NBA

Jokic drops another 30-piece as Nuggets snap their four-game skid, Sabonis posts 20-20 in Kings win

By Sports Desk March 16, 2023

Reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic prioritised his scoring to help the Denver Nuggets snap their four-game losing streak on Thursday.

Jokic posted a game-high 30 points to go with 10 rebounds and nine assists as his Nuggets came back from an early deficit to defeat the Detroit Pistons 119-100 on the road.

Denver trailed by six at half-time, but went on to outscore the Pistons 61-36 the rest of the way, and Jokic was leaving nothing to chance.

Between December 30 and March 10, Jokic had only one game where he made at least 14 field goals. He has now reached that figure in three of his past four outings, and over that span he has put up averages of 32.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 9.5 assists to try and shake the Nuggets out of their mini-slump.

A big reason for their recent dip in form has been the play of second-star Jamal Murray, who came into the contest after shooting 19-of-58 (32.8 per cent) over his past three. He was not at his scoring best against the Pistons, but he was a worthy contributor, chipping in 19 points (seven-of-15 shooting) with 10 assists and six rebounds.

On the other side, it was an eye-opening performance off the bench from rookie Jalen Duren, piling up 15 points (seven-of-10 shooting), 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals in his 27 minutes.

The victory improves Denver's Western Conference-leading record to 47-23, while the 16-55 Pistons own the league's worst record and the best odds at landing the number one draft pick.

Sabonis shines as Kings remain one of the league's hottest teams

Domantas Sabonis was the star of the show as his Sacramento Kings fought off the gritty Brooklyn Nets for a 101-96 road win.

No team in the NBA has a better record over their past 10 games than the Kings' 8-2 mark, and they were propelled Thursday by Sabonis' 24 points (eight-of-14 shooting), 21 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. In doing so, Sabonis broke Otis Thorpe's franchise record (1987-88 season) for the most rebounds in a single regular season (837).

Sacramento will be anxiously awaiting further news on starting wing Kevin Huerter after he left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, but they have plenty of wiggle room after taking sole possession of the West's second seed.

At 42-27, the Kings are 4.5 games behind the Nuggets, and 5.5 games clear of the play-in tournament placings.

Bucks defense goes missing in Pacers upset

One of the best defenses in the league had no answers for the Indiana Pacers as the Milwaukee Bucks fell in a surprising 139-123 upset.

The Bucks looked on course to add to their league-best 50 wins after piling on 40 points in the first quarter, but they undid all their good work by allowing the Pacers to score 84 in the second half.

Eight Pacers scored double-figures, led by Andrew Nembhard's 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting, while the highlight of the game came from Myles Turner's posterising dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee (50-20) sit two games clear atop the East, with the Boston Celtics (48-22) their closest competitor in the race for the league's best record.

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    San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama was unanimously selected to the NBA's All-Rookie first team.

    The NBA revealed its All-Rookie teams on Monday, and Wembanyama's inclusion was hardly a surprise, considering he was unanimously named the league's Rooke of the Year two weeks ago.

    Oklahoma City Thunder big man Chet Holgmren, who finished second to Wembanyama in rookie of the year voting, was also a unanimous selection to the NBA's All-rookie first team, appearing on all 99 ballots.

    Joining Wembanyama and Holmgren on the first team are Charlotte Hornets guard-forward Brandon Miller, Miami Heat forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Golden State Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski.

    Jaquez, who also appeared on all 99 ballots, finished fourth in All-rookie team voting with Miller finishing third and Podziemski in fifth. 

    The NBA All-Rookie second team includes Derek Lively II of the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets' Amen Thompson, the Memphis Grizzlies' GG Jackson II, the Thunder's Cason Wallace and Keyonte George of the Utah Jazz.

    Wembanyama, who became the first player to unanimously win NBA Rookie of the Year honours since Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015-16, averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and a league-leading 3.6 blocks in 71 games in 2023-24.

    After finishing second to Minnesota's Rudy Gobert in voting for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award two weeks ago, Wembanyama seems like a lock to be named to this season's All-Defensive team, which will be revealed Tuesday.

    If he is named to either the All-Defensive team or All-NBA team, which is announced Wednesday, he'll be the first rookie to do so since fellow Spurs star Tim Duncan in 1998.

  • 'It's a failure, not fatal' - Malone rallies Nuggets after Wolves defeat 'It's a failure, not fatal' - Malone rallies Nuggets after Wolves defeat

    Michael Malone reflects on a hard end to the season after the Minnesota Timberwolves pulled off a historic comeback to beat the Denver Nuggets.

    The Nuggets let a 20-point lead slip in the third quarter at home to lose 98-90 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals as the Timberwolves denied them a chance at a second straight league title.

    Minnesota trailed 53-38 at half-time – the largest deficit a Game 7 winner has overcome in NBA post-season history.

    Asked what went wrong in the second half, Malone did not have too many answers.

    "That's what's hard," Malone said. "F*** being up 20. Season's over. It's hard."

    "This is just a momentary delay. It's a failure, it's not fatal. We'll be back.

    "The better team won, so I'm taking nothing away from Minnesota ... but mentally, emotionally, physically, I think guys are gassed. They're dead tired.

    "They gave me everything I could ever ask for, and that's why as much as this hurts, I'll walk out of this building tonight with my head held very high."

    Denver dropped the first two games of the series at home but won the next three to get themselves back on track to challenge for a repeat NBA title.

    Jamal Murray scored 35 points for the Nuggets, while Nikola Jokic added 34, but the former thinks the team were just lacking an edge at the end of the game.

    "Just mentally and physically, conjuring up the energy to fight like you're being hunted," Murray said. "I think that's the emotion.

    "When you're the hunter, you have so much more motivation and you grasp on to anything to prove everybody wrong and you have a constant chip on your shoulder.

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  • NBA: Wolves oust Nuggets, Pacers take out Knicks NBA: Wolves oust Nuggets, Pacers take out Knicks

    The Denver Nuggets will not be a repeat NBA champion, thanks to a historic comeback by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Minnesota rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to come through with a shocking 98-90 road victory in Sunday's Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinal to deny Denver a chance at a second straight league title.

    Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels each scored 23 points, while Anthony Edwards recovered from a dismal first half to put up 16 points as the third-seeded Timberwolves advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2004. Minnesota will host the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who ousted the No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in six games, in Game 1 on Wednesday.

    The Timberwolves' 15-point half-time deficit was the largest a Game 7 winner has overcome in NBA post-season history.

    Minnesota trailed 53-38 at half-time and fell further behind when the second-seeded Nuggets scored the first five points of the third quarter, then began finding its stride to reverse momentum.

    The Timberwolves got back into it via a 15-1 run, capped by 3-pointers from McDaniels and Mike Conley, to close the gap to 59-53 midway through the third. Edwards, who had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting through two quarters, later closed out the period with a 3-pointer to cut Denver's lead to 67-66 entering the fourth.

    Conley's 3-pointer with 9:26 left to play put Minnesota ahead for good at 75-72, and the Timberwolves pulled away from there behind a defence that held the Nuggets to 37 points and under 36 per cent shooting in the second half.

    Minnesota put the game away with a late 7-0 run Edwards capped with a 3-pointer off a Denver turnover that extended its advantage to 92-82 with three minutes left.

    Jamal Murray led Denver with 35 points, though 24 of those came in the first half and the star guard was 4 of 12 from 3-point range on the night.

    League MVP Nikola Jokić amassed 34 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists while accounting for 14 of the Nuggets' 23 points in the fourth quarter. 

     Pacers set NBA play-off shooting record to eliminate Knicks in Game 7

    The Indiana Pacers rose to the occasion in Game 7, and rode a shooting performance for the ages in advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in a decade.

    The New York Knicks couldn’t keep up with the Pacers’ scorching shooting and couldn’t recover after losing their best player.

    The Pacers shot an NBA playoff-record 67.1 per cent from the floor in Sunday’s 130-109 win at Madison Square Garden to eliminate the Knicks.

    Tyrese Haliburton led the way with 26 points, while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard each scored 20 for Indiana, which advanced to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

    The sixth-seeded Pacers, who had lost Games 1, 2 and 5 at Madison Square Garden, are in the East finals for the first time since 2014, when they lost to the Miami Heat.

    Trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000, the Knicks played the final quarter without Jalen Brunson after he suffered a fractured left hand.

    Brunson had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting and nine assists before exiting after averaging 31.8 points and 5.7 assists in the first six games of the series.

    Donte DiVincenzo tried to carry New York’s offence, finishing with a play-off career-high 39 points while making 9-of-15 3-pointers, but the Pacers’ hot shooting made it virtually impossible for the Knicks to stay close.

    Indiana shot a blistering 76.2 per cent in the first quarter, connecting on 16 of 21 shots – including 7 of 9 from 3-point range – to take a 39-27 lead after 12 minutes.

    Haliburton led the early onslaught, draining four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points in the opening period, while Siakam made his first five shots and had 11 first-quarter points.

    The torrid shooting continued into the second quarter, as the Pacers made 26 of their first 32 shots (81.3 per cent), and ended up shooting 76.3 per cent in the first half – the best by any team in the playoffs since 1997, when the NBA began tracking play-by-play for all four quarters.

    After taking a 70-55 lead into half-time, the Pacers missed four of their first five shots of the third quarter and the Knicks were able to cut the deficit to six.

    Indiana, however, responded with a 20-7 run to regain control and increase its lead to 93-74 late in the period. The Pacers took a 101-84 advantage into the fourth. 

    Brunson’s broken hand was the latest injury setback for the Knicks, who were without Julius Randle (right shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (left ankle) and Bojan Bogdanovic (left foot).

    OG Anunoby returned to the starting lineup after missing the last four games, but played just five minutes before aggravating his strained left hamstring and sat out the rest of the game.

    By failing to close out the Pacers, it’s now been 24 seasons without an appearance in the conference finals for the Knicks – the third-longest active drought in the NBA behind the Washington Wizards (45) and Charlotte Hornets (34).

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