Associated Press

Blazers ready for Nuggets to hit more shots in Game 3 Friday night

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PORTLAND (AP) — The Denver Nuggets might not be as good of a group of shooters as they showed in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series with the Portland Trail Blazers, but they’re certainly not as bad as they were in Game 2.

The Nuggets were misfiring from every distance as they fell 97-90 to the visiting Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, squaring the series at 1-1 heading into Friday night’s Game 3 in Portland.

Denver shot 50.6 percent from the field and 41.4 percent from 3-point range in a 121-113 victory in Game 1. Shooting at the same hoops on Wednesday, however, the Nuggets hit 34.7 percent (34-for-98) from the field, 20.7 percent from 3-point range (6-for-29) and 61.5 percent from the foul line (16-for-26).

“We couldn’t make a damn shot,” head coach Mike Malone told reporters after the game.

“Those are great shots that we want to get,” said guard Gary Harris, who was 4-for-12 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. “We just didn’t knock them down. But we have a next-play mentality. We just have to keep shooting them, and those are going to fall next game.

“We just have to be better. We have to come out more physical, be ready to play in Portland, and those shots will fall.”

In the Nuggets’ four playoff losses this season — including three to the San Antonio Spurs in the first round — they are shooting 30 percent from 3-point range. Malone would like to see a different tactic from his players should they have similar perimeter shooting woes on Friday.

“If you’re not making shots, maybe attack the basket, maybe get to the rim, maybe get to the foul line,” he said. “We were getting such open looks that I understand our players shooting the shots. But when you’re not having a night when you making shots consistently, you have to attack instead of settle.”

The Nuggets rallied from a 17-point third-quarter deficit to draw within five points inside the game’s final minute of Game 2.

“I do love the fact that our guys competed at such a high level,” Malone said. “Now, the challenge is doing that for as close to 48 (minutes) as possible.”

Portland coach Terry Stotts liked his players’ defense on Denver center Nikola Jokic, who was held to 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Stotts wasn’t as happy with the Nuggets’ 23 offensive rebounds, including 14 in a frantic fourth quarter.

“We were very fortunate that we came away not hurt as badly as we could have been,” Stotts said. “(Paul) Millsap and Jokic were playing volleyball with it. They’re both excellent offensive rebounders, and (the Nuggets) are a top-three offensive rebounding team.

“We have to make sure they don’t have those opportunities next game.”

Portland center Enes Kanter said the Blazers feel “confident” going into Game 3.

“We feel more comfortable out there, especially on defense,” said Kanter, who contributed 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in Game 2. “We helped each other very well, were communicating and trusting each other.”

The Blazers have gained home-court advantage, as they play host to the Nuggets in the next two games.

“Our goal is to just take it one game at a time and protect our home floor,” said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who was held to season playoff lows in points (14) and assists (four) in Game 2. “We have to be better, because we know (the Nuggets) are going to come back better.”

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is undergoing treatment on his right thigh after aggravating an injury — originally sustained against the Spurs — during Game 2. Murray, who missed the final 53 seconds on Wednesday, is expected to try to play Friday.

Juancho Hernangomez missing Timberwolves workouts to film Adam Sandler movie

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez
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The Timberwolves, like the other seven teams not invited to the NBA’s restart at Disney World, are holding workouts.

Not in Minnesota: Forward Juancho Hernangomez.

Chris Hine of the StarTribune:

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia.

Netflix is producing the film, called “Hustle.”

And people thought LeBron James – also a producer of “Hustle,” which is about a basketball scout who finds talent oversees – prioritized Hollywood over hoops.

A Spain native, Hernangomez will be a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves can make him restricted.

But how could anyone want a player who doesn’t respect the sanctity of voluntary workouts occurring several months before next season (besides his 3-point shooting, rebounding and defensive versatility)?

Buddy Hield fuels 76ers trade rumor

Kings guard Buddy Hield vs. 76ers
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A rumor emerged about the Kings trading Buddy Hield to the 76ers. It didn’t seem particularly credible.

But then Hield himself liked this Instagram post promoting a potential trade and apparently made a pro-Philadelphia comment on Instagram:

Hield previously laid the groundwork for an offseason trade request. He seemed unhappy at times in Sacramento this season, losing his starting job and even riding the bench when the Kings needed a 3-pointer.

The 76ers could use more shooting – especially if they hire Mike D’Antoni. Hield would definitely add value. A lineup where Hield and Josh Richardson defend guards and Ben Simmons plays point guard offensively and defends a frontcourt player is intriguing.

Hield is set to earn $24,931,817 next season in the first year of a four-year extension. That’s in the range of Tobias Harris ($34,358,850) and Al Horford ($27,500,000).

However, Horford’s trade value is at rock bottom. Tobias Harris would add only so much value to Sacramento, which already has Harrison Barnes.

Kings fans can hope for Ben Simmons ($28,750,000) or Joel Embiid ($29,542,010). But those stars are FAR more valuable than Hield. Besides, the 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Simmons or Embiid (though it’s unclear who exactly is running the show in Philadelphia).

Regardless of whether the Kings and 76ers could connect on a trade, Hield making these public gestures is an issue in Sacramento. It’s on new Kings general manager Monte McNair to manage this. After years of supporting Daryl Morey with the Rockets, this is a new challenge – being in charge while a player makes waves – for McNair.

Relatedly, McNair must also handle Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s impending restricted free agency. These look like warning shots from Hield as Sacramento determines its priorities at shooting guard.

Report: Philadelphia ownership wants Mike D’Antoni as next coach

Mike D'Antoni 76ers
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Philadelphia 76ers ownership (led by Josh Harris) reportedly has been very hands-on in picking the team’s new coach — even if that means a new direction for the roster. That hands-on style reportedly why ownership likes Elton Brand as GM and may balk at bringing in a big-name president of basketball operations — that person would want total control of basketball decisions. Right now, ownership is pulling a lot of those levers.

And ownership wants Mike D’Antoni as the next head coach in Philadelphia, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sources have been saying since last week that the job is D’Antoni’s to turn down. They say he’s the guy the ownership group wants. One source even said the 69-year-old would have to bomb his interview with the Sixers owners not to be offered the job.

The problem is that Brand is supposed to have a huge input on the hire. The ownership is only supposed to approve or deny Brand’s suggestion. Now, word is leaking out that Brand is pushing hard for the Sixers to hire D’Antoni and that Joel Embiid gave his blessing. In addition, there are reports that the Sixers will make trades if D’Antoni is hired. The expectation is that he’ll have a say in picking players for his freewheeling style of play.

With Billy Donovan taking over in Chicago, the list of top candidates for the Philadelphia job seems down to two: Tyronn Lue and Mike D’Antoni. Lue would be the conventional choice, a guy who would try to make it work with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons together, along with Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford. Roster tweaks would be coming, but with Lue the idea would be making better use of the roster and style the 76ers have already built.

D’Antoni would be a radical change of direction — he is coming from a team that just started 6’7″ Robert Covington at center. The current 76ers roster would need changes to fit with D’Antoni’s freewheeling ways, and even then the coach would need to adapt what he wants to do. (No contract is untradeable, but moving the four-years, $147.2 million left on Harris’ deal, or the three years and $81 million on Horford’s contract, would require Philly to throw in a lot of sweeteners.)

D’Antoni would mean another change of direction in Philly, but that seems to be what ownership wants.

Bam Adebayo on injury: “I’m good,” expects to play in Game 5 Friday

Bam Adebayo injury
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In the final minutes of Miami’s Game 4 win, while Tyler Hero was knocking down shots and Jimmy Butler was getting to the line, Miami‘s Bam Adebayo was dealing with an injury, walking around holding his wrist, his arm dragging. He had gotten tangled up with Daniel Theis under the basket and clearly injured something.

The questions raised post game were about what happened, how serious it was, and could Adebayo be out for Game 5 on Friday? There was nothing official from the team but it looks like he will play, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press and Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

Adebayo had 20 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4, and his play is critical to Miami’s game plan against Boston. His ability to protect the rim at one end, then come out high to set screens and pull Theis out of the paint on the other end, is at the heart of what the Heat want to do in this series. If he is even slowed in Game 5 it is an advantage for Boston.

This time of year, and with the Heat one game away from the NBA Finals, no chance he sits if he can at all play.