Kurt Helin

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Report: Wizards, Pelicans have called Nuggets about Will Barton trade

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Do the Denver Nuggets want to trade Will Barton? The Nuggets are just half a game back of Portland for the eighth seed in the West, they have found a new starting lineup and rotation that seems to work — it includes Barton as the backup small forward — and Barton is giving them 14 points a night and is hitting his threes.

If they are open to the idea, other teams are interested, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Barton missed 11 games this season after spraining his ankle on Halloween, but of late his athleticism is back, and he is making plays at the rim.

I get why teams are calling about Barton — he’s a solid contributor making just $3.5 million a year, and he is locked in for next season at that price. In theory, with the emergence of Jamal Murray and having Gary Harris on the roster, Barton is expendable for Denver.

But again, if the Nuggets are serious about making the playoffs, why move him? Whatever combination of players and picks that would come back in a deal wouldn’t be able to contribute as much as Barton can right now. The Nuggets aren’t on the “stockpile” picks part of the rebuilding curve anymore, they want players. Good ones to give up Barton. And that is the ultimate question: What can Washington, New Orleans, or anyone else offer Denver that helps the Nuggets today? I’m not sure there’s an answer for that, but the calls will continue.

Three things we learned Tuesday: Once again, we’re sleeping on the Spurs

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If you had to pick up the in-laws at the airport, or start your holiday shopping, or just generally were busy Tuesday, I’m sorry. This was as good a night of NBA games as we’ve had this season. Your loss. Here are the big takeaways.

1) In an annual tradition, everyone is sleeping on the San Antonio Spurs.
There are dynamic and exciting teams at the top of the NBA food chain. Golden State is blowing good teams out — they beat the Jazz by 30 Tuesday — and Kevin Durant is blending in seamlessly. LeBron James and the Cavaliers are the clear best of the East and seem destined for the Finals. Toronto’s incredible offense — better than the Warriors or Cavaliers — makes them must watch and a threat. Then there is the offensive blur that is the Houston Rockets, with James Harden leading a sharpshooting offense to 10-straight wins.

Dazzled by all the bright, shiny objects, we once again are looking right past the Spurs.

That would be the 23-5 Spurs, probably the second-best team in the NBA right now (at least by our power rankings), a team that put on an impressive three-point shooting display late Tuesday night — 8-of-10 in the fourth, including Patty Mills wide-open game winner — to snap the Rockets 10-game winning streak.

The Spurs have the sixth-ranked offense in the NBA, the fourth-ranked defense, and just continue to execute better than anyone in the clutch, finding the mismatches and exploiting them nightly. San Antonio is 15-1 on the road. Their defense has improved as the season went on. Kawhi Leonard is an MVP candidate (yes, statistically the Spurs defend better with him off the floor, but he’s usually out there with both Tony Parker and Pau Gasol, and he can only make up for so much on that end, plus there’s the decoy issue). LaMarcus Aldridge remains nearly impossible to guard averaging 16.6 points per game and shooting 45.5 percent from three. Gasol has adjusted to his role and is scoring 11.8 per game. Manu Ginobili is still making plays off the bench — one of the better benches in the game.

Can the fading athleticism of the Spurs, along with the defense of Parker and Gasol (dragging them into pick-and-rolls) be exploited in the playoffs? Teams are going to try, but how many have the personnel to pull it off? In the West there’s the Warriors, the Clippers when healthy, and… it’s a short list. The Spurs are legit contenders, and we should be talking about them more.

2) DeMarcus Cousins goes off. First during the game, then after. Tuesday was the most DeMarcus Cousins of days.

First, he gets a $50,000 fine from his own team for berating a Sacramento Bee columnist (a fine that was well deserved, there are much smarter ways to handle that). A frustrated Cousins takes the court Tuesday night and takes all of it out on the overmatched big men of the Portland Trail Blazers (sorry Mason Plumlee) dropping 55 points.

But the sequence everyone is talking about is Cousins getting ejected — then quickly unejected. The referee said postgame he thought Cousins threw his mouthpiece. Clearly, he didn’t, but did he spit it out intentionally? Either way, the refs changed their tune.

Cousins was adamant that the mouthpiece only came out accidentally — he was barking at the Blazers bench and it just fell out. Cousins was going off on his “ridiculous” rant that was pure gold — “gold Jerry, gold” — when the mic just cuts out.

It looked like the broadcast cut him off, although the reporter involved said they would never cut away from something that good, this was just an issue with the battery pack for the mic malfunctioning. Either way, it’s a perfect end to Cousins’ day.

3) Tuesday was the night of the close finishes.
Tuesday was the most entertaining night of League Pass this season. For example, Boston went into Memphis and got an overtime win on the road because Isaiah Thomas was doing his best unstoppable Allen Iverson imitation — a career high 44 points.

There was the Cavaliers and Bucks going to overtime, where LeBron James had the shot of the night — from Stephen Curry range — to put the Cavs ahead for good.

Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum had a driving bank shot over Nick Young to give the Hornets a win over the Lakers in the final seconds.

Of course, there was the Kings beating Portland and DeMarcus Cousins putting on a show (see above). And then there was Carmelo Anthony dropping 35 in a Knicks win. It was a good night to be an NBA fan.

LeBron James lifts Cavs past Bucks in OT, 114-108

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MILWAUKEE (AP) LeBron James had a big night beyond the arc and capped it with three pivotal points.

James buried a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in overtime and the Cleveland Cavaliers held on for a 114-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night to avenge a late November loss.

“It’s something I practice before the game, it’s something I do on practice days and I was shooting the ball extremely well tonight from the perimeter,” said James, who matched his season high with five 3-pointers. “So, I just trust it. I trust in what I’ve been doing and the work I’ve been putting into it and knock it down.”

Milwaukee took a 108-107 lead on a tip-in by Giannis Antetokounmpo with 1:12 left. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving missed a 3-pointer from the left corner on the next possession, but Jabari Parker‘s lay-in attempt at the other end curled out.

James was fouled on the rebound by Antetokounmpo, his sixth. James then hit the deep 3-pointer to put Cleveland up 110-108.

“That 3 hurt us,” Parker said. “He’s the best player in the world. He doesn’t care how far it is. You’ve got to respect him.”

Parker was fouled on a layup attempt on the ensuing possession but missed both free throws. Irving hit a pair of free throws with 15.7 seconds left to make it 112-108.

James had 34 points and Irving 28 for Cleveland, which had lost at Milwaukee 118-101 on Nov. 29. Parker had 30 points and Antetokounmpo added 25. The two teams meet again Wednesday night in Cleveland.

“Jabari took advantage of some of our smaller guys when we had them on him, getting to the basket, kind of being physical,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “So we’ve got to do a better job with that matchup.”

The Bucks scored the final seven points of regulation to send it into overtime tied at 100.

Parker scored on a drive to put Milwaukee up 104-102, but Richard Jefferson was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws to put Cleveland back ahead 105-104. Antetokounmpo answered with a short jumper from the lane to put the Bucks in front 106-105.

Jefferson scored on a baseline drive, but Antetokounmpo made a tip-in to give the Bucks the 108-107 lead with 1:12 left.

The Cavaliers took a 100-93 lead on Irving’s 3-pointer with 2:32 left in regulation, but Greg Monroe‘s inside basket and Tony Snell‘s 3-pointer cut it to 100-98 with 47 seconds remaining.

After a missed 3-pointer by James, Parker scored on an inside spin move from the left side to tie it at 100 with 15.5 seconds left. Irving missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1 second left.

“We get them again tomorrow in Cleveland,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “We can watch video, clean up some mistakes and give them another run tomorrow. Understanding that small plays mean everything. Coming up with loose balls, being able to finish plays on the defensive end and, hopefully, a couple more shots go down for us tomorrow.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland was without F Kevin Love, sidelined with a bruised left knee. Jefferson started in his place. Love (22.3 points per game and team-high 10.7 rebounds per game) is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Bucks in Cleveland

Bucks: Reserve F Michael Beasley (8.3 points per game), one of the top contributors off the bench, was out for the third straight game with a sprained left foot.

JAMES PASES MALONE

James moved past Moses Malone (27,409 points) into eighth place on the NBA career scoring list with his first basket of the game. James’ 34 points boosted his career total to 27,442. Next up is Shaquille O’Neal with 28,956 points. Earlier this season, James passed Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes.

SMITH INJURES THUMB

Cavaliers G J.R. Smith injured his right thumb late in the first half and did not return. He is scheduled to be examined Wednesday in Cleveland.

LONG-RANGE CAVALIERS

Cleveland’s 17 3-pointers matched the most given up by the Bucks this season. The Cavaliers were 17 of 40 beyond the arc, while the Bucks were 7 of 27. It’s the sixth time this season the Cavaliers have made 15 or more 3-pointers in a game, second-highest in the NBA this season. James’ five 3-pointers tied his season high.

 

DeMarcus Cousins scores 55, gets ejected, gets unejected, then rants after game

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Nobody has had a day quite like DeMarcus Cousins did Tuesday.

First, he was fined $50,000 by his own team for publicly berating a Sacramento Bee columnist.

Next, he took out all that frustration on the overmatched defense of the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring 55 points on 17-of-28 shooting, leading the Kings to 126-121 win over the team they are chasing for a playoff slot.

Near the end of the game, Cousins got ejected after barking at the Trail Blazers bench and his mouthpiece coming out — one referee thought he either spit it or threw it at the Blazers bench and gave him a technical, Cousins’ second. He sprinted to the locker room to avoid doing anything stupid. Then the officials talked, decided the mouthpiece coming out was accidental, and rescinded the technical. See the whole thing below, decide for yourself if it was an accident.

Here is the official explaination — the referee says he thought Cousins threw his mouthpiece.

Then after the game, Cousins went off on a “ridiculous” rant about the ejection, how he’s treated by referees, how other teams are playing him, and… then the mic cuts off.

That sounded a lot like the broadcast cut off the mic on Cousins to squelch his rant — which quickly became a popular theory on Twitter — but the woman holding the mic said that is not the case.

Whatever happened with the mic, nobody has ever had a day quite like Cousins did Tuesday. Not even Oscar Robertson.

Spurs’ Patty Mills drains game-winning three, ends Rockets’ 10-game winning streak

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Kawhi Leonard tried to take advantage of the mismatch, but couldn’t. Manu Ginobili bailed him out then drove the crowded lane — and kicked out to a wide-open Patty Mills.

Mills had time to set up camp, get a fire going, and make some smores before taking this three — and he drained it. It up the Spurs up 102-100 and that remained the final score.

The Spurs win improved them to 15-1 on the road this season and ended the 10-game winning streak of the Rockets. James Harden had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists for Houston. Leonard led the Spurs with 21 points.