30 teams in 30 days: Improved Nuggets face tough task in stacked division


30 teams in 30 days: Improved Nuggets face tough task in stacked division

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Denver Nuggets.

A year ago the Denver Nuggets came oh-so-close to snapping a four-year playoff drought, finishing one game (40-42) behind Portland (41-41) for the eighth and final playoff spot out West.

They bring back the core group from last season while adding Paul Millsap, a difference-making All-Star big man who can stretch the floor, score around the rim and defend at the highest levels.
Back in the playoffs right?
Maybe, but it’ll be tough going when you consider the Northwest Division should arguably be the toughest in the NBA when trying to get past a foursome of Utah, Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Portland.
The Northwest Division is the only one in the NBA that consists of all five teams fielding rosters with legit playoff potential.
For Denver, what’s going to help them stand out from the rest is their frontcourt 1-2 punch of Millsap and big man Nikola Jokic, who has blossomed into one of the brightest young bigs in the NBA.
Last season, Jokic, 22, averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists which included the 6-foot-10 center racking up six triple-doubles.
For the Nuggets to build upon last season and take that next step which is getting to the playoffs, they’ll need better guard play this season.
Figuring out where Emmanuel Mudiay plays would help. The 6-5 guard is very much a tweener with great size and power but doesn’t seem to set up teammates for easy scores, which is what you want in a lead guard. Short of that, you want a guy who can score, which is part of Mudiay’s game but far from his greatest strength at this point.
In his two NBA seasons, the one thing Mudiay has shown is a desire to attack the rim and finish. He shot 50.5 percent from the field last season when his shots were within three feet of the rim. From 3-10 feet, that number dipped to 29.0 percent from the field. And from 10-16 and 16-plus but less than a 3-pointer, Mudiay was 26.2 percent and 32.7 percent.
Denver is also hoping for Gary Harris to continue growing as a solid two-way player, as well as second-year guard Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley.
Veterans Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried will also factor in how far the Nuggets will go this season. Denver is clearly a better team than last season but that still may not be enough to get over the hump and back into the postseason for the first time since 2013.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Paul Millsap (Atlanta); Trey Lyles (Utah).
Key losses: Danilo Gallinari (Los Angeles Clippers).
Rookies of note: Tyler Lydon.
Expectations: 46-36 (Fourth in the Northwest Division, seventh in the West).


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kyrie Irving getting second opinion on injured knee

1:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss Kyrie Irving getting a second opinion on his injured knee and what the Kyrie’s options are for the remainder of the season.

5:53 - Kyle Draper and Brian Scalabrine break down the Celtics stunning last second comeback win over the Thunder with multiple key players sitting out.

10:27 - Tom Curran and Jerod Mayo stop by Early Edition to play a game of Fill in the Blank that involves Gronkowski’s contract and the Patriots best offseason acquisition.



Morris caps off improbable comeback vs Thunder

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Morris caps off improbable comeback vs Thunder

BOSTON – Marcus Morris has never been one to lack for confidence, regardless of time or score.

So with the game on the line, Morris … hesitated?

Uh, not exactly. 

It was a pump fake to create just enough space to launch what would become a game-winning 3-pointer that lifted Boston to an improbable 100-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Morris was asked about his uh, hesitation before draining the first game-winner of his NBA career.

“Hesitation? I don’t even know how to spell that (bleep),” quipped Morris. 

Morris arrived in Boston as a two-way talent via trade from Detroit, whose strength was more at the defensive end of the floor.

But with Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) both out, Morris has emerged as one of the team’s primary scoring options. 

“He’s another huge part of our team moving forward,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “If you’re counting on 13 or 14 (points) from him, now we’re counting on 16 or 18.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 100-99 win over Oklahoma City. 


Marcus Morris: Even before he drained the game-winning basket, Morris was having a good night for the Celtics. He finished with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with four rebounds and one steal.

Jayson Tatum: He has looked to score more now with key players sidelined, and the Celtics will be better for this long-term. Tatum had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Boston. And being 20 years and 17 days old, he became the youngest player in franchise history to have a game of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, bettering the previous record set by Antoine Walker (20 years and 165 days old on Jan. 24, 1997.

Russell Westbrook: A normal night for Russell Westbrook is a career game-like performance for most NBA players. He led the Thunder with 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. 

Paul George: Boston had problems limiting Paul George most of the game. For the second time in as many games this season against Boston, George tallied a double-double. He had 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting along with a game-high 13 rebounds.



Greg Monroe: On those stretches when the Celtics are thirsty for points, he has been the ultimate thirst-quencher off the bench. He led all reserves on Tuesday with 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting from the field to go with six rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.

Shane Larkin: He continues to make the most of his increased role with Kyrie Irving out. Larkin had 13 points off the bench on 5-for-9 shooting with four rebounds.



Carmelo Anthony: He had 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting, but Melo’s impact was minimal at best. What he will be remembered for from this game was the two free throw misses with 8.4 seconds and the Thunder up two points, that set up the Celtics’ Marcus Morris for his game-winning 3-pointer.

Al Horford: This was yet another stinker in terms of shooting the ball, for Al Horford. Not only did he miss shots that he knows he should have knocked down, but many came at a time when the Celtics needed a big shot to get some semblance of control. Usually it’s Horford whose play lifts Boston to victory. But on this night, it was his teammates who bailed him out because if Boston lost this game you can bet there would have been plenty of eyes that would gloss past his seven assists and six rebounds, and instead lock on to his five points (on 2-for-9 shooting) and four turnovers.