Sacramento Kings ‘Absolute chaos’, overtime, Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons


The Sacramento Kings have just pulled off a piece of daylight robbery to deny the Denver Nuggets on the road as the teams played their first games of the season.

The Kings are traditionally in the also-rans at the end of the season but pulled off a massive scalp on opening night against the 2019-20 conference finalists.

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But not only the victory but the way it was won that caught the attention of the NBA.

The 124-122 overtime came with six seconds left when the throw in to Nikola Jokic was knocked free by Harrison Barnes.

He was passed the ball and appeared headed for a game-winning dunk, but the ball bounced off the rim as Will Barton wasn’t about to give up on the game and came up huge in defence.

The ball bounced back — straight towards Buddy Heild, who tipped it in just as the bell rang out.

The Kings went wild, with players running onto the floor and straight off the court.

The chance for the Kings came after a block from De’Aaron Fox that set up the grandstand finish.

“When guys can see it and feel it, to me it carries a lot more weight than us just constantly preaching and showing film on it,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “To get a block and a steal to come down and beat one of the best teams in the league on their home court, I sure hope reinforces that idea that we have to be able to get stops down the stretch to win games.”

It was a tough finish for the Nuggets and especially Jokic who recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 15 rebounds and 14 assists in a monster game but it wasn’t enough.

It was the Kings’ first win in Denver since January 2017, ending a six-game losing streak.

FILTHY WESTBROOK MOVE PANTSES SIMMONS

Russell Westbrook’s debut for the Washington Wizards has left Ben Simmons looking foolish but the Aussie superstar has had the last laugh as his Philadelphia 76ers opened the season with a 113-107 win.

Although the likes of Seth Curry and Danny Green who were brought in to take the shooting pressure off Simmons and Joel Embiid, the pair were only able to muster one-from-nine from beyond the arc.

But it didn’t matter with Simmons and Embiid leading the way as the Doc Rivers era in Philadelphia got off to a good start.

Embiid had 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Simmons had 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as well as two steals and three blocks as the season started with a W.

But midway through the third quarter, Simmons went to ground looking for an offensive foul with Westbrook hitting a step back jumper while he was on the ground.

Westbrook claimed a triple-double, becoming the first player to reach the feat in the first three quarters of a season opener in the past 25 years.

Westbrook notched the 147th triple-double of his career as he chases Oscar Robertson’s NBA record of 181.

He finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists, but Simmons also got his own back when he was left unguarded in the paint late in the final quarter.

Bradley Beal added 31 points for the Wizards, but Embiid scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.

with AFP



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Nuggets to sanitize your gobbler by


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On the roster: Nuggets to sanitize your gobbler by – Time Out: The Wonder (Bread) of it all Georgia to certify election for Biden – Biden huddles with Pelosi, Schumer – Holy See, indeed

NUGGETS TO SANITIZE YOUR GOBBLER BY
You’re probably busy basting your turkey with Purell or feeling guilty about being so glad that you don’t have to have dinner next week with whichever of your relatives annoy you the most.

It is, after a wait of many years, finally a relatively slow news time. There are huge stories, yes, but not much in the way of exciting developments. We’re all just waiting now for a new Congress and a new president to take office, or at least get their bearings straight so we know which way they are going to go.

We are reminded these days of the story about the famous author who received an unsolicited manuscript from an aspiring novelist. The great man wrote back to this effect: “I have received your manuscript and it is both original and good. Unfortunately, the parts that are good are not original and the parts that are original are not good.”

That’s how it is these days as we tell the same stories about a virus rampaging through the nation and an administration in meltdown after an electoral defeat. It’s too bad, but it being Friday, perhaps we could look about a bit for some news nuggets to distract us.

Happy birthday Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., born on this day in 1942… now, if only we could remember in which working-class Pennsylvania city he was born. At 78 years and 61 days upon inauguration, Biden will be the oldest person to ever serve as president – 77 days older than Ronald Reagan was when he left office. It’s funny to think about how perceptions of age have changed as Baby Boomers have gotten older. Many of the 80 million Americans or so who voted for Biden this year were the same ones scoffing in 1980 that someone as ancient as 69 years of age could actually become president.

It would seem that the outgoing administration is cooking up a doozy of a birthday present for Biden. As we talked about on Thursday, the world is waiting to see how far President Trump will go to hobble Biden before the 46th president takes office. We were talking about questions surrounding a long-term federal spending package, trimmed with some coronavirus themed goodies. But just after we published, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Treasury Department is cutting off short-term business loans and other corona relief measures deemed essential by the Federal Reserve and other economists. As one market analyst put it, “Mnuchin decides to quit and take his toys with him. Wow.” If you thought the Clintonistas popping the “W” keys out of their White House computers was bad, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

You’ll read below about the grinding march toward election certification, but suffice it to say that things are not going the way the president and his legal team would like. They still insist, however, that there is a “path to victory.” That path winds through the White House today as the president will try to persuade Michigan Republican legislative leaders to overturn the results of the state’s election. Even if they were willing, it seems unlikely that they can convince a large enough number of their fellows into such an audacious act – especially given an inevitable veto from the state’s Democratic governor. But think about this: Even if Trump could convince Republican legislators in enough states to hand him the election, does he think that the House would actually accept the electors? And even if they did, would he really like to attempt a second term having used political chicanery to reverse the election’s outcome? Sounds like bar talk to us. 

Whenever Trump tires of his gambit or reaches the point where Republicans are willing to rupture their party to stop the damage, there will still be a Trump dynasty to think of. None of his four adult children seem like likely heirs to his political legacy given their struggles during his administration or the skepticism with which major donors and party elders would view them. His daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, though seems to be a genuine political talent. She has managed to avoid the pitfalls that ensnared other Trumps while still showing absolute obedience to her father-in-law’s mercurial messaging. Friends of the first daughter in law tell the NYT that she is looking at the North Carolina Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Burr. She’s a native North Carolinian and would immediately box out other nationalist candidates with her famous name and funding sources. Sorry Mark Meadows.

Speaking of future political ambitions, Vice President Mike Pence is in swing-state Georgia to rally Republicans behind the state’s two endangered senators. Pence will visit Canton and Gainesville in ruby-red North Georgia where he will urge his fellow Republicans to “save the Republican majority.” Pence has done an impressive job of seeming to be the vice president from an alternate universe. Just think about Pence’s comments after Trump’s post-election rambling rant about massive fraud and theft. Pence didn’t echo Trump’s claims and instead made the kind of remarks a candidate would after a close election. Pence is indeed one of the few Republicans who can make a credible claim that he could retain a healthy chunk of the nationalists and populists of the Trump wing while shoring up the conservatives and moderates that Trump himself turned off. Pence is easy to overlook, but the cast of thousands lining up for a 2024 primary field will underestimate him at their peril.

THE RULEBOOK: HANDLE WITH CARE
“The power of making treaties is an important one, especially as it relates to war, peace, and commerce; and it should not be delegated but in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest security that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good.” – John Jay, writing about the powers of the Senate, Federalist No. 64

TIME OUT: THE WONDER (BREAD) OF IT ALL
A brief, beautiful culinary memoir from food writer Nicole Johnson. Bon Appétit: “My mother was a drug addict. She ran off to California with a boyfriend when I was a baby. A few years later, she died in her apartment in Van Nuys of a drug overdose. My older brother and I were raised by my grandparents and our foster mother, Esther. Time was divided between the middle-class neighborhood just north of Boston where my grandparents lived and my foster mother’s apartment in a housing project just up the hill. It was in the time spent between those two homes that I learned the differences between the haves and the have-nots, and nowhere was this more apparent than in the kitchen. … What my grandmother didn’t know was that I liked meals at Esther’s more. Unlike my grandmother, who felt obliged to cook, Esther relished the time we spent mixing up ingredients in a large, chipped plaster bowl, putting meals together…”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

GEORGIA TO CERTIFY ELECTION FOR BIDEN
AP: “Georgia’s top elections official said Friday that he will certify that Joe Biden won the state’s presidential election after a hand tally stemming from a mandatory audit affirmed the Democrat’s lead over Republican President Donald Trump. The hand count affirmed Biden won by more than 12,000 votes out of about 5 million cast, according to data released by Raffensperger’s office Thursday. ‘Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by the motto that numbers don’t lie,’ Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said during a news conference at the state Capitol. ‘As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct. The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state’s office or of courts or of either campaign.’ State law requires Raffensperger to certify the election results by 5 p.m. Friday. Then, Gov. Brian Kemp has until 5 p.m. Saturday to certify the state’s slate of 16 presidential electors.”

Meanwhile Republicans fall deeper into deeper infighting – AJC: “Now, a state party already riven by the rivalry between U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins for much of the year is plunged into deeper infighting ahead of Jan. 5 runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate. This conflict has bloodied the state’s top elections official, who has gone from a low-profile GOP figure whose name most Georgians could hardly pronounce a few weeks ago to a human litmus test on politics in the Trump-era. To some, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is a hero for defending the integrity of a vote that featured no widespread fraud. To others who believe Trump’s claims, he’s an easy target of derision, the man who allowed the election to be rigged for Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia. The latter view has drawn top Georgia Republicans, who have fixated on Trump’s false narrative that the election was stolen.”

BIDEN HUDDLES WITH PELOSI, SCHUMER
AP: “President-elect Joe Biden is set to hold his first in-person meeting since winning the election with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Friday. The incoming Democratic president will host the top Democrats in the House and Senate at his makeshift transition headquarters in a downtown Wilmington, Delaware, theater. Their discussion is expected to be private, although the immediate challenges they face are no secret. The new governing team is already facing intense pressure to approve another COVID-19 relief bill, come up with a clear plan to distribute millions of doses of a prospective vaccine, and Biden is just days away from unveiling the first of his Cabinet picks, which are subject to Senate confirmation.”

House Dems demand briefing from GSA chief – Politico: “Four senior House Democrats are demanding that GSA Administrator Emily Murphy brief them Monday on the reason she has yet to ascertain Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election, warning that her answers will determine whether they intend to haul her to Capitol Hill for a public hearing, along with other senior General Services Administration officials. ‘We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer,’ said House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey, in a four-page letter joined by Reps. Gerry Connolly and Mike Quigley. Biden’s team can’t begin accessing federal resources to aid the transition until Murphy makes an official ‘ascertainment’ of his victory, a relatively routine step based on the unofficial but clear results of a presidential election. As Trump has contested the election results, Murphy has withheld a decision despite enormous pressure from Democrats to begin the process.”

Drug giant Pfizer seeks approval for December vaccine launch – AP: “Pfizer said [today] it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month and eventually an end to the pandemic — but not until after a long, hard winter. The action comes days after Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech announced that its vaccine appears 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19 disease in a large, ongoing study. The companies said that protection plus a good safety record means the vaccine should qualify for emergency use authorization, something the Food and Drug Administration can grant before the final testing is fully complete. In addition to Friday’s FDA submission, they have already started ‘rolling’ applications in Europe and the U.K. and intend to submit similar information soon.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Twin N.Y. probes target Trump write offs NYT

Trump to announce feds will peg prescription costs to single-payer nations – WSJ

Trump’s bid to exclude illegal immigrants from Census may be done by demand for fast finish – Roll Call

AUDIBLE: DRIP, DRIP, DRIP
“Democracy dyes in darkness.” – Robert A. George, from Bloomberg Opinion, tweeted with a photo of Rudy Giuliani’s hair dye dripping down his face.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield and Dr. Tom Inglesby from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

HOLY SEE, INDEED
Guardian: “The Vatican said it was seeking explanations from Instagram after Pope Francis’s official account liked a photo of a scantily dressed Brazilian model. It is unclear when the photo of Natalia Garibotto was given an endorsement by the pope’s verified account, but the ‘like’ was still visible on 13 November before being unliked the next day, according to the Catholic News Agency (CNA). COY Co, Garibotto’s management company, made the most of the publicity and reposted the image on its own Instagram account last Friday saying the company had ‘received the POPE’S OFFICIAL BLESSING’. Garibotto, who has 2.4 million Instagram followers, is also reported to have joked: ‘At least I’m going to heaven.’ Citing sources close to the Vatican’s press office, CNA said an investigation was under way to determine how the photo came to be liked. A team of people manage the pope’s various social media accounts.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“For those three months of endless summer, Marcel and I were inseparable, vagabond brothers shuttling endlessly on our Schwinns from beach to beach, ballgame to ballgame.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about his brother, Marcel, in the Washington Post on Jan. 27, 2006.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.





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Jamal Murray’s Improved Finishing Was A Big Part Of His Playoffs Leap With Nuggets


The unexpectedly explosive and dramatic shooting duel which broke out last August between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell in the first-round playoff series between the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz cast a bright spotlight on the dazzling three-point shooting performances in which both players made developmental breakthroughs that elevated their respective games to the highest level of postseason play they had yet achieved in their young careers.

To call it a history-making showdown is no exaggeration, with Murray and Mitchell scoring the highest point total of two opposing players in NBA history, becoming just the third and fourth players after Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson with multiple 50-point games in the same series, and hitting other record-setting milestones in the process.

By September 1, at the end of the first two weeks of playoff action in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, not only were both Murray and Mitchell among the top-five scoring leaders – Mitchell at the top with 36.3 points per game in that window, and Murray fourth with 31.6 – but among high-volume three-point shooters averaging five or more attempts per game, they were in the top three in percentage from the arc as well – Murray leading this time with 53.3%, and Mitchell third with 51.6% – according to NBA.com (the source for all statistics used in this article).

Understandably, it was their surprisingly prolific three-point shooting, executed with such ridiculous accuracy, that got the lion’s share of the spotlight in coverage of the rival duo’s shootout.

In Murray’s specific case, however, there was another critical component of the leap he made in his scoring production and efficiency relative to previous performance: His improved finishing at the rim and in the paint.

Broadly speaking, there were two engines driving the recent surge in Murray’s postseason finishing game. The first is simply scoring at a higher percentage at the rim, or more specifically for our purposes here, in the restricted area (RA) of the paint, as well as in the non-restricted portion (non-RA) of the painted area.

As the chart above shows, Murray made a modest, but non-trivial improvement in his shooting at the rim from 62.3% in the 2019 playoffs to 65.9% in 2020, a 3.6% bump. In the non-RA paint, however, his percentage leapt all the way from a lowly 39.1% to a much more efficient 51.0%.

But that’s only part of the story, as the other key driver of Murray’s improved shooting in the paint was a shift toward a much more efficient shot distribution that would make Daryl Morey and the rest of the NBA analytics crew proud.

This chart depicting the percentage of Murray’s total shots he attempted from the restricted area versus in the non-RA paint shows how he increased his share of field goal attempts (FGA) at the rim from 21.0% to 25.4%, while slashing his non-RA paint FGAs from 25.4% of his total shots to just 13.7%.

This shift was one component in a larger shift from a less efficient to a more efficient shooting profile in which Murray ramped up higher-value shots at the rim and three-pointers while scaling back lower-value midrange attempts.

Nearly all basketball players would likely see improvements in their overall shooting percentages if they, as Murray did in the 2020 playoffs compared with 2019, cut out seven percent of their lower-efficiency midrange attempts and shifted them to the rim and three-point arc.

But it was Murray’s improvement in finishing in particular which really enabled him to transfer a significant portion of his shooting from the non-RA painted area to attempts taken closer to the hoop.

And even more specifically than that, it was his newfound ability – aided in part by the additional muscle he tacked on during the NBA coronavirus hiatus – to actually get to the rim more often, which allowed Murray to drastically cut down the floaters in the non-RA paint which had been among his more frequent less efficient shots in the 2019 playoffs.

The film below shows some of Murray’s missed floaters from his postseason outing last year.

One type of trouble he was (literally) running into frequently was getting cut off on his drives and ending up blocked off, with nowhere to go but just float up a prayer.

At times it almost seemed that Murray’s feet were a step ahead of his hesitating brain, with the intent to make it all the way to the rim betrayed by not yet having a well-conceived plan to get there.

The Jamal Murray who showed up in the bubble had a much crisper read on the floor, finding weak spots in the defense and mapping out his lanes for more decisive, slashing drives to the basket.

Murray may not be known for a lightning-quick first step or being the fastest guy on the court, but he has a kind of tricky speed which gets defenders off balance and opens up his route to the rim.

One of the biggest joys of Murray’s improved finishing is how seamlessly his creativity, cleverness and skill with the ball, footwork and touch on finishes have all completely come together.  

Murray’s added strength has helped him to optimize the use of his body as a shield against rim protectors as he cuts and spins his way to the hoop.

Rudy Gobert emerged as one of Murray’s favorite defensive targets in this line of attack, as seen here:

And here:

The growth in Murray’s ball handling skills has also served him well in becoming a better finisher. Whereas in the past he was more prone to dribbling around without much purpose, now in isolation he probes more purposefully, with a handle he trusts to go at defenders in ways he can weave and spin his way to the basket.

Jamal Murray’s display of improved finishing in the 2020 playoffs is incredibly encouraging for his continued development. The skills he’s employing to both get to the rim more and them score there at a higher percentage are durable, less subject to the slumps and streaks that can come with perimeter shooting.

Next season and beyond, Murray should be fully capable of replicating this brand of getting to the basket more consistently and finishing there both efficiently and with style. Or at the very least, this is far more likely to stick at or near the level of his playoff performance than his 45.3% three-point shooting, which will inevitably fall at least partway back to Earth.

And if he wants to be an All-Star (and he does) and crystalize the leap he made in the bubble, cementing his improved finishing will be a critical part of that process.



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Denver Nuggets defeat LA Lakers, punter loses $230k, cash out, reaction, NBA news


Sport has proved time and again it is the ultimate rollercoaster for those watching on. Even if you’re a fan of the teams or just a casual viewer, the thrill of any game can see the blood pressure rise.

When it comes to having money on the game however, the stakes are raised even higher and the pressure when watching on amplifies.

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For one punter on Wednesday he well and truly rode the emotional rollercoaster throughout the entirety of the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets game.

A regular punter with the TAB who isn’t afraid of shelling out the big bucks, opted to get behind the Lakers as they looked to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

His confidence was sky-high as he parted with $228,733 on the Lakers to win at $1.38 for a potential profit of $86,918.54.

Denver had other ideas however as they jumped out and held a 10-point lead at halftime. It forced the punter to cash out and look to reinvest his money.

Taking the cash out option available, the punter took the $97,624 on offer and threw it behind the Nuggets to win at -9.5, meaning they had to win by 10 points or more.

This is where things take an interesting, albeit devastating, turn.

Denver put the foot down during the third quarter and held a 20 point lead during the fourth quarter before the Lakers roared back to life.

After seeing their lead dwindle down to as little as three points, the Nuggets pulled away again and held a 10 point lead with under 10 seconds to play.

But the stress for the punter was far from over as a shot clock turnover handed possession back to the Lakers with 5.4 seconds on the clock.

Most teams opt to just dribble it out when the game is all wrapped up, but Lakers guard Alex Caruso wasn’t on for that idea.

As the Nuggets players stood around high-fiving the victory, Caruso took the inbounds pass and strolled towards the basket before laying it in with 1.6 seconds left to make it 114-106.

The Nuggets inbounded the ball and let the time expire, leaving the punter seeing red and more likely than not adding Caruso’s name to a most hated NBA players list.

The excruciating ending left the punter empty-handed and despite the eye-watering original outlay, will surely see him take a day off from betting.

“A really tough day for the punter in question,” TAB’s Trent Langskaill said to news.com.au.

Most punters lose their minds watching a game they have only small figures on, we can’t even imagine the emotional rollercoaster this punter endured on Wednesday.



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NBA Western Conference finals: Los Angeles Lakers double series lead over Denver Nuggets


The Lakers wore Kobe Bryant-designed ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys

Anthony Davis’ buzzer-beating three-pointer saw the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 105-103 to go 2-0 up in the Western Conference finals.

Forward Davis scored the Lakers’ final 10 points of the game, with 22 of his total 31 coming in the second half.

The Lakers wore ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys in tribute to team legend Kobe Bryant, who died in January.

“Special moment for me, special moment for the team,” said Davis, who also finished with nine rebounds.

“Especially in a situation like that trying to go up 2-0 against a special team, who are great competitors and [fought] for the entire 48 minutes.

“To do something like in the jerseys we wore tonight makes it even more special.”

LeBron James added 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who blew a 16-point lead in the third quarter.

Nikola Jokic top-scored for the Nuggets with 30 points with point guard Jamal Murray adding 25.

Jokic had put the Nuggets 103-102 ahead with 20.8 seconds left on the clock, and when the Lakers’ Alex Caruso missed a three-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining, it looked as though the Nuggets would level the series, before Davis sunk the winner.

“It’s not about making the shot,” said James. “It’s about having the belief with just taking it for one and living with the result.”

Game three of the best-of-seven series takes place on Tuesday.

In the Eastern Conference finals, Miami Heat lead the Boston Celtics 2-1 with game four on Wednesday.



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Anthony Davis tribute to Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers vs Denver Nuggets


Los Angeles Lakers power forward Anthony Davis has pulled off a three-point buzzer beater to snare victory from the jaws of defeat during Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals series.

Trailing the Denver Nuggets 103-102 in Orlando, the Lakers only had 2.1 seconds left on the clock after small forward Danny Green was blocked by rival Jamal Murray.

With no time-outs remaining, the top-seeded Lakers had enough time to get the ball into the hands of Davis, who slotted the three-pointer with ease.

Watch every game of the NBA Conference Finals and The Finals LIVE on ESPN with Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >

The seven-time NBA All-Star — who scored the last ten points for the Lakers on Monday — was immediately swamped by his ecstatic teammates.

Sports presenter Skip Bayless tweeted: “LeBron, who had a nightmarish 4th quarter, wanted no part of a last play called for him, didn’t even try to get open, so Rondo found AD, who did what LeBron couldn’t.”

The Athletic reporter Toby Jones posted: “AD bailed LeBron out tonight. What a shot. What a close in the fourth quarter.”

Playing in just his second Conference Finals match, Davis finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and two assists.

“I want to take those shots; it’s part of the legacy,” Davis said after the game.

“I want those shots, I want the big-time plays … this is what they brought me here for.

“It’s a huge dream … to make it even better, just wish it was in Staples tonight with the fans that support us all year.”

When asked if there was any doubt about who should take the game-winning shot, Davis bluntly responded: “No.”

The 27-year-old later confirmed he mouthed “Kobe” immediately after making the matchwinning shot.

READ MORE: LeBron is seriously ‘p***ed off’ over snub

Superstar point guard LeBron James mustered 11 rebounds and 26 points, while Nikola Jokic scored a team-high 30 points for the Nuggets, including Denver’s final 12 points of the match.

Meanwhile, Denver point guard Jamal Murray enjoyed his fifth consecutive 20-point game in the Playoffs.

Although they recovered from an early deficit to almost secure another miracle comeback, the Nuggets are yet to achieve victory in the seven-game series, trailing 2-0.

“They have two really good, really good, really good players,” Jokic lamented.

The Lakers were donning Mamba jerseys in honour of the legendary Kobe Bryant, and are now 3-0 when wearing the black kit.

“We never want to lose in these jerseys. We never want to lose at all,” Davis said.

Game 3 will take place on Wednesday morning AEST, with the Lakers needing two more wins to book a spot in the NBA Finals.



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Did The Denver Nuggets Really Get The Shots They Wanted Against The Los Angeles Lakers In Game 1?


If you ask the Denver Nuggets why they lost Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals 126-114 to the Los Angeles Lakers, you’ll get a unified response from all quarters.

“I think it’s obvious for anyone that watched the game,” head coach Michael Malone said after practice yesterday when asked what Denver would need to do differently to win Game 2. “Just getting back. They had 35 transition points.”

“Our urgency to get back has to be much, much higher, and we have to try to force them to play a half-court game,” Malone added. “It’ll have to start and end with that transition.”

After their loss in the series opener, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who had a frustrating game after getting into early foul trouble, also pointed to Denver’s transition defense as “the first step” they will need to take to find a way to even it up at one game apiece.

“When we score we need to get back,” Jokic said. “They are attacking us in transition and we know that. We just need to be, mindset needs to be get back, get back, get back.”

On offense, it had seemed the Nuggets were finding the shots they were hunting for early in the game as they won the first quarter by two points.

Given that Denver then lost the next two in a 67 to 41 drubbing which featured not only the Lakers inflicting serious damage on fast breaks but also the Nuggets struggling to find their offense, I asked point guard Jamal Murray if L.A. had changed things up to make their life more difficult.

But even so, Murray also brought the story back to transition defense.

“No, no, we got the shots we wanted,” Murray said. “I just think that the rate that they were scoring, we didn’t put a stand.”

Reiterating a point Malone makes frequently, Murray pointed to Denver’s offensive struggles resulting from their ineffectiveness on the defensive end of the ball.

“When we play defense, we score at a much higher rate as well,” he explained. “Especially with their pace, they get up and down a lot, and they try to make those runs seem a lot bigger.”

But did the Nuggets actually get the shots they wanted?

Some signs would point to the answer being “Yes.”

The statistics website Cleaning the Glass tracks a metric they call “location eFG%,” in which “eFG%” is effective field goal percentage, which accounts for the added value of three-point shots, and “location” refers to the higher- or lower-value spots on the court. The concept that it’s better to take a higher frequency of shots from higher-value spots is often colloquially referred to as “Morey Ball” after Houston general manger Daryl Morey and his embrace of advanced metrics, and as such it’s little surprise that the Rockets led the league in location eFG% this season at 55.3%. The Nuggets were below average at 24th with a location eFG% of 52.8%.

Those figures set a good contextual bar for the chart below, which shows Denver’s shooting distribution and percentages in the 2020 Playoffs. The first three lines show how the Nuggets performed through 14 games in their first two series overall, and broken down by opponent. The last two lines show both their overall numbers in Game 1 against the Lakers, as well as those from only quarters one through three since the fourth, for the most part, ended up being garbage time.

As the chart shows, if part of what Murray referred to as the shots Denver “wanted” included a high-efficiency distribution, they certainly accomplished that with a 55.6% location eFG% which would top Houston’s league-leading regular season mark.

Although a lower percentage of their shots (31.8%) were three-pointers that in the previous two series, a dramatically larger share (46.3% overall, or 40.0% through the first three quarters) were taken at the rim, with a lower share taken at the less-efficient midrange.

The problem, however, can be seen in the hart’s third column, where as opposed to their first two series where Denver outperformed their location eFG% by 2.6%, against the Lakers in Game 1 they fell 4.3% short of what ostensibly was a highly efficient shot distribution.

Rather than the Lakers’ transition offense, the more significant part of the problem here was their size on defense which gave Nikola Jokic headaches and, as mentioned above, getting him into early foul trouble. While Jokic’s 21 points on eight of 14 shooting would frequently be a very positive result for the Serbian big man, he was held to just two assists as the Lakers constantly swarmed him with doubles – and possessed the length few teams have to make that situation problematic.

This in many ways disrupted the Nuggets’ offensive flow, and while they may have finished with a positive distribution on paper, the shots they got off were not always in rhythm or as open to the extent they can be when Denver’s offense is really in a groove.

To this point, tracking data at NBA.com shows that, in fact, relative to the looks they had been getting in their two previous playoff series, far more of Denver’s shot attempts were closely contested against the Lakers than in their first 14 games.

As the chart shows, 49.4% of the Nuggets’ shots in Game 1 were taken with the closest defender either zero to two feet from the shooter (in “very tight” range) or between two and four feet (“tight”). Conversely, Denver’s share of shots that were either “open” (with the nearest defender from four to six feet away) or “wide open” (over six feet away) fell from 56.9% in the first two rounds of the playoffs to 50.6% in the Western Conference Finals opener.

So while the Nuggets may have gotten the shots they “wanted” in terms of finding their spots on the floor, they were contested at a higher rate – and contested shots rather than wide open ones should not be the ones any team wants.

There is currently much speculation as to whether Malone will make an adjustment such as starting backup center Mason Plumlee to help protect Jokic with additional size, but whether it’s that or a different solution, finding ways to free Jokic up to create the quality looks he typically finds for teammates will be – in addition to Denver shoring up their transition defense – an essential key to not only winning Game 2 but the series going forward.



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NBA playoffs 2020, LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets, result, score, video, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lakers, Western Conference finals


The story was already written at the start of the season.

Kawhi Leonard vs LeBron James, Paul George vs Anthony Davies, the Clippers vs the Lakers in a battle for LA and for the West.

It was a script fit for Hollywood.

LeBron, AD and co. held up their end of the story and were sitting impatiently waiting for the Clippers to get through the Denver Nuggets and at half-time in Game Six earlier this week it must have seemed like it was finally showtime.

Wednesday September 16th

But the way the Clippers relinquished their commanding lead to the see the Nuggets force a winner-take-all shootout on Wednesday morning (AEST) suggested that the script was about to get rewritten.



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Jamal Murray makes history as Denver Nuggets defeat Utah Jazz


The first round of the NBA playoffs continues to produce magic inside the Disney World bubble in Orlando.

In the Eastern Conference three teams have secured their tickets to the second round with the Milwaukee Bucks needing one more win on Thursday to advance into a match-up against the Miami Heat.

Watch the best of the NBA Playoffs, including every game of the Conference Finals and Finals LIVE on ESPN with Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >

It’s a different story in the Western Conference with all but one series going to at least six games. The Los Angeles Lakers can close out their series against the Portland Trail Blazers in game five on Thursday.

On Wednesday however it was the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz game that stole the limelight, following on from an enthralling game four battle.

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was once again the main destroyer for his squad as he erupted in the second half to fight off elimination and keep the Nuggets’ hopes alives.

Murray dropped 33 points in the second half to secure the 117-107 victory behind 42 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists.

The scoring onslaught followed on from his 50 points in game four and also sees him become the first player in NBA history to record back-to-back 40 point games without a single turnover, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Murray also joins elite company alongside Michael Jordan as the only players to follow a 50 point game with a 40 point game since 1976.

NBA players couldn’t believe the outburst they were watching unfold before their eyes as the Jazz were rendered powerless to stop Murray.

“Wow!! That Boy Jamal Murray Cookin,” Oklahoma City Thunder’s Andre Roberson tweeted.

“Jamal murray going dumb man lol,” Chicago’s Denzel Valentine wrote.

“OMG Jamal Murray,” Memphis Grizzlies rookie sensation Ja Morant wrote.

“Ayo Mal chillll,” Charlotte’s Mikal Bridges tweeted.

The Nuggets roared home in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Jazz 35-21 to force the series into a sixth game on Friday at 6am (AEST).

CLIPPERS RUN THE FLOOR WITH MAVERICKS

The Los Angeles Clippers clicked into gear against the Dallas Mavericks in game five as they burst out to a 24 point halftime lead.

Without Kristaps Porzingis in the line-up, the Mavericks struggled offensively as the Clippers swarmed young superstar Luka Doncic.

Paul George finally got an offensive rhythm going after struggling throughout the first four games, dropping 18 points in the first half to go along with Kawhi Leonard’s 20 points.



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NBA roundup: Despite Mitchell’s 57, Nuggets beat Jazz in OT



Aug 17, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray (27) and Nikola Jokic (15) react during overtime against the Utah Jazz in game one of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at The Field House. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

August 18, 2020

Jamal Murray scored 10 of his 36 points in overtime, Nikola Jokic had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets overcame 57 points from Donovan Mitchell to beat the Utah Jazz 135-125 in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series near Orlando on Monday.

Mitchell set a franchise postseason scoring record — and scored the third-most points in NBA playoff history — but had just six points in the overtime when Denver outscored Utah 20-10.

Jerami Grant had 19 points, Monte Morris added 14, Michael Porter Jr. scored 13 and Torrey Craig had 11 before fouling out for Denver. For the Jazz, Joe Ingles scored 19, Jordan Clarkson chipped in 18 off the bench and Rudy Gobert had 17 for the Jazz. Utah played without guard Mike Conley, who left the bubble for the birth of his son.

Los Angeles Clippers 118 — Dallas Mavericks 110

Kawhi Leonard registered 29 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and three steals to help Los Angeles hold off Dallas in the opening game of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.

The Mavericks led by five points early in the third quarter before big man Kristaps Porzingis was ejected following his second technical foul of the game. The Clippers immediately responded with a 9-2 run.

Luka Doncic recorded 42 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals, setting an NBA record for the highest point total in a player’s postseason debut. He also committed 11 turnovers, one shy of the postseason record set by the Houston Rockets’ James Harden in 2015.

Toronto Raptors 134 — Brooklyn Nets 110

Fred VanVleet scored a career playoff-best 30 points and added 11 assists as Toronto set a franchise record for points in a playoff game to top Brooklyn in the opener of their best-of-seven first-round series.

The Raptors dominated early and led by as many as 33 points in the second quarter only to have the lead shrink to nine points entering the fourth quarter. Toronto regained control early in the fourth quarter and increased the lead to 18 points at 114-96 with 7:09 to play on a dunk and a free throw by OG Anunoby.

Serge Ibaka had 22 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Raptors, and Pascal Siakam added 18 points and 11 rebounds. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot matched his career best with 26 points for the Nets.

Boston Celtics 109 — Philadelphia 76ers 101

Jayson Tatum scored a playoff-career-high 32 points, Jaylen Brown added 29, and Boston beat Philadelphia in the opener of their first-round playoff series.

Brown had 15 points in the fourth as the Celtics outscored the 76ers 34-22 in the quarter to take Game 1 of the best-of-seven series. Tatum finished with 13 rebounds, and Kemba Walker chipped in 19 points. Gordon Hayward left the game in the fourth with a right ankle sprain and did not return. He is reportedly set to undergo an MRI exam.

Joel Embiid led Philadelphia with 26 points and 16 rebounds, and Josh Richardson and Alec Burks each scored 18. The 76ers played without All-Star guard Ben Simmons (knee surgery).

–Field Level Media





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