Will Barton

Nuggets Mike Malone on Seth Curry, Will Barton dust up: ‘It’s playoff basketball’

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Seth Curry thought it was “sassy.”

Emotions were high, and there was a little pushing and shoving after Nikola Jokic picked up an offensive foul that sent Zach Collins to the ground and into the knees of Will Barton, who took exception to that, then Curry took exception to Barton, and there was a lot of posturing and a couple of pushes. Four guys got technicals. After the game, Curry said the Nuggets have some “sassy dudes over there” and called the Nuggets “frontrunners.”

Denver coach Mike Malone saw it differently, basically telling everyone “you thought this was tough?” Via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“To me, that’s weak,” Malone said Saturday…. “If that’s chippiness, I mean … I grew up in a much different time in the NBA. If that’s chippiness and you want to call it ‘sassy,’ go ahead. But to me, it’s a joke…

“It’s Will Barton protecting himself from a guy falling into his knees,” said Malone, whose father was an assistant during the Detroit Pistons’ “Bad Boys” days. “It’s Seth Curry taking offense to it. They get into a little minor skirmish — move on. Game 7 will be hard-fought. It will be emotional because of what’s at stake. I don’t think it’s going to be a carry-over from what happened in last game. It’s playoff basketball. It should be a hard-fought game. It should be physical. It should be teams protecting each other.

“Again, that’s a different era when you think about my father when he was with the ‘Bad Boys’ and all that. That [incident in Game 6] was nothing in my opinion.”

Malone is right.

Granted there’s a little “get off my lawn” in there, about how things were tougher back in his day. Except they were. The NBA let the physicality go, the Bad Boy Pistons pushed that envelope, and every team had guys out there to bang bodies and be physical. Different era, the rules were enforced differently, and it led to a different style of basketball. (A slow, dragging, isolation-heavy game that some people remember fondly because of Jordan and Iverson, but many nights was just a slog of ugly basketball and missed shots with the skill beat out of the game.)

It’s the playoffs, suck it up and move on. Game 7 should be physical and intense. That’s the point. Save the tough guy posturing for next season.

Will Barton reportedly irate about Seth Curry’s comment, amused by Evan Turner flipping off Nuggets

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Update: Apparently, Evan Turner copped to flipping off the Nuggets, but says he was provoked.

Jason Quick of The Athletic:

Another Twitter used provided visual evidence:

 

 

Zach Collins fell into Will Barton. Barton kept his balance by pushing Collins. Seth Curry pushed Barton. Barton pushed Curry. A minor fracas ensued and drew four technical fouls.

Everything has only escalated since that moment late in the Trail Blazers’ Game 6 win over the Nuggets yesterday.

After the game, Curry said:

“He waited for a few people to get in between us, and when a few people were in between us, he put his finger in my eye,” Curry said of Barton. “You know what I’m saying. I can’t allow people to put their fingers in my eye.

“That’s real sassy. They got a few sassy dudes over there. Front-runners. And we can’t allow that.”

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Barton was irate when he heard Curry’s remarks, sources told Yahoo Sports. He was convinced Curry was trying to play a tough-guy role he was not capable of or qualified to pull off.

Evan Turner also flipped off the Nuggets after assisting C.J. McCollum‘s dagger 3-pointer, according to Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.

Turner gestured toward Denver’s bench, but McCollum was standing between. Maybe Turner was just signaling to McCollum. On the telecast, it’s unclear whether Turner is even sticking up his middle finger:

Kiszla:

Shown a photo taken by The Denver Post of Turner giving the Nuggets that one-finger salute, guard Will Barton was amused.

Dial up the tension for Game 7 Sunday. There are enough slights here, real or imagined, to fuel both teams.

Seth Curry calls Nuggets ‘sassy,’ ‘front-runners’ after skirmish (video)

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Late in the Trail Blazers’ Game 6 win over the Nuggets yesterday, Seth Curry and Will Barton pushed each other then got in each other’s faces. Those two, Zach Collins and Torrey Craig all received technical fouls.

Curry, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“He waited for a few people to get in between us, and when a few people were in between us, he put his finger in my eye,” Curry said of Barton. “You know what I’m saying. I can’t allow people to put their fingers in my eye.

“That’s real sassy. They got a few sassy dudes over there. Front-runners. And we can’t allow that.”

These teams are getting tired of each other – just in time for Game 7, which should make that even more fun.

Playoff Edition Three Things to Know: Dominant Kawhi Leonard will not let Raptors fold

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The NBA playoffs are reaching critical stages and there can be a lot to unpack with a few intense games every night, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Dominant Kawhi Leonard will not let Raptors fold, evens series with Sixers 2-2. We have seen this movie before, the one where the Toronto Raptors look on paper to be the team to beat in the East, but when faced with real adversity — previously in the form of LeBron James, this year in the form of Joel Embiid and Philadelphia — they come apart. The star players miss key shots, the role players fade, the defense stumbles, and the house of cards crumbles.

Sunday on the road, down 2-1 in a series where Philly had won two in a row and looked in Game 3 like they had figured things out, was the kind of moment where the Raptors have faded before.

Kawhi Leonard flipped the script and did this.

Leonard scored 39 points, drained 5-of-7 from three (8-of-12 on shots outside the paint), did not flinch in the clutch, terrorized Ben Simmons on defense, and lifted up his teammates — who gave him some help — to get a 101-96 road win.

Philadelphia and Toronto are now tied 2-2, making this a best of three that moves to Toronto on Tuesday.

This is why the Raptors rolled the dice on Leonard in a trade. It was challenging to get a feel for these Raptors at points during the season because of the words “load management, but this is why they went down that road — because peak Leonard changes the course of games, series, and franchises. In his last six games, Leonard has averaged 35.5 points per game on 62.5 percent shooting, hitting 52.6 percent from three and killing it all over the floor. If it wasn’t for that lanky scorer in the Bay Area, we’d be saying Leonard is the best player in these playoffs.

He’s doing it and, it seems, barely breaking a sweat in the process.

“I think that’s not fair to the Sixers,” Leonard said after Game 4. “I’m definitely breaking a sweat out there.”

Leonard’s play lifted up the other Raptors. This is the Kyle Lowry the Raptors need every game, attacking and aggressive on his way to 14 points and 7 rebounds, Marc Gasol had his best game of the series (16 points), Serge Ibaka stepped up into the minutes an injured Pascal Siakam could not and played well, and Danny Green hit shots and made plays.

Joel Embiid — still battling a virus we learned — did not put up huge numbers (11 points, eight rebounds) but his defense remains critical to Philly’s chances.

The Sixers just need to do better when Embiid sits, and Greg Monroe appears not to be the long-term answer to that. While one-game plus/minus is a flawed stat, it’s worth noting the Sixers were +17 in Embiid’s 35+ minutes, but in the 12.8 minutes he sat they were -22.

Jimmy Butler had 29 points on 18 shots to lead Philadelphia.

The Sixers have tried to make it hard on Leonard — look at that dagger shot above, it’s a step-back three over Embiid’s outstretched arm, how many guys in the league could hit that? — it just hasn’t mattered. Leonard has been brilliant, and when he gets a little help the Raptors are the deeper team in this series, and it shows.

Leonard and these Raptors felt like they were changing the movie ending on Sunday. If they can do it again Tuesday we will all start to buy in.

2) Denver is learning fast, wins Game 4 on the road to even series with Portland. This was supposed to be a learning experience playoffs for a young Denver team. This was one of the NBA’s youngest teams and its core guys — Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, in particular — had never been in the playoffs. There were going to be hard lessons that they would learn from.

Or, maybe they are more ready than we think.

For the second series in a row, these young Nuggets got down 2-1 and then won tough Game 4 on the road. Tired legs from Game 3 be damned, Denver got 34 points from Murray and a triple double — 21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists — from Jokic, and the Nuggets got a 116-112 win on the road in Portland.

This series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 back in Denver on Tuesday.

This has been a series all about offense, which means the team that can get even a few key stops has a massive advantage. Denver did that in the third quarter of Game 4, holding Portland to just 14 points in the quarter on 35.1 percent shooting. Led by C.J. McCollum (11 points in the fourth) and Damian Lillard (15) the Trail Blazers made a comeback, they scored 35 points as a team in the fourth. However, down the stretch, Portland could not get stops. Murray had 12, Will Barton hit a couple of key threes, and the Nuggets scored 32 in the fourth to hang on and get the win.

This is the most entertaining series in the second round because these teams are so evenly matched. That was obvious in the 4OT game, but in this Game 4 it was more of the same: Denver had one more made field goal (40-39) but Portland had one more made three (12-11), with Denver making just three more free throws. It’s so close. And in those games it will come down to the little things.

And getting a few stops.

3) Jamal Murray had THE shot of the day on Sunday. If not for Lillard’s ridiculous closeout shot against Oklahoma City, this might be the best shot of the playoffs — Denver’s Jamal Murray with an opening moments over-the-backboard bucket.

After that, you kind of had a feeling it was going to be Denver’s day.

Nuggets survive late push from Blazers to even series, 2-2

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As we know with any playoff series, what adjustments the losing coach makes heading into the next game is really what makes or breaks any team’s chances to advance. To his credit, Nuggets coach Mike Malone fixated on something Portland wasn’t expecting.

When Portland wings got the ball near the sideline and with the shot clock halved, Malone sent double-teams diagonally across the formation to put extra pressure on Blazers passers. That forced Portland into 14 turnovers compared to Denver’s eight, and created low quality looks at the basket. The Blazers shot 10 fewer field goal attempts then the Nuggets, and Malone’s defensive strategy was a big reason why.

Thus, Denver beat the Blazers, 116-112, in Game 4.

Portland was hampered by foul trouble, particularly with regard to Zach Collins, Moe Harkless, and Enes Kanter. The Blazers were -5 in foul disparity, pushing them to adapt when trying to guard Denver’s most effective players.

Damian Lillard struggled again, particularly from 3-point range, scoring 28 points but with 15 of them coming in the fourth quarter. A 91 percent free-throw shooter this year, Lillard missed two separate free throws in the fourth quarter, including one with 20 seconds to go that would have put Portland down by just two points and with the opportunity to foul.

Alternatively, Denver’s Jamal Murray was ice cold down the stretch, hitting six free throws in the final 13 seconds to seal the game against Portland. Murray finished with 34 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists. Paul Millsap played masterfully, scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds and two blocks. Nikola Jokic added a triple-double of 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

Denver churned out a win against Blazers team that didn’t have an answer for their defensive strategy. But at their core, the Nuggets didn’t instill a lot of confidence in how they played outside of their star players. For all its good play from their top players, Denver didn’t get much out of its supporting cast. Only one bench player scored in double figures, and even though he contributed some big 3-pointers, former Trail Blazer Will Barton shot 28.5 percent from the field.

Portland’s coaching staff won’t lay down, and with things all square heading back to Colorado, we should expect that this series could get even more interesting as the Blazers find solutions to Malone’s defensive counter.

Terry Stotts’ team continues to survive on the good play of injured players, including Kanter and Harkless. That will be something to watch as well, as the amount of punishment their aching soft tissues can take could eventually reach a limit. But really, the Blazers aren’t in that much of a disadvantaged position.

Portland will head back to the drawing board, and likely find they need two things. First, a strategy to counter the sideline and high traps Denver threw at them on Sunday. Second, a tactical shift in how they rebound the ball. The Blazers have been in jumping matches for loose rebounds with the Nuggets all series long, and some late examples in Game 4 suggest that simply boxing out instead of playing volleyball would help them greatly between 2-8 feet.

The Nuggets looked shaky often times during their seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs. Things have not changed for Denver despite their intestinal fortitude against Portland on Sunday. Murray’s big night and Jokic’s triple-double belie the fact that, save for a missed rebound here or there, and one of the NBA’s best free-throw takers missing a couple late, they could be down 3-1 instead of tied.

The Blazers were almost able to undeservedly steal Game 4. Malone and his staff should be happy their big plan worked, but they’ll be in the gym tomorrow working to make sure the rest of the Nuggets team can contribute more next week.

Game 5 is on Tuesday back in Denver at 7:30 pm.