Nuggets end Raptors’ 11-game winning streak, 112-93

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DENVER (AP) — The Toronto Raptors were ready for Danilo Gallinari. They didn’t have an answer for Nikola Jokic.

The rookie center had 27 points and 14 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets ended Toronto’s 11-game winning streak with a 112-93 victory over the Raptors on Monday night.

Jokic’s totals were season highs. He had 23 points and 12 rebounds against San Antonio on Nov. 28 and now has four double-doubles in his past five games. The 20-year-old Serbian has surpassed even his own expectations for this season.

“When I came here I didn’t think I would play,” he said. “Now I have trust from the coach.”

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His effort Monday eased the burden on Gallinari, Denver’s leading scorer. Gallinari had just 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting and let Jokic dominate Toronto.

“He had a good game. I’m very happy for him,” Gallinari said. “I told him the challenge is for him to do that every night.”

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Will Barton scored 20 points and Randy Foye had 16 for the Nuggets, who swept the season series. They won in Toronto on Dec. 3 to stop an eight-game losing streak.

The Raptors entered with the NBA’s longest current winning streak but couldn’t duplicate the success they had in January. They led by one midway through the second quarter but trailed by double digits for most of the second half.

A frustrated Dwane Casey emerged from the locker room after the game with a crumpled boxscore.

“You can describe it any way you want to,” the Toronto coach said. “That was a stinker. That was one of our worst performances of the year. We played like we were playing in mud. You can blame it on the altitude, whatever it was. We stunk.”

DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 24 points. His All-Star backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry, scored just nine and went 1 for 6 from the foul line.

Lowry said Casey was angry with the performance and suggested his players use the boxscore as toilet paper.

“That describes this night for us,” he said. “We just didn’t have it tonight and they kicked our (butts).”

Jokic was a problem for the Raptors from the start. He nearly had a double-double in the first half with 15 points and seven rebounds. He started slowly in the second half but scored six straight points late in the third quarter to give the Nuggets a 73-60 lead. His last basket in the sequence came when he cut through the lane and dunked off a pass from Emmanuel Mudiay.

Jokic went 2 of 4 from the line in the final 1:57 of the third to tie his career high. He came in late in the fourth and set new highs for his rookie season.

“What a performance. Every time I think he’s kind of maxed out for his rookie season, he finds a way to keep on impressing me,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “You can talk about some of these other young bigs, who are all talented, and I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the world. He’s a special young man and a special young talent. He’s only going to get better as he gets stronger.”

The Nuggets put the game away early in the fourth. Barton scored the first eight points of the quarter to make it 88-65. Foye hit a 3-pointer to make it 97-70 with 8:03 left.

TIP-INS

Raptors: F James Johnson left late in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. He was hurt when he collided with Gallinari at midcourt. … Casey was selected the Eastern Conference coach of the month for January. The Raptors were 12-2 in the month, including seven straight wins at home.

Nuggets: G Jameer Nelson was inactive with a sore left wrist. Nelson missed six games with the injury before returning for two. He aggravated the injury in Saturday’s overtime loss at Indiana. … A winter storm that rolled through the Denver area Monday contributed to the low attendance of 10,007 at Pepsi Center.

 

Kobe Bryant said he traveled by helicopter to spend more time with kids

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Kobe Bryant was such a superstar, his method of transportation to and from practice – helicopter – became a sensation.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday. In an old interview, he described why he traveled by helicopter.

Kobe Bryant on The Corp:

Traffic started getting really, really bad. Right? And I was sitting in traffic, and I wound up missing a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. And these things just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. And so that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes. And that’s when it started. So, my routine was always the same. Weights early in the morning, kids to school, fly down, practice like crazy, do my extra work, media, everything I needed to do, fly back, get back in the carpool line, pick the kids up. And my wife was like, “Listen, I can pick them up.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I want to do that.” Because you have road trips and times where you’re not – you don’t see your kids, you know? So, every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car, I want that.

The irony and tragedy of Bryant and his daughter dying in a helicopter crash is just gut-wrenching.

Grizzlies call up Josh Jackson from minor league

Josh Jackson
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A few months ago, the Grizzlies thought so little of Josh Jackson, they didn’t even bring him to training camp. He remained on an NBA contract. Memphis gained no roster or salary-cap flexibility. The Grizzlies planned to send him to their minor-league affiliate, but the Hustle hadn’t yet opened their training camp. There was nowhere else for Jackson to be. The Grizzlies just didn’t want him around.

Now, Jackson will get his chance on the parent club.

Grizzlies:

The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Jackson still has a lot to prove with his maturity, professionalism and production.

But this is an opportunity – for Memphis to showcase him before next week’s trade deadline and for Jackson to showcase himself before unrestricted free agency next summer.

Grayson Allen is injured. Jae Crowder is also banged up. Jackson could actually receive playing time.

Kobe Bryant’s death a unique tragedy

Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson – one of the NBA’s brightest stars – stood behind a podium, smiled and shook the world. Johnson had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers, he announced. Confusion, speculation and, most prominently, grief followed. Everyone thought he’d die. Charles Barkley said, “It’s kind of like somewhat of a death of a brother.” Larry Bird called it “probably the toughest day I’ve had since my father passed away, and I’ve been very depressed and sort of been out of it.” Pat Riley called for a moment of silence before a game.

More than 28 years later, Johnson mourned Kobe Bryant.

Bryant’s death yesterday was the tragedy everyone believed Johnson’s diagnosis to be. Sudden. Crushing. Unbelievable. All the same emotions came pouring out. Except this time there was no mistaking the finality.

Johnson has continued living, thriving, inspiring. He’s a renowned businessman, beloved celebrity and fantastic ambassador for basketball. It’s the type of retirement expected for Bryant, because why wouldn’t it be?

The NBA has grown accustomed to its titans aging gracefully. Unlike baseball, the NBA hasn’t existed long enough for multiple generations of old-timers to pass away. Unlike football, the NBA doesn’t subject its players to such traumatic physical tolls.

Just two MVPs in all of NBA history had died, Wilt Chamberlain (age 63 in 1999) and Moses Malone (age 60 in 2015), and those deaths felt far too soon.

Bryant was only 41.

Just four All-Stars died younger. Don Sunderlage was in a car crash at age 31 in 1961. Maurice Stokes suffered a head injury during a game, became paralyzed then – after teammate Jack Twyman cared for him for 12 years – died at age 36 in 1970. Pete Maravich had a heart issue while playing pickup basketball at age 40 in 1988. Reggie Lewis suffered a heart attack during what should have been the midst of his career at age 27 in 1993.

Lewis – like Len Bias (who died of a cocaine overdose at age 22 in 1986) and Drazen Petrovic (who died in a car crash at age 28 in 1993) – never got to fulfill their potentials. That creates its own kind of anguish.

There is no analogue to Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s accomplishments – one MVP, five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and 18 All-Star appearances – place him among the very greatest of all-time greats. No player anywhere near that stature had ever died anywhere near this young.

Bryant could be charming and ruthless, sometimes simultaneously. His play and conduct earned him loyal fans and harsh critics. The never-ending Kobe debates seemed only to inflame the passion of his supporters.

Few adored him like fellow NBA players. They admired his skill and determination. He responded by mentoring many. It’s difficult to overstate just how cherished Bryant was in this league.

Few understand the cold realities of the NBA like Austin Rivers. He grew up with his father, Doc Rivers, frequently gone playing and coaching. As a result, they aren’t particularly close. Now an NBA player himself, Austin speaks of their distant relationship with far more acceptance than wistfulness. He’s too focused on competing to do much else.

Yesterday, Austin cried on the court:

Then, explained how little he cared about the Rockets losing a basketball game:

Others shed tears in arenas around the country. The NBA could have cancelled yesterday’s games. Playing while grieving proved difficult for many.

There was just no good way to handle the loss. Mere moments of silence felt insufficient.

The Spurs and Raptors began their game yesterday with shot-clock violations in honor of his No. 24. Other teams exchanged a shot-clock violation and eight-second violation in honor of his other number. Trae Young wore No. 8.

Other tributes popped up around the world. Bryant was a global icon.

He was also a loving father. As incredibly wide as this tragedy lands, it also cuts unimaginably deep. Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, also died in the helicopter crash.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018, Bryant just lit up when discussing her:

Bryant’s death is devastating – for those touched closely and, because of its unparalleled nature, even those not. Nobody was ready for this.

It’s a punch in the gut. The basketball world – which expanded far larger than imaginable in 1991, when Johnson made his announcement, because of people like Bryant – remains in a daze.

In wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Kendrick Perkins seeks forgiveness from Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins
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Kevin Durant once called Kendrick Perkins his favorite teammate of all-time.

A couple weeks ago, they were beefing on Twitter,exchanging barbs that didn’t look as friendly as previously.

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has Perkins reflecting.

Perkins:

Good for Perkins. Amid all the sorrow, Bryant’s death creates an opportunity for people to re-assess their priorities. Grudges almost always aren’t worth it.