Nuggets’ Murray: ‘We make you have to be locked in on defense throughout the game’

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets made their NBA Finals debut on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and they did not disappoint. Jokic had a triple-double with games highs of 27 points and 14 assists, to go along with 10 rebounds, as the Nuggets handled the Heat 104-93 at Ball Arena.

Jokic didn’t do it alone, as Jamal Murray added 26 points, six rebounds, and 10 assists. The Nuggets led by as many as 24 points. 

The two-time league MVP got open looks for many of his teammates; Denver had five players in double figures, so if Jokic wasn’t scoring, he was helping others to get off, which made Denver’s offense tough to stop.

“That’s how I learned to play basketball, and I think it’s really nice to play — it’s really hard to guard when you don’t know who’s going to attack and how to defend when everybody is moving, everybody is doing something,” Jokic said. “I think it’s a really nice brand of basketball that we have, and everybody buys in. I’m not sure that I did that for us or whatever, but I think everybody contributed, and everybody accepted it.”

Murray agreed with Jokic; Denver can attack teams in many ways.

“If they take the pocket away, we’re looking somewhere else,” Murray said. “If they take me away, then we’re looking somewhere else. We’re just trying to find the open man, find the best shot, find the mismatch. I think we do that throughout the game. So, it’s hard to guard everybody, instead of just one or two guys.

“We make you have to be locked in on defense throughout the game. I think tonight was just a great example of it could be anybody’s night and anybody’s quarter, maybe not your quarter. That’s just Nuggets basketball.”

The Nuggets had 29 assists on 40 field goals; Murray and Jokic had 24 of those 29 assists, and the combo became the third teammates to each record 10-plus assists in a Finals game.

Nuggets basketball is pretty, and if Jokic and Murray continue to play like this, Denver will be tough to beat in these Finals, but Miami will adjust, and we will see what they do in Game 2 on Sunday night.


Aaron Gordon scored 12 of his 16 points in the first quarter; Michael Porter Jr. added 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists; Gabe Vincent chipped in with 19 points.

Spoelstra on GM 7: ‘We are going up there and get it done’

We got an absolute classic on Saturday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.

Jimmy Butler, who was 5/21 from the field but finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, was fouled by Al Horford, shooting a three. Butler would make all three free throws with 3.0 seconds to go, which gave the Celtics enough time. Boston’s Marcus Smart would miss a three, Derrick White would tip it in at the buzzer, and Boston would defeat the Heat 104-103 in Miami to even the series at three.

After being down 3-0, the Celtics have forced a Game 7 on Monday night back in Boston and could be the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 deficit.  Last season, the Celtics defeated the Heat in the conference finals in Game 7 in Miami.

According to Butler, if he had played better, the Heat would have finished the series.

“Like I told the guys on the bench, I told the guys in the locker room, that if I play better, we’re not even in this position, honestly speaking,” Butler said after the loss. “And I will be better. That’s what makes me smile because those guys follow my lead. So when I’m playing better, I think we’re playing better as a whole.”

Butler knows the Heat must find a way to get through the Celtics.

“I think, I believe, as we all do like you’re going to get the same test until you pass it, I swear,” he said. “We were in this same position last year. We can do it. I know that we will do it. We’ve got to go on the road and win in a very, very, very tough environment. But we are capable of it. So let’s get busy.”

Miami won the first two games of this series and has proven they can succeed in Boston, and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra is confident in his guys.

“This is one hell of a series,” he said. “At this time right now, I don’t know how we are going to get this done, but we are going up there and get it done. And that’s what the next 48 hours is about.”

Boston is 5-0 in these playoffs in elimination games and defeated the 76ers in Game 7 in the second round. This is a battled-tested group that has “unfinished business.” 

It will be tough for the Heat to win after such a deflating loss, but as Spoelstra said, Miami will have to get it done.

Butler: ‘We’ll just have to close it out at home’

After three games in the Eastern Conference finals, the Miami Heat led the series 3-0 and were on the verge of what appeared to be a sweep. However, the Celtics fought back in the second half of Game 4 in Miami and kept the series alive.

On Thursday night in Game 5 in Boston, the Celtics led from start to finish and defeated the Heat 110-97.

Boston, who led by as many as 24 points, had four players score at least 20 or more. Derrick White led the way with 24 points, Marcus Smart had 23, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown added 21 points a piece.

The series shifts back to Miami for Game 6 on Saturday, and Jimmy Butler, who had 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists, believes the Heat will end the series in Miami.

“We’ve just got to play better,” Butler said. “Start the game off better on the starters; make it more difficult for them. They are in a rhythm since the beginning of the game. But we are always going to stay positive, knowing that we can, and we will win this series. We’ll just have to close it out at home.”

Butler explained why he has so much confidence.

“Because the last two games are not who we are,” he said. “It just happened to be that way. We stopped playing defense halfway because we didn’t make shots that we want to make. But that’s easily correctable. You just have to come out and play harder from the jump. Like I always say, it’s going to be all smiles, and we are going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing that we are going to win next game.”

On paper, the Celtics are the better team.  In the first two games, the Celtics were close but could not close it out. In Game 3, Boston was terrible, and now they may have righted the ship. 

We’ll see what happens in Game 6.

Celtics’ Brown on Game 4: ‘We didn’t want to come out and lay an egg’

The Boston Celtics have lived to see another day after defeating the Miami Heat 116-99 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in Miami on Tuesday night.

With the win, the Celtics avoid the sweep and trail the Heat 3-1. Game 5 is Thursday night back in Boston.

Jaylen Brown, who had 17 points, said the team wanted to show some pride in Game 4, and he credited the leadership of Marcus Smart.

“We didn’t want to come out and lay an egg,” Brown said. “We wanted to come out and play together, wanted to come out and trust each other, come out and play some defense, have some pride about yourself, and find a way to win a game. We’re all more than capable of doing it. So, tonight we got it done. Smart was in my ear, letting me know where the game is at. Just keep being aggressive; keep making the right plays.

“It ain’t always got to be you putting the ball in the basket; that helped us win tonight. So just continue to make the right plays, and the game will open up for you, and that’s what Smart does is just being a leader, be vocal, and we found a way to win.”

Smart, who had 11 points, says Boston has to take it one game at a time.

“Now we’ve just got to go win another one,” he said. “That’s all that matters. We take it one game at a time. We understand the odds are stacked against us, but we’re a team that believes in us no matter what, and we’ve just got to keep going, and all that matters is the next game.”

Boston does not win Game 4 without the play of Jayson Tatum. The four-time All-Star scored 25 of his 33 points in the second half. In addition, he added 11 rebounds and seven assists. Like Smart, he’s just taking it one game at a time.

“We just tried to take it one game at a time,” Tatum said. “We tried to break it down. We didn’t play well the first three games, we didn’t deserve to win, but we didn’t want that to define us, define the season. We’ve still got a long uphill battle to go. But tonight was a good start. Just to try to carry this momentum towards Thursday.”

If Boston can win Game 5, this series becomes interesting. The Celtics are a tough-minded and resilient bunch; they don’t give up or give in very easily.

Can they be the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit?

They have a shot because they have homecourt advantage, so if the Celtics can somehow get the series back to Boston for a Game 7, anything is possible, but, as they said, the Celtics have to take it one game at a time.

NBA announces Play-In Tournament schedule

On Sunday, the NBA announced the schedule for the upcoming Play-In Tournament, which begins on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 11
Game 1 — Atlanta @ Miami | 7:30 ET (TNT)
Game 2 — Minnesota @ LA Lakers | 10 ET (TNT)

Wednesday, April 12
Game 3 — Chicago @ Toronto | 7 ET (ESPN)
Game 4 — Oklahoma City @ New Orleans | 9:30 ET (ESPN)

Friday, April 14
Game 5 — Winner of Game 3 @ Loser of Game 1 (TNT)
Game 6 — Winner of Game 4 @ Loser of Game 2 (ESPN)

The Playoffs begin on Saturday. Here’s the schedule below:

Cavs’ Altman: ‘Kevin Love had an outstanding run with the Cavaliers’

The Cleveland Cavaliers have officially reached a buyout agreement with forward Kevin Love, the team announced on Saturday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Miami Heat are a frontrunner to sign Love, but he plans to talk to the Philadelphia 76ers before making a decision.

Love, the longest-tenured member of the Cavaliers, playing in his 9th season with the franchise, has been out of the rotation and has not played in the last 12 games.

The 34-year-old appeared in 41 games (three starts) this season, averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Love had this to say on Twitter:

During his time with the Cavs, Love appeared in 489 games (380 starts) since being traded to Cleveland on Aug. 23, 2014, marking the 12th-most games in team history. In his nine seasons in Cleveland, Love posted averages of 15.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 28.5 minutes and ranks 2nd in team history in three-pointers made (1,096 3FGM), 3rd in defensive rebounds (3,720 DREB), 6th in total rebounds (4,493 REB) and 9th in total points scored (7,663). 

Love was also a member of the Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA Championship team and appeared in 63 playoff games (62 starts), averaging 15.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and shooting a .404 three-point percentage in 31.1 minutes during his postseason career. His 63 postseason appearances with Cleveland are the 6th-most playoff games in team history. 

“Kevin Love had an outstanding run with the Cavaliers, including memorable on-court moments, four NBA Finals appearances, and an NBA Championship in 2016,” said Altman via a statement from the team. “Kevin represented the organization and the city of Cleveland with the utmost charm and professionalism during his nine seasons in Northeast Ohio. He also embodied everything a franchise would want in a player, and the admiration and gratitude we have for him will ultimately land his jersey in the rafters of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. We thank Kevin for his impact and wish him nothing but the best, knowing that he has solidified his place in the hearts of Cavaliers fans and this organization forever.” 

Over his 15-year NBA career, Love has played in 853 games (662 starts) with Minnesota and Cleveland, owning career averages of 17.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 30.4 minutes per contest while also shooting .372 from the three-point line. A five-time NBA All-Star (2011, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018), Love was named an All-NBA Second Team selection in 2012 and 2014.

He is 1 of 4 players in the history of the NBA to record 14,000 points, 8,000 rebounds, 1,500 assists, and 1,500 three-pointers made (LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki, and Jason Kidd). 

Love had a great run with the Cavs, but all good things must come to an end.

Adebayo, Tucker carry Heat to win in Game 3

In the second half of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference finals series against the Boston Celtics., the Miami Heat were without their best player in the playoffs and their best player in this series, Jimmy Butler(knee inflammation), and they were missing Tyler Herro(groin), who sat out the final eight minutes of the fourth.

However, Bam Adebayo scored 14 of his 25 points in the second half, and P.J. Tucker had nine of his 17 points in the second half as the Heat held on to beat the Celtics 109-103 at TD Garden Saturday night.

Miami leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Monday night in Boston.

Miami led from start to finish and led by as many as 26 points in the first half, but Jaylen Brown came alive in the second half as he had 25 of his 40 points in the second half, including 14 points in the fourth. Boston cut the lead to 93-92 with under three minutes left, but Max Strus would connect on a three; Adebayo hit a jump hook as the Heat went on a 16-8 run to close the game.

Miami came out with renewed purpose on Saturday night after getting routed by Boston in Game 2. 

“Well, as everybody knows, in the previous game, they beat us like we stole something,” Adebayo said after the win.”That should wake anybody up, getting beat like that at home. From my point of view, that says it all.”

The Heat got it done, but concern has to shift to Butler and Herro. They were able to weather the storm without both players in Game 3, but if these two are out for an extended period, Miami will have to figure some things out going forward. 

“That’s the part that sucks about the game, the injuries, and you know, this is tough,” Kyle Lowry, who scored 11 points after missing the first two games of this series, said. “Jimmy is a warrior. Tyler is a warrior. But we have to continue to stay focused on what we did as a group tonight, and hopefully, those guys will be back and ready to go next game.”

Everybody is battling something at this point of an NBA season, and it could come down to which team is the healthiest. Boston was without Marcus Smart and Al Horford in Game 1, and Jayson Tatum left but returned in the fourth after injuring his shoulder.  

It appears we will have a long series; we’ll see who is the last team standing. 

Harden: ‘Nothing really changed, man, just made some shots’

On Sunday night, James Harden had his most significant moment as a 76er, and it came at the right time.

Harden scored 16 of his team-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, with seven rebounds, and nine assists as the 76ers defeated the Heat 116-108 to tie their Eastern Conference second-round series at 2-2.

The pivotal Game 5 is Tuesday night in Miami.

Harden, who was acquired from Brooklyn before the trade deadline, was 5/9 from the field, including 4/6 from deep in the fourth quarter. 

“That’s why he’s here,” Joel Embiid said about Harden.

“Just took what the defense gave me,” Harden said. “Same shots just made some. Nothing really changed, man, just made some shots. Obviously, that’s a game-changer, but just being aggressive… and that group that started the fourth quarter did a really good job of pushing the lead up and doing what we’re supposed to do.”

Tyrese Maxey, who scored 18 points, was excited to see Harden go off.

“It was great,” Maxey said. “It was amazing. It was great to see. You know, they were switching everything and didn’t let me have a lot of movement or a lot of continuity, so he just hit some big, long one shots, and in the playoffs, sometimes everyone knows what you are trying to do. Everybody knows what each team is trying to do to you, and they take things away, and it’s nice to have a lot of three-level scorers on your team, and we have a few of those collectively, maybe four or five of them, and it’s just night-to-night to prepare and hook up.”

The 76ers have knotted the series at two after winning Games 3 & 4, but according to Embiid, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds Sunday night, Philly has not played their best game yet in this series.

“I mean, the way we played is the reason why we were able to tie the series, but I don’t think we have played our best basketball,” Embiid said. “Tonight , we had way too many turnovers, 16, and we missed a bunch of wide-open shots.”

It’s the best of three, and the 76ers have the momentum, but they still have to win in Miami, which won’t be easy. However, if Harden can play as he did in Game 4, and Embiid can continue to build on his performance on Sunday, Philly has a shot. 


-Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 40 points to go along with six assists. This is the fourth 40-point playoff game of Butler’s career.

-Danny Green continued his strong shooting with a 4-6 performance including three makes from deep as he totaled 11 points to go along with two steals.

-Philadelphia had six players in double figures, including all five starters.






76ers’ Rivers: ‘He [Tyrese Maxey] was awesome’

After losing to the Raptors at home Sunday night, the 76ers(44-27) returned to their home floor Monday to battle the team with the best record in the East, the Miami Heat(47-25), but in this game, the 76ers were without their two best players in Joel Embiid(Back soreness) and James Harden(Left Hamstring; Injury Recovery).

However, they did have Tyrese Maxey, who got the job done for Philadelphia.

Maxey scored 13 of his game-high 28 points(9/15 FG, 3/7 3-PT FG, 7/7 FT) in the fourth quarter to go along with five rebounds and four assists as the 76ers defeated the Heat 113-106.

The second-year guard was a perfect 5/5 from the field, including 2/2 from deep in the fourth quarter, and he also did it on the defensive end as Maxey had a fantastic block on Caleb Martin.

“He [Tyrese Maxey] was awesome,” 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said. “And again, he sat when we were making the run. He was watching Shake [Milton] and Furk [Furkan Korkmaz] and Georges [Niang] and that group. When he came in, we explained to him very clearly what we were trying to do. And we got that, a lot. We got the right place on the floor. He attacked. The threes were great. More importantly, he made a defensive play to win the game. That was one hell of a block.”

The 21-year-old Maxey was also getting love from the fans as they chanted his name in the fourth, but he gave credit to Shake Milton(20 points, five rebounds, six assists), Furkan Kormaz(16 points, 4/7 3pt FG, and six rebounds), and Paul Millsap(five points and four rebounds).

“Hearing it is different. It’s different,” Maxey said about the fans’ chants. “But, I can’t take any of this credit. I’m just looking at the stats right here and guys like Shake [Milton] and Furk [Furkan Korkmaz] and Paul Millsap. Paul Millsap starts tonight. I don’t think he played in the last ten games. Furk hasn’t played much. But for those guys to stay ready and come in and play 31, 27 minutes, it’s just testimony to our group.”

Maxey also discussed his sensational block on Martin.

“We turned the ball over, first of all,” he said. “It was hard to get in. It was a hard spot. In my mind, I was thinking, ‘either he’s [Caleb Martin] gonna have to dunk on me today, or I will get this block.’ It was one or the other. And just one of those plays where you have to put your body on the line. And coach Doc [Doc Rivers] always messes with me, saying I’m six-foot and I need to stop trying to block shots. I got in there today, and he said, ‘that was a great block, but I don’t want to see you ever block another shot again.’ It was great, though.”

This might have been the best win of the season for Philadelphia when you consider they had their two best players in street clothes. Strange things happen in sports sometimes, and to Philly’s credit, they battled, guys stepped up, and again, the 76ers got the job done.

Back to Maxey, it’s clear; he’s going to be a star for sure!

Cavs stumble, fall in Miami

The Cleveland Cavaliers continued their three-game road trip Friday night in Miami against the Heat. 

Miami had their biggest lead of 17 points in the third as they defeated the Cavs 117-105 at FTX Arena.

With the loss, the Cavs’ (38-28) two-game winning streak is over, while the Heat (45-23) have won four out of five.

The Great for the Cavs:

-For the fourth straight game, Darius Garland recorded a double-double. He had 24 points, and 10 assists, including a career-high 15 free throws made(15/16 FT). The All-Star struggled from the floor(4/17 FG), but he made up at the line. Garland has 20 double-doubles this season, which is also a career-high.

-For the third consecutive game, Evan Mobley had a double-double. The rookie had 19 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. Mobley got his second straight start at center and played well, and he now has the most double-doubles(18) among rookies.

Second Quarter: Cleveland trailed 28-18 after the first quarter and trailed by as many as 14 points(46-32) in the second, but the Cavs picked things up. They went on a 22-7 run to take their first lead of the game and trailed 58-57 at the break. Cleveland shot 68% from the floor, including 60%(3/5) from deep, and outscored the Heat 39-30 in the quarter.

The Not So Great for the Cavs:

Third Quarter: After a Garland free throw, the Cavs had a five-point lead, which was their largest of the game, but from there, Miami went on a 27-9 run to take complete control of the game.

Miami raised the Heat on the defensive end. Cleveland shot 4/16(25%) from the floor, including 1/7(14%) from three-point range. The Heat outscored the Cavs 27-15 in the third.

Turnovers:  Cleveland had 18 turnovers, which led to 30 points for Miami. If you’re trying to beat the best team in the East, you can’t turn the ball over that many times. The Cavs are a young team, and young teams can be sloppy at times. Currently, the Cavs are 28th in the NBA in turnovers per game.

Bottom Line: 

Look, the Heat have the best record in the East for a reason, and they showed that Friday night. 

Cleveland has back-to-back games on the road against two of the top teams in the East, so hopefully, for them, they can try to get the split against the Bulls Saturday night.

The Cavs have to be better on the defensive end, especially with 30 points in street clothes(Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert). In two out of their last three wins, Cleveland held their opponents below 100 points, so they have to defend at a high level if they want to win. 

As for the standings, the sixth-seeded Cavs are two games behind the fifth-seeded Celtics(41-27) and two games ahead of the seventh-seed, the Raptors.

What’s Next:

Cleveland concludes their three-game homestand in Chicago against the Bulls.

Best of the Rest:

Bam Adebayo had game-highs of 30 points and 17 rebounds; Jimmy Butler added 24 points, and Tyler Herro chipped in with 22 points off the bench.

-LeVert(foot) missed his eighth straight game.