The Nuggets aren’t expected to make a deal at the deadline. Why not?

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The Denver Nuggets are a very, very good basketball team. They somehow survived a brutal early season road schedule and have gone 22-3 at home, which is obviously very impressive. Currently the 5th seed in the Western Conference, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Nuggets jump up a spot or two in the standings and secure home court advantage in the playoffs. Playing with that pace in that altitude would obviously make them a dangerous first round opponent for any team.

Even with that advantage, it’s still hard to take Denver seriously as a legitimate title contender. The Nuggets are a completely average defensive team at 14th in defensive efficiency, they still can’t shoot from perimeter (24th in 3-point percentage), and late in tight games, they have a tendency to collapse offensively. In games decided by 5 or less points, the Nuggets have a 9-10 record. Hero ball late in games has its issues, but the Nuggets often don’t have a sense of what they want to do in the halfcourt late. Is it Ty Lawson in isolation? Andre Iguodala in the pick-and-roll? Something for Danilo Gallinari? The answers haven’t come easily.

Those things alone are enough to fuel the theory that Denver is built for the regular season, but not for the playoffs. Again, the Nuggets are very good, but they are definitely flawed.

With all the depth and assets Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri has to play with, it would make sense to try and cover up some of those flaws at the deadline, right? But that might not be the case:

To me, this is surprising. Denver should be one of the teams likely to make a deal, even if it’s a small move. Trading Timofey Mozgov, a guy the Nuggets pretty much can’t keep next year, would be a good idea.

Wilson Chandler is another guy to shop. Chandler is on a decently sized deal ($25 million over 4 years), but he’s playing 20 minutes a night and may be unhappy. Still just 25 years old, some team might buy him as a future wing solution. The Nuggets certainly don’t need him with Iguodala, Gallinari, Corey Brewer and even Andre Miller playing next to Ty Lawson quite a bit. Looking forward, promising young scorer Jordan Hamilton is waiting in the wings, so it’s unclear how big of a role Chandler would have in the future, anyway.

It’s understandable that the Nuggets might not want to compromise their core or their style of play. But to be a true title contender, they simply have to get better defensively, and it’s hard to see how that happens this year without being active at the deadline.

WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.

PBT Extra: LeBron, Cavaliers even series but Celtics far from dead

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If you want to make the case that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat of the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping two games at home, you’re in a good space. It’s a best-of-three and Cleveland has the best player on the planet on their side.

However, I still like the Celtics to hold on and win in seven.

I get into it in this PBT Extra, but the Celtics looked like a team that figured things out in the final three quarters of Game 4 (they just couldn’t make up for a disastrous first quarter), and they still have two games at home.

Either way, this feels like a series going the distance.

Did the Warriors deal Rockets a knockout blow in Western Conference finals?

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The Warriors beat the Rockets by 41 (!) in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals Sunday.

Biggest playoff win in Golden State franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss in Houston franchise history.

Biggest playoff loss ever handed to any team as good as the 65-17 Rockets.

“At the end of the day, it’s one win,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “It doesn’t matter if you win by 40 or if you win by one.”

Maybe it matters more than Green is letting on.

Golden State was the 17th team to -win a playoff game by more than 40 points. Of the previous 16, 15 – including the last 14 – won the series:

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The only exception came in my favorite playoff series of all-time, the best-of-three 1956 Western Division semifinals:

  • Game 1: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115
  • Game 2: Minneapolis Lakers 133, St. Louis Hawks 75
  • Game 3: St. Louis Hawks 116, Minneapolis Lakers 115

So, teams to win a playoff game by more than 40 are 15-0 in best-of-seven or best-of-five series. Will the Rockets buck the trend?

They can make adjustments. Maybe Houston’s strong regular season – better than any above blown-out team’s – indicates a rare capability to recover from this. Andre Iguodala‘s injury hurts Golden State. Teams sometimes make historic comebacks from blowouts, including against the Warriors.

But that Golden State ran toppled the Rockets so decisively in Game 3 suggests the Warriors are hitting a gear Houston won’t keep up with.