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Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, right, drives against Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 22, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

“Nikola is not going to back down from anybody, and I think you’ve seen that from our team a little bit, whether we’re playing Golden State, Cleveland, Boston, whoever it is, we’re not going to back down,” coach Michael Malone said after his Nuggets increased their lead to 1 1/2 games over idle Portland in the race for the final playoff spot in the West.


FILE - In this Saturday, March 11, 2017, file photo, Kentucky head coach John Calipari talks to Edrice Adebayo (3) and Derek Willis (35) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alabama in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Long considered a football power, the Southeastern Conference is showing some basketball promise. The league has a chance to get three teams in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, with Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina playing in the Sweet 16 on Friday night. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

“I’ve said it all year: This league is better than everybody’s giving it credit for,” Barnes said Tuesday. “It’s not like I told you so, but the fact is this basketball league is better. What I’m ecstatic about is we’ve had to overcome the perception that it wasn’t very good, and we’ve got teams that have gone out and played good basketball.”