Nuggets run win streak to 14 straight games with late comeback over Sixers

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This was the type of game that shows how win streaks usually come to an end. The heavily-favored team comes out with a lack of energy, the underdogs pounce early, and the home team lets its opponent hang around longer than it should, and is unable to put it together in time to keep the streak alive.

A lot of that happened in Denver on Thursday, except for the way things ended over the game’s final few possessions. The Nuggets came from eight points down with under two minutes to play, and five points down with 14 seconds remaining to steal the 101-100 victory, which stretched the team’s winning streak to 14 straight games.

Corey Brewer scored a career-high 29 points on 10-18 shooting, to go along with five steals to lead all scorers. He scored 11 of his points in the fourth, and was the one making the huge plays for his team down the stretch that ultimately paved the way to victory.

With Denver down five and inbounding the ball with 14 seconds remaining, the ball went to Danilo Gallinari, who found Brewer on the wing. Brewer knocked down the open look from three to cut the lead to two, and as it turned out, he was just getting started.

Evan Turner of the Sixers was fouled on the other end to stop the clock, but he missed both of his free throw attempts. That left the door open for the Nuggets, and Brewer was the one who took advantage.

With 6.8 seconds remaining, Denver inbounded the ball once again, and this time, Gallinari found Brewer curling from the wing to the top of the three-point arc. As Brewer rose up for a long three-point attempt, Damien Wilkins fouled him with 2.1 seconds remaining.

Brewer hit all three free throws to give the Nuggets the 101-100 lead, which was ultimately the final margin of victory.

It’s worth noting that Wilkins led the Sixers with 24 points, but committing the foul in that situation undid all of his positive contributions in one single play. Turner shares just as much of the blame if not more, because as a career free throw shooter of close to 75 percent, there’s no excuse for missing two when the game is on the line.

Brewer normally plays between 20-25 minutes per game, but saw more action than usual thanks to Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler both sitting out this one due to injury. It turned out to be a positive for the Nuggets on this night, who were able to run their win streak to 14 straight games thanks in large part to Brewer’s heroics.

Rumor: Raptors trying to trade up in draft for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

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The Raptors have major problems in the playoffs annually.

Is a coaching change enough to fix them?

Toronto already fired Dwane Casey and promoted assistant Nick Nurse after a highly successful regular season. Perhaps, major roster turnover could follow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander projects to be a late lottery pick. The Raptors have no selections in this draft. So, acquiring one high enough to pick the Kentucky point guard would take plenty.

Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are stars. Toronto’s bench is stocked with solid young players. O.G. Anunoby is very promising.

So, the Raptors have pieces to move. The only question how much they’d package for a draft pick.

Toronto already has Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright at point guard. But Lowry is 32, and VanVleet will be a restricted free agent this summer. If they really believe in Gilgeous-Alexander, the Raptors should try to get him.

All that said, this is the time of year rumors – both credible and not – fly. So, it’s worth remaining skeptical while still considering the validity of what reputable reporters like Stein convey.

Luka Doncic, Donte DiVincenzo, Jerome Robinson among NBA draft invitees

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Of course DeAndre Ayton will attend Thursday’s NBA draft. The Suns will likely draft him No. 1 overall.

But what about more marginal first-round prospects?

The NBA’s draft invite list is an important tool in judging their stock. The league wants to avoid players sitting in agony until their names are called. So, the NBA works to invite only the prospects most likely to get picked high in the draft.

The full list of invited players (which the league notes is subject to change):

Luka Doncic will go high in the draft, and though how high is still uncertain, his inclusion on this list says nothing about his stock. It just speaks to whether we’ll see him Thursday night. His attendance will depend at least on when Real Madrid’s season ends, though the NBA is apparently confident enough to list him.

Jerome Robinson has climbed draft boards since the season ended. He must be impressing in workouts and interviews.

Donte DiVincenzo is a bit of a surprise selection, as he’s not widely viewed as a first-round lock. Perhaps, the league is looking to capitalize on his popularity stemming from a breakout NCAA tournament championship game.

This will only reinforce the idea Chandler Hutchinson received a promise. Otherwise, he’s a surprise invitee.

Among the top players not attending: Kevin Huerter (Maryland), Jacob Evans (Cincinnati), Troy Brown (Oregon) and Josh Okogie (Georgia Tech). Though they could go higher than players listed here, that says something about Huerter’s Evans’, Browns’ and Okogie’s stock, too.

Report: Rudy Gay opting out of Spurs contract

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants to leave the Spurs, but he’s at their whims.

This doesn’t mean Rudy Gay will depart San Antonio, but he’s taking control of his future.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Gay’s option-year salary was $8,826,300.

I doubt Gay, who turns 32 this summer, will draw such a high starting salary on his next contract – though I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. He could likely get a multi-year deal with a higher total value.

Or he could chase a ring elsewhere.

Remember, Gay gave up money to leave the Kings last summer. No matter how much the Leonard situation should make us rethink the Spurs’ culture, San Antonio probably isn’t “basketball hell.” Still, the Spurs clearly don’t look as appealing as they once did, and Gay has shown how much he values team quality.

Gay is coming off a nice season, and San Antonio might try to re-sign him. Danny Green has a $10 million player option for next season, which will swing whether the Spurs have the flexibility for a bigger move this summer.

Report: LeBron James’ camp likes Collin Sexton

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In 2014, LeBron James tweeted his fondness for Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat traded up to get Napier in the draft, but LeBron left for the Cavaliers that summer, anyway.

Could history repeat itself, this time in Cleveland?

LeBron has already talked up Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, but maybe LeBron and his camp want the Cavs to take a different point guard – Alabama’s Collin Sexton – with the No. 8 pick.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, via Jordan Zirm of ESPN Cleveland:

The Cavaliers should take the best prospect available. Worrying about what LeBron might want makes a mistake only more likely.

LeBron might stay in Cleveland, but as 2014 showed, it won’t be because of a draft pick. If he stays, it very well could be by opting into the final year of his contract. His player-option salary ($35,607,968) is slightly higher than his projected max salary as a free agent (about $35.35 million). If LeBron opts in, the best chance of keeping him long-term is building a better team around him.

That means taking the best prospect at No. 8 or trading the pick for someone who can help LeBron win now. If the top prospect is Sexton, that’s fine. But the Cavs are fare more likely to appease LeBron by getting the pick right in the long run rather than choosing the prospect he wants now.