Associated Press

Watch Paul Millsap’s game-winning floater that lifts Nuggets over Pacers

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DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic has made a habit of bailing the Denver Nuggets out of bad situations.

His teammates returned the favor.

Paul Millsap hit a left-handed layup with 7 seconds remaining after Jokic was ejected late in the fourth quarter for arguing and the Nuggets moved to the verge of their first playoff spot since 2012-13 with a 102-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

The magic number for the Nuggets dropped to one as they remained in the No. 2 spot behind Golden State. Denver ran its home record to a Western Conference-leading 30-6.

The Nuggets were up 96-89 with 2:56 remaining when Jokic was called for a foul while jostling with Myles Turner. Jokic was incensed at the call and kept barking at official Tony Brothers, who tossed Jokic.

Indiana later tied the game at 100, before Millsap hit the winner over Turner. Bojan Bogdanovic‘s 3-pointer bounced off the rim in the final seconds.

“We won,” said Jokic, who had a team-high 26 points. “That’s the most important thing.”

Jokic watched Millsap take over on the big screen in the locker room. Millsap finished with 15 points – nine in the fourth quarter – and 13 rebounds for Denver, which overcame an 18-point, first-half deficit.

“When Nikola got ejected, I went to Paul time and time again,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s what you want from your guy who’s been there and done that. That was a playoff-type game. Paul came through in a big way down the stretch.”

Thaddeus Young led Indiana with 18 points and 10 boards. The magic number for earning their fourth straight playoff spot stays at one for a Pacers team that hasn’t won in Denver since Nov. 27, 2007.

This didn’t help the Pacers’ cause: They were 0 for 11 from 3-point range in the second half.

“We were getting good looks,” Darren Collison said. “In the playoffs when these things don’t go your way you’ve still got to find a way to win the game. We still had a chance to win the game.”

Both teams entered the game coming off last-second wins. Wesley Matthews hit a follow shot with 1.8 seconds left in a victory over Oklahoma City on Thursday. Jokic hit a one-handed shot at the buzzer to get by Dallas that same night.

This one went down to the wire as well with Jokic’s outburst opening the door. Bogdanovic hit the technical free throws and Turner two more for the foul by Jokic.

Turner knotted the game at 100 with 27 seconds remaining by hitting one of two free throws. That set the scene for Millsap, who drove in on Turner and just lofted it up. The Nuggets improve to 12-3 this season in games decided by three points or less.

“It shows the type of character we have,” Millsap said. “Those situations can make or break a team and we’ve been able to thrive off of it.”

 

NBA veteran Jason Terry takes job as assistant coach at Arizona

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Jason Terry played four years for the legendary Lute Olsen at Arizona, winning a national championship in 1997 and averaging 21.9 points a game his senior year. The Jet went on from there to play 19 years in the NBA, winning a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2009, and he was part of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks championship team.

Terry had moved into the front office side of the business and was serving as the assistant GM of the Texas Legends, Dallas’ G-League affiliate. Now, however, he is jumping back to his alma mater, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

This is a smart hire by Arizona and head coach Sean Miller. High schoolers going to a major D-1 school all have NBA dreams and having a respected NBA veteran who can say “this is what it takes” on staff is a big plus. Besides, Terry was a smart player who knows the game and had a mentality suited to coaching.

For Terry, he’s back in a place he likes, he’s young (42) and has a world of options ahead of him.

Scott Foster says it’s going to be different officiating without fans in building

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The noise from 18,000 people can cover up a lot of sounds in an NBA arena. So when a back-bench assistant coach yells “bulls****” after a call he doesn’t like, the official never hears it and the game moves on.

Not when NBA games restart in fan-less facilities in Orlando in a couple of months. Without those fans, referees are going to get to hear that coach. And a whole lot more.

It’s going to be weird for referees in Orlando, just like for players, veteran official Scott Foster said recently on NBA TV.

I know I don’t want everything that we normally say to each other going out. But normally we’re all in a professional manner out there. But it is going to be different. There’s going to be some assistant coaches that we haven’t really heard from before sitting in the second row that we’ll be able to hear now, so there’s going to be some adjustment there. And then I think we’re going to need to really talk about and analyze what is OK for the public to hear and how we’re going to go about our business.

But it’s definitely going to be a different thing. I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a really unique experience for the referees, players, coaches, everybody who’s going to go through this.”

It is going to be unique. Everybody is going to hear everything, and that is going to be very different from most nights when coaches have to go to hand signals because it’s too loud just to call out a play. It’s going to lead to some awkward and tense moments.

Everyone is going to have to adjust to the new reality, and that includes the referees, too.

 

Report: NBA group stage could include 24 teams

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Bulls guard Zach LaVine
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The initial report on the NBA resuming with a group stage presented a 20-team scenario. There’d be four groups with five teams each – one from each tier of the current standings:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

Teams would play each other team in its group, and the top two finishers in each group would advance to an eight-team tournament (effectively the second round of the playoffs, though without conference splits).

But that format could apparently include four more teams.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

In brief, per several sources who have seen the league’s proposal: The NBA could take 20 (or 24) teams and divide them into groups

The simplest way to expand to 24 teams would be adding a sixth tier then forming four groups of six. That’d mean adding:

  • Tier 6: Suns, Wizards, Hornets, Bulls

Bleh.

The more games the NBA holds, the more money the league will make. But the more people involved, the more risk of someone contracting and spreading coronavirus. It’s a fine line, and the league has sought a middle ground.

Phoenix, Washington, Charlotte and Chicago strike me as too lousy to include. Those teams are well outside the normal playoff race, and there’s no good reason to believe they would’ve made a late push.

In this environment, they might have shot, though. Coronavirus increases variability. Players have had differing access to resources and differing motivation to train during the hiatus. Once play resumes, positive tests could be scattered randomly. Would anyone view the Suns, Wizards, Hornets or Bulls as deserving of a berth in the eight-team tournament? If one of those four teams qualified, that’d probably just show the setup was flawed.

The fairest way to set the playoffs is with 20 teams, depending on structure. Resuming with just 16 teams wouldn’t be that far behind. The highest financial upside comes with all 30 teams, but that seems infeasible.

Setting the line at 24 teams seems like the worst of most worlds – including four bad teams that wouldn’t generate much interest but would threaten to disrupt everything else.

Michael Porter Jr.: Pray for both George Floyd’s family and police officers involved in ‘this evil’

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. and Knicks forward Maurice Harkless
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Several NBA players posted about George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for about eight minutes.

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. struck a different tone than most.

Porter:

Knicks forward Maurice Harkless:

Harkless, whose dismay was shared by many, is a seasoned veteran. Porter has made made rookie gaffes.

But I’m uncomfortable criticizing someone for calling for prayer for anyone. For some, prayer can be effective way to cope amid tragedy. Many believe prayer can change the world.

Porter didn’t say prayer alone should be the solution. In fact, he called the situation “evil” and “murder,” seemingly suggesting the need for criminal justice, too.