Lawson thinks Denver could beat Miami in playoff series. Okay.

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You want your players to be confident entering the playoffs — you don’t want to hear: “Are you high? There is no way we could beat the Thunder in seven games.”

But that confidence can lead to some interesting statements.

Like Ty Lawson saying not only could the Nuggets reach the NBA finals but could beat the Heat once there. He meant it.

Here is the quote via Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida.

“I think so,’’ Lawson said when asked if the Nuggets could beat the Heat for the title. “They beat us twice early in the year when we weren’t really in sync. We were still trying to find ourselves. So I feel like if we play them now it would be a better game and we could actually beat them…

“Teamwork, and we could throw a lot of people at LeBron (James) and (Dwyane Wade), and not just one person,’’ Lawson said. “We can throw (Andre) Iguodala and (Danilo Gallinari) and Corey Brewer and Wilson (Chandler). You can throw so many people at (them). And then we have so many weapons.’’

I know Denver is confident after that 15-game win streak, but… no. Just no.

First, the Nuggets would have to get out of the West. I don’t see that.

Then the Nuggets would want to run with the Heat and teams that do that just can’t keep up the same scoring pace as Miami. Plus, the Nuggets have not had to deal with the kind of defensive pressure the Heat put on teams on the perimeter. Sure, Denver does have Andre Iguodala to take on LeBron James, but do they have role players who can show up four games out of seven at that level.

Denver is an interesting playoff team — they play solid defense (it was good defense during the win streak) and they beat you with transition points, balanced team play and depth. Those work great in the regular season but come the playoffs depth matters less as coaches can shorten their rotation (they know there are days off between games). And as teams focus their defense it helps to have that star player who can score and create shots — Lawson is good but he’s not LeBron or Kobe Bryant. Their team is unconventional for playoff success — but can they break the mold?

If Denver gets home court in the first round I can see them advancing, but if they draw the Thunder in the second round… I’m not sold that’s a track meet they can win. And I’m not sure they have the discipline the Spurs will certainly bring.

Russell Westbrook has beef with Joel Embiid after hard foul (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook is always looking for something — real or imagined — to use as motivational fuel.

He found something real Saturday in Joel Embiid.

With 1:46 left in a close game on national television, Westbrook was off to the races in transition with just Embiid back and the result was a hard foul.

Westbrook was pissed after the game thinking this was not just a hard foul (warning, NSFW language):

Embiid essentially shrugged.

The actual foul was hard but a bit of a fluke. Embiid went up to block the layup/dunk but Westbrook lost his dribble for a second, and the result was an airborne Embiid crashing into Westbrook. Hard. Was there a little bit extra in there? Depends on if you’re on Team Westbrook or Team Embiid.

But the NBA could use more feuds, so bring it on.

The Thunder went on to beat the 76ers on a Paul George game-winner.

Celtics’ Marcus Smart goes after Hawks’ Deandre Bembry, gets ejected

Associated Press
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Marcus Smart will be lucky if all he has to do is write a check to the league office. This is the kind of thing that can lead to a suspension.

Midway through the third quarter in Atlanta Saturday, Boston’s Smart picked up his second technical foul jawing with Atlanta’s DeAndre Bembry before a jump ball. That got him ejected. But it was when it charged back after Bembry rather than leaving the floor that the real trouble started.

Predicting the league office on fines/suspensions is like predicting a roulette table, but that looks like it could cost Smart a game. Smart had picked up his earlier technical arguing calls.

Boston came from behind to win Saturday in Atlanta, with Kyrie Irving leading the way scoring 32.

Bucks to retire jersey Marcus Johnson’s number

via NBA.com
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Marcus Johnson is a Milwaukee legend. He averaged 21 points a game in his seven seasons with the Bucks and is sixth on the all-time franchise list in points (10,980), is its all-time leader in offensive rebounds (1,468), is third in total rebounds (3,923), and made 4,546 during his time in Milwaukee. He is now a color commenter for the team.

Now, the team is going to retire his No. 8.

The ceremony will be March 24, a story broken by the Journal-Sentinel.

Johnson will be the ninth Bucks player to have his number retired and the first since the team’s move to its new home Fiserv Forum.

Current Bucks legend Giannis Antetokounmpo told the Journal-Sentinel he was happy. Antetokounmpo turned to Johnson at points for help with footwork, post moves, and more.

“I’m really happy for him, I think he deserves to have his jersey retired,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s amazing. He’s just sitting down there like a normal person, but this guy was one of the best players in the league when he was playing. … He’s a legend.”

Johnson won an NCAA national championship at UCLA under the legendary John Wooden before going on to an NBA career that included five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA teams.

Paul George hits game winner, lifts Thunder past 76ers 117-115

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left, sending Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to a wild 117-115 victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

George’s clutch shot capped a wild finish that included another memorable exchange with Westbrook and Embiid. Westbrook hit the floor out of bounds under the basket after a foul by Embiid late in the game, and Westbrook fouled out with 14.9 seconds remaining after he got Embiid while shooting a 3-pointer.

Embiid made all three foul shots, tying it at 113, and Jimmy Butler‘s driving layup put Philadelphia in front with 6.9 seconds to go. But George drained a 3 while being fouled by Butler and made the foul shot.

Philadelphia had one last chance, but Butler missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The 76ers have lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.

George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, and reserve Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points.

The Thunder had dropped five of six, including a 138-128 overtime loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of back tightness, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. JJ Redick scored 22 points for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, but Philadelphia rallied in the second and trailed 59-56 at the break.