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.”

 

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.