Shootaround (Feb. 14): Nuggets dig deep to upset Warriors
Nuggets refuse to fold vs. Warriors | Report: Smith could return in 3 weeks | Aldridge upset over Spurs’ lack of All-Stars | Magic clarifies ‘call the shots’ talk | Simmons may not suit up in 2016-17
No. 1: Short-handed Nuggets refuse to fold vs. Warriors — On paper, last night’s Warriors-Nuggets game in Denver seemed like one where Golden State would trump a young team with a barrage of 3-pointers. Denver, however, wasn’t about to just fold it up and instead gave Golden State a taste of its own medicine with 24 3-pointers, a mark that tied an NBA record. Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post has more on one of Denver’s biggest wins this season:
Before Monday night’s 132-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors, Nuggets coach Michael Malone shrugged his shoulders and dismissed the notion that his short-handed team didn’t have an opportunity to shock the NBA world.
“Whoever’s available, let’s go out there and play, man,” he said. “Don’t go out there defeated. Go out there and accept the challenge. Let’s go out there and play with the belief that we can win this game.”
Well, they did. And then some.
Playing the most inspired basketball of the season, the Nuggets — minus Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur, Emmanuel Mudiay and new acquisition Mason Plumlee — pulled off what most thought would be impossible.
The Nuggets not only won, but thoroughly whipped last season’s Western Conference champions on an electric night at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets’ signature win of the season got its juice from record-setting 3-point shooting.
Not that Nikola Jokic was buying any signature win talk.
“First of all I don’t know nothing about a signature win,” Jokic said. “I really don’t know. I just wanted to win the game — every game.”
The Nuggets’s statistics were eye-catching:
– Juancho Hernangomez with a season and career high 27 points. He made six 3-pointers. He also had a career-high 10 rebounds.
– Nikola Jokic had his second career triple-double with 17 points, a career-high 21 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists.
– Jameer Nelson had a season-high 23 points.
– Will Barton had another double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds.
It was that kind of night.
“Guys really got after it,” Barton said. “We knew we were down men and we just wanted to bring a big-time effort.”
The game was so well in hand that Golden State didn’t bother to play its stars, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant, in the fourth quarter at all. The Warriors’ second unit did cut into the lead, getting it down to nine, but the Nuggets quickly pushed it back to 17 and held on from there to cap a special night.
“It’s crazy,” Harris said. “It makes you want to get the ball and shoot it because it just feels like… if we shoot like that not many teams can beat us.”
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No. 2: Report: Cavs’ Smith could be back in 3 weeks — The Cleveland Cavaliers understandably concerned after getting word that All-Star forward Kevin Love is seeking a second opinion on his left knee injury. While they wait for word on what’s next for him, they are getting closer to having another key player — shooting guard J.R. Smith — back in the lineup soon. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin and Chris Haynes have more:
Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith, who is on target for a mid-March return, could take the court in as soon as three weeks in his comeback from a right thumb fracture, league sources told ESPN.
The sharpshooter is progressing well in his recovery from the injury that he sustained in late December, sources said. Barring an unforeseen setback, Smith will be back on the floor next month.
At the time of his injury, it was not anticipated that Smith would return to the lineup before late March or early April.
A team source told ESPN that Smith will have his right thumb reimaged during the All-Star break, and that could adjust his timeline. Asked to characterize Smith’s rehab process so far, the source said, “great.”
Smith is shooting with the injured hand without severe pain, sources said. He is in the process of strengthening the wrist and thumb area along with trying to get his conditioning up to speed, a source said.
Assuming Smith is able to return by mid-March, he would have roughly 16 games to regain his form before the postseason begins.
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No. 3: Aldridge: ‘Wrong’ for Warriors to have four All-Stars to Spurs’ one — Just like last season, the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors are leading the way in the Western Conference. Unlike a season ago, however, the Spurs have just one player representing them at the 2017 NBA All-Star Game (Kawhi Leonard), whereas last season they had two (Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge). Golden State, on the other hand, has one more All-Star than it did a season ago. That discrepancy wasn’t lost on Aldridge, who chimed in on it and more in an interview with The Vertical’s Michael Lee:
Going from a leading man to part of a super ensemble comes with its challenges, but Aldridge continues to adjust and has finally settled into a role in a share-the-wealth system that is foreign to what he had known his first nine seasons in the league. That championship still eludes him after the first season in his home-state return ended with a second-round thud. But the Spurs have been racking up regular-season wins at a record-breaking pace for the storied franchise, going 108-28 since luring Aldridge in a rare free-agent coup.
Aldridge has done his part, sacrificing the chase for gaudy statistics to be part of a machine that again has the league’s second-best record. That success warrants greater consideration for Kawhi Leonard as MVP but certainly doesn’t come on the back of a one-man show. And as…