Nuggets secure seed No. 2; 4th seed of rockets



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LOS ANGELES – The Golden State Warriors will begin their search of three pesetas against an old rival in the Los Angeles Clippers, while the Denver Nuggets will seek to prove that they are legitimate challengers of the champions as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs of the Western Conference. .

The West playoff sowing ended Wednesday night, when Denver and the Portland Trail Blazers completed their exciting victories since the final night of the regular season. The Nuggets secured the No. 2 seed with a 99-95 home victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and sent the Houston Rockets to the fourth seed in the process.

The Rockets, who could have been as tall as the second seed, slipped to fourth place because of the Nuggets' victory and Portland's 136-131 victory over the Sacramento Kings. That means a rematch between the Warriors and the Rockets could now take place in the second round, after Golden State needed seven games to beat Houston in the conference finals in the last postseason.

The Warriors will begin their title defense by renewing rivalry with the Clippers. Of course, the confrontation No. 1 vs. No. 8 lacks the spark of the past battles of the Warriors-Clippers, with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan who left Los Angeles. Still, the Warriors love to host a show at the Staples Center and are thrilled to have a short trip in the state to Southern California. Golden State enters the series with a 17-3 record against the Clippers since Steve Kerr became head coach in 2014.

Now, the Warriors will begin their last postseason race with a new weapon to use in DeMarcus Cousins, who will have his first playoff experience in his nine-year career.

While Clippers coach Doc Rivers admitted that he would have liked to have avoided the two-time defending champions in the first round, the Clippers will look to continue doing what they've done for most of this season: surpbading expectations at play against a hard team. basketball with a second unit driven by sixth-man super scorer Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell.

"We have a great effort for us," said Kevin Durant, star of the Warriors. "I know it's a 1-8 series, but they have a lot of talents that know how to play in the playoffs, they have players who are ready for the playoffs, so we hope to see what our game plan is, I hope to prepare for this team. goes ".

"They have a scorer from around the world at Lou Williams, who can make it work at any time in the game from anywhere," Durant added. "You have [Danilo] Gallinari, who can do the same. And then you have wing players like [Landry] Shamet and Wilson Chandler, guys who can come and give you some trouble in the playoffs for a stretch, having another big one like [Ivica] Zubac So, they have a good team, well trained.

"They're definitely going to play us really hard from the beginning, and it's not going to be as easy as people think."

New Clippers guard Patrick Beverley: "We have nothing to lose, all the pressure is on them."

With the Warriors strongly favored over the Clippers, the enemies of the second round of Golden State will be the Rockets or the Utah Jazz, the fifth seed. For much of Wednesday night, it looked like the Rockets would get the 2-seed, before the Nuggets and the Blazers won again.

The Rockets and Jazz split all four of their games this season, but Houston enters the postseason with MVP forward James Harden, who helped the Rockets win 20 of their last 24 games.

"He's been leading this team for the second half of the season – it's been, I think, even better than last year," said Rudy Gobert of the Jazz over Harden. "It will be a good challenge for us."

The Nuggets will make their first postseason appearance since coach George Karl's 2012-13 season. Denver secured the second seed with a game that ended 15-0 against the Timberwolves. The Nuggets will face the San Antonio Spurs, who won the seventh seed and avoided a first-round confrontation with the Warriors by beating the Dallas Mavericks 105-94 at home in Dirk Nowitzki's final game on Wednesday night. with the victory of Oklahoma City by 127-116. in the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nuggets and Spurs split their season series this season and have not met in the postseason since 2007, when San Antonio eliminated Denver in the first round en route to a title. This will be the first postseason of DeMar DeRozan with the Spurs.

Russell Westbrook helped Oklahoma City get the sixth seed and a meeting with the third-seeded Blazers on Wednesday with his 34th triple-double of the season. The 15 points, 17 badists and 11 rebounds from Westbrook led the Thunder, who did not have Paul George (right shoulder), to victory over the Bucks.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan expects George to be ready for the playoff game against Portland, who needed a 28-point rally to win the third seed. Oklahoma City enters this matchup after having swept the season series against Portland.

"Every time we played with them over the years, it was almost a war: physical games, closed matches," said Damian Lillard of Portland after the final meeting of the regular season between the Blazers-Thunder.

The Blazers will seek the redemption of the playoffs after being swept as the 3 seeded last year by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round.

Nick Friedell, Malika Andrews and Baxter Holmes of ESPN contributed to this report.

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