Nuggets find their game, hold off the Warriors to take game 5

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The Nuggets finally looked like themselves this series, and not a moment too soon. By beating the Warriors 107-100, the Nuggets not only staved off elimination, but grabbed some momentum in the process.

Nearly every Nugget win this season saw the same trends develop and this game was no different. Denver scored 50 points in the paint, forced 17 Warrior turnovers (which they turned into 19 points), and worked the offensive glass to grab 15 offensive rebounds (which they turned into 20 points). When Denver can control these three aspects of the game, they become almost unbeatable as the Warriors found out.

The star of the game was Andre Iguodala who put up a LeBron type line, stuffing the stat sheet with a team high 25 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing 7 assists. Iguodala was all over the floor, flashing his versatility by playing a lot of point forward and creating shots for himself and his teammates off the dribble. And when he wasn’t handling the ball, he was working masterfully off it, finding space in the post and punishing the smaller defenders Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson tried to hide on him all night.

Outside of Iguodala, it was a real team effort from Denver who got several strong contributions up and down their roster. Six players scored in double-digits, with Wilson Chandler’s 19 points via some very good outside shooting helping to create spacing for Ty Lawson (who also scored 19) to create off the dribble and attack the interior of the Warriors’ defense.

But while the Nuggets on the floor clearly picked up their respective games to pick up this win, a lot of credit has to go to head George Karl for pushing the right buttons and making some effective adjustments. Karl switched up his starting lineup, going to JaVale McGee at Center to play next to Kenneth Faried in the front court. McGee’s activity in defending the paint allowed the Denver’s wing defenders to pressure the ball and shoot the gap into passing lanes and create turnovers.

Karl also went away from the Lawson and Andre Miller backcourt — at least early in the game — playing Corey Brewer at shooting guard for extended minutes while also matching up Kosta Koufos against Carl Landry for the majority of his minutes. These shifts kept much more size on the floor and kept the Warriors flustered on offense as they always seemed to run into a bigger, longer defender than they have all series.

In contrast to Karl, Warriors’ head man Mark Jackson made some decisions that he’d likely take back if given another opportunity. For long stretches he tried to hide Curry defensively on Iguodala, but as mentioned that went poorly. He also closed the game with Draymond Green and Festus Ezili rather than playing Andrew Bogut and Carl Landry. Bogut’s absence was particularly glaring as the team missed his defensive presence and work on the glass.

Not to bury Jackson as he did ride out the stretch with the guys who were able to make a push and cut into the Nuggets’ lead to make it a game in the 4th quarter.

After starting so slowly due to some solid defense and some physical play, Curry scored 7 of his 15 points in the final period while also handing out 2 of his 8 assists. Along with Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson were key in pulling the Warriors back to within 5 points with only 4:15 left to play, hitting some big baskets while the Nuggets looked more than ready to give up the lead entirely.

But that was as close as the Warriors got. Down the stretch a big three by Chandler and a dunk by Iguodala off an airballed jumper ended up sealing Golden State’s fate.

With the series heading back to Oakland, it remains to be seen if Denver has actually figured things out to the point that they can still pull out the series. But, even if it was just for one night, the Nuggets finally resembled the team they were from the regular season; the team that was favored to win this series.

DeMarcus Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior is a monster jam

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LOS ANGELES — DeMarcus Cousins sure looked his hops are back on this throw down.

Cousins started for the Warriors Friday night after missing almost a full year with a torn Achilles, and on the Warriors first possession they fed him the rock in the post. Cousins faced up on Marcin Gortat, drove baseline with a nice first step, but got caught under the basket and couldn’t power it up through the Clipper big, getting his shot blocked.

Nobody was blocking his next shot.

It was a side pick-and-roll where Gortat had to cut off Durant’s drive, but Danilo Gallinari didn’t tag into the middle to cut off Cousins’ roll (or, made the business decision not to). The result was an impressive first bucket for DeMarcus as a Warrior.

Cousins’ first shift was three minutes long. He’s on a minutes restriction for a while.

D’Angelo Russell drops 40 on Magic including shot that put Nets up for good

Associated Press
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D'Angelo Russell is playing like a guy in a contract year. And that’s just fine with Brooklyn.

Russell tied his career best with 40 points Friday night against the Magic, including hitting the shot that put the Nets up for good on the night with 27 seconds remaining. Russell was 16-of-25 shooting, including 8-of-12 from three, and he was an analytics dream — Russell took all but one of his shots either in the paint or from three.

The Nets — now 24-23 on the season and the sixth seed in the East — came from 21 back to get the win and that included their guards hitting the big shots at the end.

First up was Spencer Dinwiddie.

Then came Russell’s shot that proved to be the game winner.

With the Nets extending Dinwiddie during the season, it’s unlikely Russell returns to Brooklyn next season, but a number of teams are interested in him as a free agent (restricted, the Nets can match if the offer is low).

Report: Isaiah Thomas could return to Nuggets right before All-Star break

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The Denver Nuggets have shown off their depth this season. Three starters — Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap — have missed a chunk of time and yet until a few days ago the Nuggets were the top seed in the West, and they are still a clear second.

And all of that without Isaiah Thomas, their biggest name reserve. He has been recovering from hip surgery last March.

The Nuggets are hoping Thomas will make his debut next month, right before the All-Star Break, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Thomas has been gathering momentum in his rehabilitation process from hip surgery in March, and there’s hope among Thomas and the Nuggets organization he could return as soon as a Feb. 11-13 homestand against Miami and Sacramento, sources said.

There’s strong confidence that he will return no later than the first game after the All Star break on Feb. 22 in Dallas, league sources said….

The final hurdle for Thomas remains playing full 5-on-5 scrimmages. He is expected to start that process soon.

Thomas was playing well and playing through pain in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and pulling that team into the postseason, before his hip injury caught up with him. He tried to recover without surgery playing for the Cavaliers and Lakers last season, but that never really worked like he hoped. He had the surgery and signed a one-year deal with the Nuggets.

Thomas could provide a playmaking guard off the bench, although Monte Morris has filled that role for the Nuggets so well he gets mentioned as a most improved player candidate. Coach Mike Malone will need to finesse the minutes to get both of them touches and involved. How much Thomas can help the Nuggets in the playoffs depends on how he recovers (he has always been a defensive liability because of his size, which factors in as well).

If Thomas can show he would have value as a bench player he will have teams calling next July about a much bigger contract. He has motivation, and he’s popular around the league — people want to see him succeed. But is he fully healthy and does he still have the lateral explosiveness that made him so hard to stop on drives to the rim? We should find out the final couple months of the season.

Report: Kings’ Buddy Hield in 3-point contest

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Players who’ve attempted more than seven 3-pointers per game while making more than 40% of them this season:

Sharing company with only the greatest shooter of all-time will earn Hield a spot in the 3-point contest.

Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140:

Sacramento getting three players into the Rising Stars Challenge for the second straight year speaks to the team’s nice collection of young talent. Bogdan Bogdanovic (who won MVP last year) and De'Aaron Fox return to the game. No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III replaces Hield, who ages out.

Hield has a chance in the 3-point contest, though the league is better from beyond the arc than ever. He’ll certainly have plenty of competition.