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NBA NW: Nuggets Top Thunder, Jazz Crush Bobcats

Ty Lawson beat the buzzer to beat the Thunder - Doug Pensinger/SB Nation

The Oklahoma City Thunder may still own the top spot in the Western Conference’s Northwest Division, but on Friday night the Denver Nuggets proved they can not only beat the top dog, but that they can do it in the clutch.

Ty Lawson drained the game-winning jump shot with just 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation to propel the Nuggets to a 105-103 victory, which now makes them 25-3 at home this season. The Nuggets also pulled to within five games of the first-place Thunder in the division and extended their win-streak to four games with the victory.

The Nuggets have now beat the Thunder in two of three meetings this season, proving that they belong in the conversation involving the Western Conference’s top squads.

Elsewhere in the division, the Utah Jazz had similar success, but had a much easier time achieving it.

Utah snapped a three-game losing streak by obliterating the lowly Charlotte Bobcats at home by a score of 98-68. The game was never in question, as the Bobcats trailed 21-9 after the first period and Utah later extended the lead to 62-24 at one point.

Enes Kanter surprised everyone with a tremendous performance in a rare start. He was plugged into the lineup after Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were ruled out due to injury, but went off, scoring 23 points and collecting 22 rebounds.

“It was a really good opportunity,” Kanter said, via ESPN.com. “Big Al was injured. Paul was injured. It was me trying to do my job.”

Kanter became the first Jazz player in nearly a calendar year to post a 20-20 showing, as Jefferson did it last on April 26 of last year.

With the Northwest Division teams performing well on Friday night, the pressure is now on the two teams from the division in action tonight against one another, but particularly the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers – who are struggling mightily lately as losers of eight of their last 10 – are still hoping to nab the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but they’ll have to get past the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight.

Portland should pick up the win, but expect a close shave

Fortunately for Portland, the T-Wolves are similarly having a rough go as of late. They’ve also dropped eight of ten and are currently in last place in the division.

The Blazers will also look to replicate their past success against the Wolves. Portland has won 20 of the last 22 meetings, including all three from this season. They’ll have a good chance to sweep the series as the Wolves are still without their big man – native Oregonian Kevin Love.

However, Portland is a 9.5 point favorite today, and even at home the Blazers don’t typically blow teams away. Even without Love, the Wolves’ defense is capable enough to avoid a double-digit loss, as they only give up 97.7 points per game. Look for Minnesota to cover that +9.5 spread, but ultimately in the loss to Portland.


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