Nuggets keep rolling, beat Clippers in L.A. (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Jamal Murray scored 23 points and the Denver Nuggets led all the way in beating the L.A. Clippers 101-94 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

The Nuggets dominated the first three quarters on a night when Nikola Jokic didn’t reach double figures until hitting a 3-pointer with 5:20 left in the game. He finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

“We expect 30, 20 and 15 from him every night,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of Jokic. “He didn’t play poor but he didn’t play to the level he’s played at in the last 15 games.”

Jokic’s supporting cast came through. Michael Porter Jr. added 20 points and Will Barton had 19 points. Aaron Gordon added 14 points as Denver improved to 3-0 since Gordon arrived last week via a trade from Orlando.

“We set the tone and were able to sustain that,” Murray said. “We were in control and especially on the road that’s a big deal.”

Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Paul George had 17 points and eight rebounds in his return after missing two games with a sore right foot. Terance Mann added 18 points off the bench.

George said the soreness and swelling in his foot is related to the bone edema issue that sidelined him earlier.

“It’s a day-to-day process, but I’m doing better,” he said. “Some days it’s more sore than others.”

The Clippers made a run in the fourth, opening with a 13-3 spurt that left them trailing 84-83.

But Denver outscored them the rest of the way. Jokic’s 3-pointer extended the Nuggets’ lead to six and Murray’s 3 made it 96-88.

“That’s back-to-back games that we’ve led wire-to-wire which is really impressive when you consider who we played, with Philadelphia being a very good team, as are the Clippers,” Malone said.

The Clippers, who lead the NBA in 3-point shooting, were 10 of 34 from long-range.

Leonard scored 11 points in the third, when the Clippers trailed by 18 early on. He set up a dunk by Patrick Patterson and a 3-pointer from Mann before Leonard hit just his second 3 of the game. They trailed 81-70 heading into the fourth.

Jokic was the only Denver starter not in double figures by halftime. He had four points on 2-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and four assists.

The Clippers were out of sorts from the start. They were just 6 of 17 from the floor in the first quarter when Denver led by 13. Their foibles continued in the second. George was out on the break and missed an easy dunk. Nicolas Batum came in to clean up and also missed.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Gordon had 13 and six points in his first two games. … They dished out 28 assists, the 14th straight game they’ve had 25 or more.

Clippers: They held Denver to 39 points in the second half after giving up 62 in the first half. … They got outscored 42-40 in the paint. … The ball got stuck behind the backboard in the fourth and Batum’s height came in handy in getting it dislodged.

COACH RONDO

Newly acquired Rajon Rondo is injured, but he’s still contributing to the Clippers from the sideline acting as a coach.

“Every time I came back to the bench he’s letting me know something he saw,” Mann said. “It’s been really cool. He just knows the game so well.”

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Host Orlando on Sunday.

Clippers: Host the Lakers on Sunday.

Pelican’s Green says Zion ‘dominated the scrimmage pretty much’

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The Zion hype train keeps right on rolling. First were the reports he was in the best shape of his life, then he walked into media day and it looked like he is.

Now Zion has his own hype man in Pelicans coach Willie Green, who said he dominated the first day of team scrimmages. Via Andre Lopez of ESPN.

“Z looked amazing,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said on Wednesday afternoon. “His strength, his speed. He dominated the scrimmage pretty much.”

“What stood out was his force more than anything,” Green said. “He got down the floor quickly. When he caught the ball, he made quick decisions. Whether it was scoring, finding a teammate. It was really impressive to see.”

Reach for the salt shaker to take all this with — it’s training camp scrimmages. Maybe Zion is playing that well right now — he’s fully capable, he was almost an All-NBA player in 2020-21 (eighth in forward voting) before his foot injury — but we need to see it against other teams. In games that matter. Then we’ll need to see it over a stretch of time.

If Zion can stay healthy this season, if his conditioning is where everyone says it is, he could be in for a monster season. Combine that with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and a strong supporting cast in New Orleans, and the Pelicans could surprise a lot of people — and be fun to watch.

 

PBT Podcast: What’s next for Celtics, Suns? Should NBA end one-and-done?

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NBA training camps just opened and teams have yet to play a preseason game, but already two contenders are dealing with problems.

The Celtics have the suspension of coach Ime Udoka as a distraction, plus defensive anchor center Robert Williams will miss at least the start of the season following another knee surgery.

The Suns have the distraction of a suspended owner who is selling the team, plus Jae Crowder is out and demanding a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not seem happy.

Corey Robinson of NBC Sports and myself go through all the training camp news, including the wilder ones with the Lakers and Nets, breaking down what to take away from all that — plus how good Zion Williamson and James Harden look physically.

Then the pair discusses the potential of the NBA doing away with the one-and-done role and letting 18-year-olds back in the game — is that good for the NBA?

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Report: Price tag on Phoenix Suns could be more than $3 billion

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Six
Harry How/Getty Images
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In 2004, Robert Sarver bought the Phoenix Suns for a then-record $401 million.

When Sarver sells the team now — pushed to do so following the backlash prompted by an NBA report that found an 18-year pattern of bigotry, misogyny, and a toxic workplace — he is going to make a massive profit.

The value of the Suns now is at $3 billion or higher, reports Ramona Shelburne and Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

There will be no shortage of bidders for the team, with league sources predicting a franchise valuation of more than $3 billion now that revenue has rebounded following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon. Sarver purchased the team for just over $400 million in 2004.

Saver currently owns 35% of the Suns (the largest share), but reports say his role as managing partner allows him to sell the entire team (the minority owners have to comply, although they would make a healthy profit, too). Sarver also decides who to sell the team to, not the NBA or other owners.

Early rumors of buyers have included Larry Ellison (founder of Oracle), Bob Iger (former Disney CEO), Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, she has a 20% share of the Washington Wizards), and others. There have been no reports of talks yet, and Sarver does not need to be on a rushed timeline.

Meanwhile, a contending Suns team tries to focus on the season despite the owner selling the team, Jae Crowder not being in training camp and pushing for a trade, and Deandre Ayton does not sound happy to be back with the Suns.

Steve Nash on his relationship with Kevin Durant: ‘We’re good’

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In an effort to gain leverage for a trade this offseason, Kevin Durant threw down a “either the coach and GM are gone or I am” ultimatum.

Now coach Steve Nash (and GM Sean Marks) are back in Brooklyn, on the same team and trying to build a contender together. Awkward? Not if you ask Nash, which is what Nick Friedell of ESPN did.

“We’re fine,” Nash said after the Nets’ first official practice of the season on Tuesday. “We’re good. Ever since we talked, it’s been like nothing’s changed. I have a long history with Kevin. I love the guy. Families have issues. We had a moment and it’s behind us. That’s what happens. It’s a common situation in the league.

“We all were hurting, seething, to go through what we went through last year, not being able to overcome all that adversity. Sometimes you lose perspective because you expect to win, but the reality is we were able to talk and discuss what we can improve on from last year. And also keep perspective. We went through a ton of stuff.”

First off, what else was Nash going to say? He knows the power dynamic in the NBA, and Durant has far more leverage than he does — not enough to get Nash fired this summer, but still more than the coach.

Second, Nash could be telling the truth from his perspective. NBA players and coaches understand better than anyone this is a business and things are rarely personal. Grudges are not held like fans think they are (most of the time). Nash saw Durant’s move for what it was — an effort to create pressure — and can intellectually shrug it off, reach out to KD and talk about the future.

What this brings into question was one of the Nets’ biggest issues last season — mental toughness and togetherness. Do the Nets have the will to fight through adversity and win as a team? Individually Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nash and others have shown that toughness in the past, but as a team it was not that hard to break the will of the Nets last season. Are their relationships strong enough, is their will strong enough this season?

It feels like we will find out early. If the wheels come off the Nets’ season, it feels like it will happen early and by Christmas things could be a full-on dumpster fire. Or maybe Nash is right and they are stronger than we think.