled at the other end, hit the first free throw, missed the second, but the rebound got away from Taj Gibson and Rodney Hood grabbed it, giving Utah another shot. Hayward drove again and scored, and the game was tied. Hayward missed a potential game winner but in overtime, the Jazz pulled away enough to get the 105-96 win.

Brandon Jennings throws off-the-backboard alley-oop to Andre Drummond

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There’s been a lot of talk this season about the chemistry in Detroit between Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

Looks like Brandon Jennings and Drummond have some, too.

That’s a sweet off-the-backboard alley-oop pass to Drummond for the monster slam. Drummond finished with 21 points to lead Detroit to a 105-100 win.