Nuggets continue home dominance, win seventh straight by blowing out the Clippers

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When you think of the best teams in the league who have consistently dominated opponents on their home floor all season long, the Denver Nuggets probably aren’t at the top of your list.

But they should be.

After thrashing the Clippers on Thursday by a final of 107-92, the Nuggets are now 27-3 at home, tied with the Miami Heat for the best home record in the league, and with two more wins and the same number of losses at home as the one-seed in the West, the San Antonio Spurs.

For years, more than one head coach has lamented the difficulty of playing the second night of a back-to-back in Denver, for a handful of reasons — the odd time zone, the unusually long distance from the airport to the downtown area, and playing at mile-high altitude are all among them.

Coaches should start including this Nuggets squad in those predetermined reasons for failure, and maybe move it to the top of the list.

Denver isn’t playing near the top of the Western Conference as some had somewhat foolishly predicted to start the season, but the team is formidable nonetheless, due in part to the fact that you never know who is going to step up and beat you on a nightly basis. The Nuggets have talent sprinkled throughout their roster, but no “superstar” that you can point to as someone to slow in order to guarantee victory.

That’s just fine with them.

On this night against the Clippers, George Karl went nine deep into his rotation, and seven of his players finished in double figures scoring. Ty Lawson was the elite performer late, finishing with 21 points, six rebounds, and 11 assists — four more rebounds than Blake Griffin grabbed in 31 minutes of action.

The Nuggets have crushed teams on the second night of back-to-backs all season long, and often times, it takes just a single run to gain that separation in order for them to keep their opponent at bay for the rest of the night. That came in the third quarter of this one, when Denver put together a 10-0 run in just 1:30 of game time to put things out of reach.

With the Nuggets leading 67-64 and about five and a half minutes remaining in the third, they simply kicked it into a gear the Clippers could not match. Consecutive three-pointers from Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari pushed the lead to nine, and Lawson got to the rim for a bucket that put Denver up double digits. The run was capped off by an alley-oop from Lawson to Gallinari that sent the lead to 13, and the Clippers never got closer than eight the rest of the way, while the Nuggets’ lead reached as high as 18 points in the game’s final few minutes.

The Clippers may very well chalk this one up to a schedule-maker’s loss, having played the previous night and being tied at halftime in Denver before fading over the game’s final 24 minutes. But the Nuggets are for real, especially at home, and after winning their seventh straight overall and running their home record to a mark that has them tied with the defending champs for the league’s best, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.