Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets could use the kind of break everybody else is getting in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
If anybody deserves some time off, it’s the All-Star center who just played 65 minutes in a game.
But there’s no rest for the weary now. The Nuggets and Trail Blazers will be back on the court Sunday for Game 4, surely a little low on fuel after they tied an NBA record by playing four overtimes Friday night in Portland’s 140-137 victory.
“Both teams are exhausted, so it’s the same for them as it is for us,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We will not use that as an excuse. We haven’t used it all year long, and we won’t start using it now.”
The conference semifinal round is a series of starts and stops, where it’s difficult for any team to build much momentum because there have been so many gaps between games.
Philadelphia and Toronto, who have Game 4 of their series Sunday, play just twice in a seven-day span. In the other Eastern Conference semifinal, Milwaukee and Boston had two days off in between both Games 2 and 3, and Games 3 and 4.
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When Golden State and Houston played Game 3 of their series Saturday night, it was their first time on the court since Tuesday.
Then there’s Denver and Portland, who barely had time to catch their breath after the Trail Blazers’ victory in Friday’s marathon gave them a 2-1 lead.
They are playing every other day to start their series, and would only have an extra day between games if it’s extended to a seventh game.
So while Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid has ample opportunity for treatment on his sore left knee that was such a problem when the postseason began, Portland’s Enes Kanter’s left shoulder has little time to heal before he’d have to get back on the court to resume tussling with Jokic.
“As far as the minutes, everybody’s tired. We’re built for what’s happening right now. That’s what we had to do to win the game,” Portland’s Damian Lillard said. “Now we’ve got to go do our jobs away from the floor to make sure that at 4 o’clock Sunday we’re ready.”
At least Portland wrapped up its first-round series against Oklahoma City quickly, earning some down time after Lillard’s long 3-pointer ended the series in five games. But the Nuggets had to go the distance against San Antonio, meaning they had only one day off between ending one series and starting the next.
Recover quickly and win Sunday, and they will have evened the series and regained home-court advantage. But if not, the No. 2 seed would be facing a 3-1 hole, which is a tough spot no matter the team’s energy level.
The 7-foot, 250-pound Jokic insists he’ll be ready.
“They always talking about I’m not in shape. I’m in really good shape. I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Jokic said. “When I came here I was maybe a little bit chubby, but there’s really no difference in me now. I’m feeling good.”
Brian Mahoney is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/No-rest-for-the-weary-after-4-OT-thriller-between-13819889.php.