Tagged in: Orlando

Clippers look to put away stubborn Nuggets in Game 6

The weight of a Game 7 contest will weigh more heavily on the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets consider.

“To us, Game 7 is just another game,” Nuggets center Nikola Jokic said.

Jokic had 34 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as the Nuggets stunned the Clippers 111-98 in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal on Sunday at the NBA bubble near Orlando.

Game 7 is Tuesday. The winner meets the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

Jokic connected on 13 of 22 shots from the floor, including 4 of 6 3-pointers. Jamal Murray had 21 points, Gary Harris added 16 and Michael Porter Jr. chipped in 13 for the third-seeded Nuggets, who outscored the second-seeded Clippers 64-35 in the second half. “It was just amazing,”

Denver coach Michael Malone told the media after the match. “We had 11 straight stops at one point. Coming into this round they were the No. 1 offense in the playoffs, so I’m running out of adjectives, superlatives, whatever you want to call it to speak on our team because that is a tough, resilient group of you know what. I love our team.”

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Paul George had 33 points, six rebounds and five steals for the Clippers, who are attempting to advance to their first Western Conference final.

They are 0-7 in franchise history in previous attempts to get there.

Kawhi Leonard contributed 25 points, eight boards and five assists, while Lou Williams scored 14 points. JaMychal Green had 11.

“Just gave up the lead again, pretty much,” said Leonard, who made 8 of 18 shots and 3 of 5 3-pointers. “They came down and either scored or got fouled in the third quarter, and we couldn’t buy a basket. That’s how they came back.”

The Nuggets will be trying to become the first NBA club to rally from a 3-1 deficit in back-to-back series. They did so versus the Utah Jazz in the first round. And Leonard said the Clippers have to be ready for what the Nuggets have in store for them.

“Just got to leave it all out on the floor,” Leonard said. “Make sure we are paying attention to detail, executing and communicating on the defensive end. That’s all we can do. Go out there and play hard and make sure we know the game plan.”

The game plan Sunday seemed to be going just fine for Los Angeles in the first half. The Clippers coasted to a 16-point halftime lead and went up by as much as 19 early in the third quarter. But the Nuggets outscored them 30-16 in the third and seized control in the fourth.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the game swung when Murray, who seemed to have the wind knocked out of him, crashed to the floor after a third-quarter collision under the basket with George.

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Pacers star Victor Oladipo pondering return during NBA restart

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo initially ruled out a return for the NBA restart in Orlando, but the two-time All-Star now says there’s a “strong possibility” that could change, though he remains unsure.

“It was hard for me to assess where I was at from the long layover, and obviously [with the coronavirus], couldn’t really control that. But now, coming down here and getting some practices in, getting my feet under me, going out there playing with the guys, there’s a possibility that I could play,” Oladipo told reporters during Wednesday’s Zoom availability.

Oladipo first planned to travel with the team to Orlando while continuing rehab on his quadriceps tendon, but now his “body’s feeling good,” with no limitations from head coach Nate McMillan during practices. He’s trying to give it a go.

Even before traveling to Orlando, the Pacers included him on their travel party list as they worked through his options.

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President of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard and GM Chad Buchanan have publicly supported Oladipo, saying the decision was his to make and giving him no set deadline, despite multiple sources confirming to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that there in an unresolved situation regarding $3 million in salary.

The union feels he should be paid his remaining salary, while the league believes he should not be, according to Windhorst. Either way, Oladipo says returning to basketball is his main focus, not the money.

The Pacers are willing to pay his salary whether or not he plays for the remainder of this shortened season, sources told Windhorst. So there’s no real pressure either way. “These people have been amazing since the day I put on this jersey. It’s no surprise that they back me and they support me,” Oladipo said.

“It’s an amazing organization, amazing people. So I’m just thankful that they’ve got my back. That’s not necessarily a given thing when you’re in a situation like I am, so I just want to let them know that I appreciate that for sure.”

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Nuggets star Nikola Jokic clears quarantine in NBA’s Orlando bubble

Since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 back on March 11, prompting the suspension of the NBA season, dozens of players have sadly also come down with the virus. Thankfully none of them have become seriously ill, but a few, including Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince, have been forced to sit out of the league’s plan to resume the season at Disney World later this month. 

Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was another who tested positive for the coronavirus, but he will be able to play after returning multiple negative tests, both in his native Serbia, where he was infected, and back in Denver.

While it’s terrific news that Jokic has been cleared, the timing of the tests meant he was unable to join the Nuggets on their flight to Orlando Jokic tested positive for COVID-19 back in June, just a few days after he was spotted hanging out with tennis star Novak Djokovic, who also ended up testing positive.

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The fact that Jokic is already healthy is great news, first and foremost, just for him and his family’s sake.

This virus is extremely unpredictable, and even with healthy people like Jokic, there are no guarantees. 

his virus is extremely unpredictable, and even with healthy people like Jokic, there are no guarantees. 

So that, of course, is the main priority, but also from a basketball perspective, this is big for the Nuggets. They’re in third place in the loaded Western Conference at 43-22 and will need Jokic operating at a high level if they want to improve on last season’s second-round playoff exit. 

How Jokic will fare once play starts obviously remains to be seen, not just because of his ordeal with the virus and the strange circumstances of this bubble, but because he lost a tremendous amount of weight during the quarantine — so much so that he apparently has abs now, according to Nuggets president Tim Connelly. 

While having abs is never a bad thing, it will be attractive to see how Jokic fares with a smaller frame. He’s always been a guy that’s used his bulk to throw opponents around and carve out space, and he might not be able to do that to quite the same extent anymore. 

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Pacers’ Oladipo to sit out restart of NBA season

Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided not to play when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes at Disney World in Orlando later this month. Oladipo tore his quad tendon last season, and made his return in late January, just about six weeks before play was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result of his health situation, Oladipo told The Athletic in an interview that he just doesn’t feel comfortable returning to play under these circumstances. However, he will still travel with the team. 

The good news is that this isn’t the result of any sort of setback during the quarantine. Both Oladipo and the Pacers consider he is healthy and progressing well, they just think returning to play under these stressful and unique conditions is not worth the risk. Especially considering that players who suffer the same injury as Oladipo are more susceptible to soft tissue injuries in the ensuing years. 

“This kind of injury takes a while to get back from,” Oladipo’s physical therapist said. “This is a very rare injury. He’s playing this smart and we look at it as: He came back, he got into rotation, he got a feel for the game and his knee really responded well — and we had to shut this whole thing down from the pandemic. We haven’t been able to play five-on-five yet due to circumstances. Now we’re asking guys to ramp up in 21 days. That’s just a real short time window for a person with his kind of injury.”

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Heading into Orlando, there are all sorts of health concerns, mostly related to the coronavirus pandemic — and for good reason, as cases are surging, and we still don’t fully understand the long-term effects of the illness. However, the potential for augmented risk of injuries is a serious issue as well. 

Most players were not able to train like they normally do over the past few months, and will now be required to ramp up into a training camp situation, then high-intensity games in a rather short amount of time. For guys like Oladipo who are already dealing with the effects of a serious injury, it makes sense to take the long-term approach. 

From a basketball perspective, this is obviously a big hit to the Pacers’ probabilities of making some noise in the East.

They were actually a bit worse with Oladipo on the court (minus-2.6 net rating differential) in the 13 games since he returned, and he hadn’t quite found his rhythm. But that was a small sample size after he just returned from a year off, and he’s by far their most talented player. 

Now, they’ll have to play in Orlando without him. Heading into the restart they are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 39-26, and while they are still within striking distance of the Miami Heat for the fourth seed, getting there doesn’t matter as much with no homecourt advantage anymore. 

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Pacers’ Victor Oladipo to ramp up activity before committing to restart

All-Star guard Victor Oladipo plans to ramp up activity with the Indiana Pacers beginning next week and evaluate his repaired torn quad tendon before to making a final commitment to playing in the season’s restart in Orlando, he told ESPN on Saturday.

Oladipo, 28, is hopeful to return to play with the Pacers, but prefers to limit the risk of significant injury after returning in January from a full year of rehabilitating the torn right quad tendon.

“I feel a whole lot better,” Oladipo told ESPN. “I know there’s risk going into it with the unique situation that I’m in — being off so long and trying to ramp it up that fast. I’ve just got to be smart, that’s all.”

The Pacers have been cautious and working cooperatively with Oladipo throughout his rehab and return, and plan to keep closely monitoring and managing his recovery with the looming restart.

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Players must inform teams by Wednesday if they plan to participate in the season’s 22-team restart in Orlando — and teams must provide the league a roster of eligible players by July 1. However, Oladipo and the Pacers can push a decision on his return through the month of July as he ramps up in Indianapolis and Orlando for training camps.

Indiana would simply keep Oladipo on its active roster until a decision is made.

A team can sign a substitute player from an eligible pool of players to replace a roster player — and that replaced player will be ineligible to return.

Oladipo had his best match of the season — 27 points versus the Boston Celtics — in his last performance prior to the March 11 shutdown of the campaign.

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NBA to approve plan for 22 team return

The NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday is expected to approve the league’s plan for a 22-team return in Orlando, ESPN reported.

The conference call is slated to take place at 12:30 p.m. ET. The NBA’s Board of Governors requires a three-fourths passage of the 30 teams on a plan.

The return of basketball would start July 31 under the proposal, with the last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals being Oct. 12, ESPN reported.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each of the 22 teams will play eight regular-season games for seeding purposes for the playoffs.

The 16 teams now in postseason position will be joined by the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference and the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference.

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The Pelicans (28-36), Kings (28-36) and Trail Blazers (29-37) sit 3 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) in the Western Conference. The Spurs (27-36) are four in back of the Grizzlies, while the Suns (26-39) are six back.

The Wizards (24-40) reside six games behind the seventh-place Brooklyn Nets (30-34) and 5 1/2 behind the eighth-place Orlando Magic (30-35).

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, “If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer matches behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth.”

The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Nets and Magic currently occupy playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers join the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Grizzlies in residing in playoff position in the Western Conference. The NBA saw play stopped on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

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