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Denver Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. questionable to return to court Friday

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Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. is nearing a return and is listed as questionable to play Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Porter has been cleared from the NBA’s health and safety protocols and returned to the team, a league source told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Nuggets coach Michael Malone said that Porter has to clear a cardio exam to return to play from the protocols.

Porter has not played since Dec. 29, when he had 30 points and 10 rebounds against the Sacramento Kings, missing the past 10 games. He is averaging 19.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in four games this season.

“Once you clear and you start returning negative tests, that is a big part of it, but then there’s a cardio aspect of it you have to pass,” Malone said Thursday. “… Once all that comes back into play, hopefully he will be able to play at some point on this trip. If it’s tomorrow, great. If not, hopefully sometime soon after.”

As the Nuggets start a five-game road swing at Phoenix, they are eager to see what they can do at full strength with Porter back.

“We are on the right path, now that we are back to a full team,” power forward JaMychal Green said. “Once [Porter] gets to jell with us and we get that chemistry with him, I think we will be unstoppable.”

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Stephen Curry (37 points), James Wiseman make impact for Golden State Warriors in return to lineup

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The fact that Golden State Warriors star guard Stephen Curry dropped 37 points in a 114-106 win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night has become a commonplace occurrence in a career that has been defined by big scoring nights. But this particular performance was even more impressive given that it came just days after being a last-minute scratch in Saturday’s 102-100 loss to the Charlotte Hornets as Curry battled an illness that left him “disoriented” and out of sorts.

“Steph was tremendous,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “Just amazing. He was moving beautifully, obviously there were no ill effects from his illness the other night. Moving really well right from the start. New York is a great defensive team, they’re big and physical, so they make it tough but Steph found a way to score. It was not easy, but he found a way and hit some huge shots and created a lot of offense for us.”

Curry, who went 7-for-14 from beyond the arc in 37 minutes, went into a little more detail as to why he missed Saturday’s game. It was a game that the Charlotte native had been looking forward to all season.

“I was trying to give myself a chance to play up until the last second,” Curry said. “I was just disoriented and the room was spinning a little bit, so at the end of the day it wasn’t smart to go out there and put myself in jeopardy of doing some more harm. We were communicating all pregame, making sure I was thinking straight about the decision to play. That was a tough call, but the right one.”

Aside from Curry’s return to the lineup, the Warriors also got a big lift from big men James Wiseman and Kevon Looney, both of whom returned to the floor after missing time because of respective injuries. Wiseman, the 19-year-old rookie center, who has been out since injuring his left wrist on Jan. 30, scored 14 points in 16 minutes against the Knicks, providing a jolt of energy down low that had been missing from the lineup.

“James was great,” Kerr said. “It was really fun to watch him play out there. It was so great to have him back. He brings a lot of energy to the floor, obviously he’s immensely talented. And so to have him out there to really impact the game, and at the same time learn, he’s getting a lot thrown at him … everything’s moving pretty fast for him but he is just an incredible athlete and an incredible young, mature guy. He’s going to have such a great career. It was so fun to see him out there and we’re just trying to bring him along at the right pace to help him develop, to make sure he’s learning properly as well.”

Wiseman came to the postgame podium with a big ice pack on his wrist, but said his wrist was feeling “great,” after returning for the first time in almost a month. Veteran Looney, who hadn’t played since turning his left ankle on Feb. 2, also contributed to the win with two points, six rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes. Looney said his conditioning felt “good,” and Kerr was pleased to see his trusted veteran come in and make an impact.

“Loon just ties things together,” Kerr said. “There are certain guys who just sort of fit with any lineup … you just put him in and he makes the right play over and over again. So while his contributions may not show up in the box score, it just makes the game easier for everybody else.”

Speaking of making things easier, Warriors swingman Kelly Oubre, Jr., who made several big plays on both ends of the floor while scoring 19 points of his own, explained the difference that Curry’s presence on the floor creates for everybody else.

“It’s night and day, man,” Oubre said. “That’s the best shooter in the history of the game. That’s my opinion, but I feel like if you look at the numbers, if you look at the facts and the stats, everything, it adds up to him being the best shooter in the history of the game. The energy that he brings and the force that he brings when he comes off screens, especially late in games when teams have to just play and switch, it’s a lot of slips, it’s a lot of opportunities for everybody else to find their spots. So I think that’s just a blessing to be able to play with, man.”

For his part, Curry was just happy to have fans back in Madison Square Garden to listen to after several months of playing in mostly empty arenas. Tuesday marked the first game the Knicks were allowed to have fans inside the famous arena.

“It was awesome,” Curry said. “I don’t know how many fans there were, but you could definitely feel a different energy in there. There were some fans heckling which was awesome. Me and Draymond were talking about it. There’s no better feeling — I don’t care if it’s 19,000 or 2,500 or whatever it is, you love silencing a road crowd. So that is a cool experience considering not many arenas have had fans this year. It does make a huge difference so we love playing in front of the fans that bring energy like that, especially here.”

After missing Saturday’s game, Curry was glad to be able to help his team across the finish line on Tuesday night. The Warriors have yet to either win or lose three games this season, but they know things would get dark in a hurry if Curry didn’t bounce back as quickly as he did from his illness.

“It was hopefully just kind of a fluke instance where it just wasn’t right, [for] a lot of different reasons,” Curry said. “It was the right thing to do. The last two days just kind of get my bearings back; thankfully I had time to practice yesterday, which gave me a little bit of confidence to come into today and get back to playing at a high level. It sucked missing the game and especially in that fashion where I thought I could go and then in the last second just didn’t have it in me. A good bounce-back for us overall as a team, so it was nice to have Loon and Big Fella [Wiseman] back.”

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Luka Doncic’s two 3-pointers late carry Dallas Mavericks past Boston Celtics

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DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks had lost an 11-point lead and all the momentum, having gone almost three minutes without scoring, before Luka Doncic delivered one of the most spectacular clutch shooting displays in recent NBA memory.

Doncic twice drained tightly contested, stepback 3-pointers to give the Mavs the lead on their final two possessions, the second a 27-footer that swished with a tenth of a second remaining Tuesday night to seal the 110-107 win over the Boston Celtics.

“We made a few mistakes, but I loved the way we kept our poise, hung in and made sure we got the ball in the right guy’s hands at the end,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, only one other player has hit a pair of go-ahead 3s in the final 30 seconds of a game over the last 25 seasons. Doncic joined the exclusive company of journeyman guard Dan Dickau, who accomplished the feat for the New Orleans Hornets in a Jan. 22, 2005, win over the LA Clippers.

Doncic’s clutch heroics to beat Boston inspired Carlisle to utter the 21-year-old All-Star’s name in the same sentence as some NBA legends, too.

“The wiring of people like Luka Doncic, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant — guys that have this laser-like focus in these situations — it’s difficult to explain how their mind and how their brain works,” Carlisle said. “He’s a very rare breed of player. Not only does he have the laser-like focus, but he has the desire and he has all the tools to deliver.”

Doncic, who finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, had to reach deep in his tool kit to hit the shot that put the Mavs up with 15.8 seconds remaining. After finding no room when he attempted to drive, Doncic gave the ball up to Jalen Brunson and got it back a few steps beyond the 3-point line with 11 seconds remaining on the shot clock. He got a screen from forward Dorian Finney-Smith that led the Celtics to switch defenders, allowing Doncic to isolate against center Daniel Theis on the right wing. Doncic changed directions three times with between-the-legs dribbles before swishing the stepback with Theis’ hand in his face.

“It felt good out of my hands,” Doncic said. “I was kind of tired just running around the whole possession, but it got in, and that’s all that matters.”

Brown, who led the Celtics with 29 points, responded by hitting his second go-ahead shot of the final minute, driving for a layup with 9.5 seconds remaining. Dallas didn’t have a timeout and didn’t need one, knowing that the plan was simply to get Doncic the ball and let him create. Doncic maneuvered to the left wing and knocked down a stepback over two Celtics defenders, reminiscent of the buzzer-beater he made to beat the Clippers in Game 4 of last season’s first-round playoff series, the signature moment of the superstar’s career so far.

“The last one was ridiculous,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who second-guessed not sending a second defender at Doncic when he was isolated on Theis the previous possession. “Kemba (Walker) was right there, Aaron (Nesmith) was right there. I’m not gonna be too hard on our guys for those last two shots that Luka Doncic just made.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Doncic entered the night 2-of-7 on potential go-ahead 3s in the final 30 seconds of regulation or overtime, including his playoff dagger against the Clippers. He went 2-of-2 on Tuesday, allowing the 15-15 Mavs to get to .500 for the first time in a month.

“Sometimes you’re going to miss it — like the last game against Portland,” Doncic said, referring to his wide-open 3 that rimmed out on Dallas’ final possession of a 121-118 Valentine’s Day loss to the Trail Blazers.”And sometimes you’re going to make it.”

The Mavs, whose season seemed on the brink of crumbling when they had a six-game losing streak that stretched into early February, have won six of their last seven games. Doncic has led the NBA in scoring during that stretch with 34.0 points per game, shooting 51.9% from the floor and 48.3% from 3-point range, while also averaging 8.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists.

“He’s bringing us together,” said Brunson, who had 22 points off the bench. “We’re on the right track right now. We’ve got to keep it going.”

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Sources — Brooklyn Nets expected to bring back Iman Shumpert and Andre Roberson, add Tyler Cook

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The Brooklyn Nets are waiving three players — Noah Vonleh, Iman Shumpert and Andre Roberson — ahead of the deadline to guarantee deals for the season, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Brooklyn then plans to re-sign guards Shumpert and Roberson to 10-day contracts, as well as add forward Tyler Cook on a 10-day deal, sources told ESPN.

Wednesday is the league’s deadline to guarantee nonguaranteed contracts for the rest of the season.

Vonleh, Shumpert and Roberson would clear waivers on Friday at 5 p.m. ET. If they are claimed during the waiver process, their contracts would become guaranteed.

The moves give the Nets roster flexibility to take on players in trades or the buyout/free agent market.

Vonleh had a cap hit of $263,995, Shumpert $447,155 and Roberson $163,818.

Cook has averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4.6 assists in the G-League Bubble for Iowa in seven games.

The Nets can continue to use 10-day contracts up until the March 25 trade deadline to retain roster flexibility.

Information from ESPN’s Bobby Marks was used in this report.

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