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Jokic Makes History as Nuggets Trim Timberwolves’ Lead

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Nikola Jokic Meeting with Fans

There was no way that Nikola Jokić and the defending champs were going to give up. After a brutal start in the Western Conference semifinals, the Denver Nuggets came out firing on Friday night in Minneapolis. They cruised to a dominant 117-90 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3, finally getting on the board in the series after dropping the first two games at Ball Arena in Denver. This defeat marked the Timberwolves’ first loss of the postseason, leaving the Target Center crowd in disbelief.

Recap of the Action

The Nuggets seized control early, closing the first quarter with a decisive 12-4 run to secure an eight-point lead, their largest of the series thus far. They maintained their momentum into the second quarter, embarking on a formidable 17-5 run to establish a commanding 20-point advantage, leaving the Timberwolves struggling to keep pace.

Led by Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored 14 points in the first half, the Timberwolves struggled to make headway against the Nuggets’ stifling defense. Meanwhile, Jamal Murray, rebounding from a challenging Game 2 performance, led the charge for Denver with 18 points in the first half.

The Nuggets extended their lead to over 20 points early in the third quarter, effectively sealing the Timberwolves’ fate. Despite a late surge from Anthony Edwards, who scored 19 points, and Towns, who finished with 14 points, the Timberwolves couldn’t overcome the Nuggets’ dominant performance.

Denver’s trademark ball and player movements proved pivotal, disrupting Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert’s influence. While Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns contributed for the Timberwolves, the Nuggets’ response to adversity showcased their championship mettle.

Jokic in Action

Following his modest 16-point performance on 13 shots in Game 2, many expected Nikola Jokic to aggressively pursue personal validation, particularly as a three-time MVP. However, those familiar with Jokic’s demeanor knew better. Instead, he exerted his influence in his trademark manner—orchestrating the game from the high post and engaging in two-man actions. 

Displaying his unparalleled court vision, Jokic adeptly found open teammates while occasionally exploiting scoring opportunities when necessary. His innate ability to read the floor and anticipate defensive rotations was evident throughout. This display culminated in a historic stat line: 24 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, three steals, and three blocks—a feat unmatched in playoff history.

On to Game 4

With Sunday’s Game 4 looming large, the Timberwolves face a crucial opportunity to regain momentum and avoid a tied series heading back to Denver. The Nuggets have maintained a solid record, boasting a commendable 10-6 standing against divisional opponents. Notably, their performance in close games has been evenly matched, with a 6-6 record in one-possession contests, showcasing their ability to thrive under pressure.

Contrasting the Nuggets’ prowess from beyond the arc is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ proficiency in three-point shooting. Averaging 12.6 made three-pointers per game this season, the Timberwolves have consistently outperformed their opponents in this facet, surpassing the Nuggets’ average of 11.7 made three-pointers. However, the Nuggets have proven slightly stingier defensively, allowing just 11.2 made three-pointers per game, a mere 0.3 less than the Timberwolves typically concede.

Players to Shine

As the teams prepare to clash, standout performers emerge on both sides. Rudy Gobert shines for the Timberwolves, boasting an impressive shooting percentage of 66.1% alongside an average of 14.0 points per game. Meanwhile, Anthony Edwards has been a force to be reckoned with, averaging an impressive 26.5 points over the last 10 games.

Jokic continues to lead the charge, averaging an impressive 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and nine assists per game. Michael Porter Jr. has also been instrumental, particularly from beyond the arc, averaging 3.2 made three-pointers over the last 10 games.

In recent outings, both teams have displayed formidable form. The Timberwolves boast a commendable 7-3 record in their last 10 games, showcasing a balanced offensive approach and solid defensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have maintained a 6-4 record, demonstrating consistency in scoring and rebounding while also exhibiting defensive prowess.

As the showdown looms, injuries affect both squads. The Timberwolves will be without Jaylen Clark due to an Achilles injury, while Rudy Gobert’s availability remains uncertain, listed as day-to-day due to personal reasons.

Read More: NBA 2024 Draft: Which team will sign up Zach Edey

A lifelong sports enthusiast with a recent interest in technology, Web3, and cryptocurrency. Every weekend you can find me watching football(soccer) and keeping up to date with stocks and crypto. Writing about the things I love and hopefully painting a picture for the reader.

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LA Lakers Are Eliminated From the Playoffs By the Denver Nuggets

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LA Lakers and Danver Nuggets playing basketball

The Los Angeles Lakers had an up-and-down regular season. They finished 7th in the Western Conference with a 47-35 record. The Lakers were forced to compete in the play-in tournament to earn their playoff berth. The Lakers then beat the Pelicans to clinch the 7th seed in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

As the 7th seed, they lined up against the formidable Denver Nuggets, who had the tied second-best record in the NBA with 57 wins. The clash saw LeBron James go up against two-time MVP winner Nikola Jokić. The Lakers were the underdogs going into the series, but fans still had lofty expectations, especially after LeBron led the team to victory at the NBA In-Season Tournament.

The Nuggets Set the Tone Early

Anyone who thought that LeBron was going to turn back the clock and channel 2013 vibes was seriously mistaken. Despite LeBron and Anthony Davis combining for 59 points and the Lakers dominating the first quarter, the Nuggets proved too strong.

The Lakers had a third-quarter meltdown, scoring just 18 points to Denver’s 32. Los Angeles had no answers for Jokić, who scored 32 points while grabbing 12 boards and picking up seven assists. The big Serbian put on a show and revealed he’s serious about getting another championship ring.

The Lakers Fumble the Bag

Game two is where the Lakers unofficially lost the series. They were leading the whole game but then had one of the worst fourth-quarter performances we’ve ever seen. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Lakers were up 10 points and looked certain to win. In fact, experts had Los Angeles as a 90% favorite when the 4th quarter started. 

The Nuggets and Jamal Murray had other ideas. LeBron had the game in his hands but missed a wide-open three-pointer, which set the stage for Murray to play the hero’s role in Denver. The 27-year-old drove to the rim against Anthony Davis and then stopped on a dime, took a step back, and drained a gorgeous shot over the seven-footer. The local fans went berserk, and everyone in the building knew that the Lakers’ playoff run faced a serious uphill battle. 

Denver Drives the Dagger in Deeper

Again, the Lakers started the game strong, going up by 10 points at the end of the first quarter. The Nuggets started fighting back in the second, but the Lakers still had a commanding lead going into the half-time break.

Despite all the hard work in the first half, Los Angeles had another third-quarter collapse. The Nuggets put up 34 points in a single quarter, while the Lakers scored just 22 points. LeBron and Davis again combined for nearly all of the Lakers’ points.

At the other end of the court, it was a different story. The Nuggets put in a fantastic team performance, with four players racking up 20+ points. Aaron Gordon led Denver with 29 points, and not too far behind was Jokić with 24. 

LA Fights Back

With the Lakers down 3-0, we were half expecting them to just quit. But Los Angeles surprised everyone by beating the Nuggets 119-108. The game was similar to the previous three, with the Lakers starting strong. However, finally, this time, Los Angeles didn’t collapse in the third or fourth quarter.

LeBron Says Goodbye

There was an air of optimism surrounding the Lakers going into game five, and fans started wondering if they could resurrect the series. The Lakers outscored the Nuggets 33-23 in the first quarter and were leading by four points going into the third quarter. But like clockwork, disaster struck in the third quarter, with Gordon, Murray, and Jokić deciding enough is enough. 

The stars each racked up 20+ points, helping the Nuggets outscore the Lakers by 12 points in the third quarter. With 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 106-106. Then Murray drove to his left and hit a lovely floating jumper to seal the win and series.

The Lakers just don’t have sufficient role players to compete with elite teams like the Nuggets. Then, when you factor in subpar coaching and poor shooting, it’s easy to see why the Lakers were blown out by the Nuggets. Los Angeles showed glimmers of being title contenders, but ultimately, they relied too heavily on LeBron and Davis.

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Lakers Dismiss Darvin Ham and Coaching Staff After Playoff Disappointment

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Los Angeles Lakers Mast

The Lakers bid farewell to coach Darvin Ham on Friday after two seasons, initiating a quest to find the ideal candidate to navigate the twilight of LeBron James’ illustrious career while aiming to restore championship contention.

Ham, with two years left on his contract, amassed a regular-season record of 90-74 (.549) and a postseason record of 9-12 (.429), including two play-in tournament victories, since taking over from Frank Vogel in 2022. Notably, he led the Lakers to victory in the inaugural in-season tournament in Las Vegas last December.

Why Did He Get Fired?

This decision came swiftly following the Lakers’ elimination by the Nuggets for the second consecutive season, this time in a five-game series loss in the first round, following a sweep by Denver in the conference finals the previous year.

Reports from Charania, Jovan Buha, and Sam Amick of The Athletic indicated that dissatisfaction with Ham’s coaching style, characterized by “fluctuating rotations, game plans, and lack of adjustments,” was prevalent. Moreover, concerns were raised about the discontent within the locker room, which reverberated across the organization.

“We greatly appreciate Darvin Ham’s contributions to the Lakers and acknowledge the many achievements over the past two seasons, including last year’s remarkable journey to the Western Conference finals,” said Rob Pelinka, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager. “While this decision was difficult, it follows a thorough evaluation of the season. The organization remains committed to delivering championship-caliber basketball to Lakers fans worldwide.”

Subsequently, the Lakers relieved the entire coaching staff of their duties, including assistant coach Phil Handy, who served under Ham and Frank Vogel and was also with the Cleveland Cavaliers during LeBron James’ second stint.

Who Could be Next?

In a recent appearance on SportsCenter, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin discussed the possibility of the Lakers leaning back towards a seasoned candidate. He even dropped the name of Jason Kidd, a surprising addition to the conversation given his current successful stint with the Dallas Mavericks.

Kidd’s ties to the Lakers, having been an assistant under Vogel during their championship run, and his close relationship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis make him an intriguing prospect. However, Kidd’s comfortable position with the Mavericks, boasting a roster built around young superstar Luka Doncic, raises questions about his potential interest in joining the Lakers.

Another unexpected contender for the Lakers’ coaching role is JJ Redick. Despite his lack of coaching experience, Redick’s name keeps resurfacing as a serious candidate. While the Lakers reportedly lean towards an experienced hire, Redick’s prominence in discussions alongside seasoned coaches like Kidd and Ty Lue suggests he’s gaining traction.

This adds a layer of complexity to the Lakers’ coaching search, hinting at another unconventional turn in their decision-making process.

Lakers Prone to Knee Jerk Reactions

The Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, are not immune to knee-jerk reactions, often making significant changes in response to challenging situations. This tendency has been observed in various aspects of their operations, including player acquisitions, coaching changes, and organizational restructuring.

In recent years, the Lakers have demonstrated a propensity for dramatic responses when faced with adversity. For instance, after their early exit from the playoffs in 2021, they swiftly pursued a blockbuster trade to acquire Russell Westbrook, shaking up their roster in hopes of immediate improvement. While Westbrook brought undeniable talent, the move was criticized for disrupting team chemistry and fitting issues on the court.

Similarly, the decision to part ways with experienced head coach Frank Vogel and replace him with a first-time head coach reflected the organization’s inclination towards rapid adjustments. Despite Vogel’s championship pedigree and track record of success, the Lakers opted for a change in leadership, hoping to catalyze a turnaround.

How Ham Leaving can Change Lebron’s Decision

Ham’s departure marks another coaching change for the Lakers, adding to the turbulence in leadership that James has experienced during his tenure with the team. Throughout his career, James has thrived under coaches who command respect, provide strategic direction, and foster a winning culture. The constant turnover in coaching staff can create uncertainty and disrupt continuity, factors that James may consider when evaluating his future with the Lakers.

James’ decision to stay with the Lakers may also hinge on the team’s ability to build a competitive roster and championship contention. While coaching changes are part of the NBA landscape, they can signal broader issues within the organization, such as front-office instability or conflicting visions for the team’s direction. If James perceives these issues as obstacles to achieving his championship aspirations, he may explore other options, including joining a team with a more stable foundation.

On the other hand, the Lakers’ search for a new head coach presents an opportunity to reset and realign the team’s priorities. A coaching hire that resonates with James and aligns with his basketball philosophy could reinvigorate his commitment to the Lakers. Moreover, a coach who can maximize James’ talents, optimize team chemistry, and implement a winning strategy could strengthen the Lakers’ position as a destination for elite talent.

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The Zach Edey Effect: How He Could Impact NBA Teams Next Season

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College Basketball

Zach Edey, widely regarded as the national player of the year and a likely lottery pick, has officially declared for the 2024 NBA draft, as confirmed to ESPN. The Purdue standout and two-time Naismith Player of the Year nominee has submitted his paperwork for the 2024 NBA Draft. Purdue’s campaign came to an end earlier this month with a defeat to UConn in the national championship game .

“I felt the timing was right,” Edey stated. “I’ve demonstrated my offensive prowess this season and showcased my defensive skills, including the ability to guard players in open space.”

Zach’s Stats

Standing at 7-foot-4, the Canadian center is ranked No. 14 in ESPN’s draft projections. Edey is one of college basketball’s most distinguished players, securing unanimous National Player of the Year honors, a feat not achieved since Bill Walton in 1973. He led the nation in scoring with 24.9 points per game and ranked third in rebounds with 12.2 per game. Edey set an all-time Purdue record, amassing over 2,500 points and 1,300 rebounds, a milestone untouched since Lionel Simmons over three decades ago.

Edey guided Purdue, a No. 1 seed, to the national championship game, where he recorded 37 points and 10 rebounds in a defeat against UConn. This marked the highest-scoring performance in a title game since Duke’s Jack Givens in 1978. Edey’s 177 points in the NCAA tournament tied with Bill Bradley for the second-highest, surpassed only by Michigan’s Glen Rice in 1989.

Words from Edey

Despite his impressive achievements, Edey believes he has more to offer in the NBA.

“The dynamics of winning in college and the NBA differ greatly,” Edey remarked. “There are aspects of my game yet to be unveiled. I’ve focused on contributing to Purdue’s success and streamlining my playstyle. Each year, I’ve progressed, and there’s no reason I can’t continue to improve.”

“I had to remain on the court and avoid fouling,” Edey added. “I’m a more proficient passer than many realize. While I primarily looked to score down low, I can execute plays in diverse situations, which I haven’t fully demonstrated yet.”

Edey’s basketball journey began in earnest during his sophomore year of high school in fall 2017, having previously concentrated on hockey and baseball. He attributes this relatively late start to his ongoing growth potential.

“I’m continuously learning,” Edey shared. “There were instances in Purdue’s practices where I grasped fundamental aspects, basics that others might have learned in sixth or seventh grade. I intend to expand my skill set and showcase new facets of my game.”

“Improving my shooting will be a priority during my pre-draft workouts,” Edey noted. “I’m refining my routine daily to highlight this aspect of my game.”

After testing the waters in the 2023 NBA draft, Edey chose to return to Purdue for his senior year. This decision appears to have paid dividends, positioning him as a projected top-20 pick with flexibility in the pre-draft process.

“The draft position isn’t my focus,” Edey emphasized. “I’m seeking teams that believe in my abilities. I aim to join a coaching staff that recognizes my potential.”

The NBA draft is scheduled over two days in New York City on June 26 and 27. The first round will take place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, followed by the second round at ESPN’s studio in lower Manhattan the next day.

Who Could Benefit with Edey?

Boston Celtics

Under the guidance of head coach Joe Mazulla, the Boston Celtics have maintained their reputation as a formidable defensive team, boasting the league’s second-best defensive rating in the recent season. Edey’s interior scoring prowess would make him a valuable asset off the bench, providing relief for the aging center Al Horford.

Looking ahead, Edey could evolve into a potential starter for the Celtics. His defensive weaknesses on the perimeter could be masked by the team’s skilled guards and forwards, allowing him to focus on his strengths as a dominant rim protector.

San Antonio Spurs

If the San Antonio Spurs harbor concerns about the physical toll on center Victor Wembanyama, Edey could emerge as a compelling backup or even complement Wembanyama in a revamped twin-towers frontcourt in Texas. While Wembanyama possesses the agility to guard forwards and centers who operate from the perimeter, Edey could handle the more physical inside play.

Edey would provide the Spurs with a formidable rebounder and rim protector off the bench with his height, especially when Wembanyama is off the floor.

Philadelphia 76ers

Given the ongoing focus on Joel Embiid’s health, the Philadelphia 76ers might consider Edey as a long-term backup option for the reigning MVP, particularly for scenarios when Embiid is sidelined due to injury. Like the Celtics, the 76ers excel defensively, potentially allowing Edey to maximize his strengths alongside their robust defenders.

New Orleans Pelicans

With New Orleans Pelicans’ starting center Jonas Valanciunas becoming a free agent after the season, Edey could serve as a cost-effective replacement. As a traditional center with a similar playing style to the 12-year veteran, Edey could seamlessly step in to address the scoring and rebounding needs should Valanciunas depart in free agency.

Read More: Lebron James Next Step

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