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Faried helps Nuggets rally past Magic 108-105

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Faried helps Nuggets rally past Magic 108-105

DENVER (AP) Kenneth Faried scored 19 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to help the Denver Nuggets rally for a 108-105 win over the slumping Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

Ty Lawson also finished with 19 points, including a three-point play with 1:27 remaining that gave the Nuggets the lead for good and sent them to their third straight win.

Orlando just can't get on track since Glen Davis went out with a sprained left shoulder, dropping a 10th straight game in the big man's absence. He currently isn't with the team but it was hoped he might rejoin them at some point during the current four-game trip.

Trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets roared back and tied the game at 99 on an alley-oop dunk by Faried. But the high-energy forward wasn't done there.

When Andre Iguodala missed a free throw on the next possession, Faried dove on the ground for the loose ball and scooped it up, quickly calling time out.

Out of the break, Lawson hit a layup and was fouled. Moments later, Danilo Gallinari put the finishing touches on the win with a dunk off an inbound pass from Andre Miller.

Jameer Nelson led the Magic with 20 points, while Arron Afflalo added 12 against his former team before fouling out late in the game. Reserve Corey Brewer gave the Nuggets an early spark, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the second quarter when the team was struggling.

Afflalo returned to the court against his former team to applause - at least for introductions. Soon after that he was treated like any other opposing player and constantly heckled. When Afflalo made his first basket, someone screamed, ``Who?!''

Afflalo was once a fan favorite, too, especially after signing a long-term contract. But the Nuggets saw an opportunity to upgrade the squad in the offseason and dealt Afflalo, along with Al Harrington, to Orlando as part of the blockbuster deal that landed Dwight Howard with the Los Angeles Lakers.

In exchange, Denver wound up with Iguodala, who hit a big 3-pointer late when the Magic were threatening to pull away. The Nuggets also tried to pick up big man Nikola Vucevic in the deal, but team executive Masai Ujiri couldn't get him included in the trade.

Vucevic showed Nuggets fans why he was so coveted, scoring 10 points and grabbing 14 rebounds for the Magic. He also missed a dunk late in the game before fouling out.

Seeing Afflalo leave town was difficult for Nuggets coach George Karl, who constantly relied on the guard's easygoing demeanor during Afflalo's three seasons in Denver.

Said Karl before the game: ``Someone taught (Afflalo) at a very early age that winning is why you play. It's very deep in his basketball soul. You play the game to win. It's not numbers. It's not stats. It's to win.''

The Magic built a 10-point lead in the first half, only to have the Nuggets tie it. Maurice Harkless managed to send the Magic into the locker room at the break with a 55-53 lead when he hit a layup in the final seconds.

Asked before the game if he was sweating the losing streak, coach Jacque Vaughn turned into a philosopher.

``To be able to fight adversity and see how you respond is a true test of a man's character, which ultimately is his destiny,'' Vaughn said. ``That is who you are. Life is what you make of it. That is your own destiny. It's a great opportunity to forge your own destiny.''

NOTES: A longtime coach in Seattle, Karl has strong feelings about an NBA team potentially returning to that area. According to an Associated Press source, an investor contacted the Maloof family about buying the Sacramento Kings, setting up the possibility of a return to Seattle. ``I'm not going to lie - I'm happy that Seattle is going to have a team more than Sacramento,'' Karl said. ``But I am disappointed that Sacramento can't keep their team.'' ... Nuggets F Wilson Chandler (left hip) could be back in the lineup as early as Sunday against Golden State. ... Miller drew a second-quarter technical foul while sitting on the bench when he kept arguing with the officials. ... Magic G J.J. Redick had 17 points.

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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