NBA finals Lakers Celtics Game 2: Allen's triples versus Bynum's ferocity versus Rondo's triple double

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Rondo_Celtics.jpgIn Game 2, we saw the series we hoped we would get. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics put in huge performances in a back and forth affair that featured tremendous individual efforts on both sides of the green and yellow divide. Unfortunately, this meant that one team was going to be left with a disappointing waste of a phenomenal game under the biggest of circumstances.

When the Lakers made a strong start to the second half, it looked like it would be Ray Allen’s phenomenal shooting performance that would be for naught. But after the buzzer sounded, Andrew Bynum finished as the player who unfortunately had to watch his best work go unrewarded.

Kobe Bryant? 21 points on 20 shots.Pau Gasol? Four field goal attempts in the second half, despite leading all Lakers with 25 points. No huge veteran play from Derek Fisher. No X-Factor play from Shannon Brown.

But Andrew Bynum showed up to play. Bynum had arguably his most important game as a Laker. He was dominant. The drop hook, working. Tenacious on the glass. Seven blocks to go with 21 points and six boards. And it wasn’t just the numbers. He was the answer for the Lakers on possession after possession, battling and battling and forcing the Celtics to recoil from the sheer force of his aggression. It was the kind of performance we’ve been waiting to see from Bynum as he constantly forced us to second guess him with his work ethic and injury history. That he accomplished all this on a torn ligament in his knee is simultaneously impressive and depressing. That he accomplished it in the loss is just depressing.

But there was of course a flip side to the bad news. The victors had their share of heroes, chief among them the cyborg Ray Allen (who we told you about earlier) and Rajon Rondo, returning to the triple double hall with 19-12-10 and 2 steals for good measure. It should be noted it took Rondo 18 points to score 19, but hey, a triple double is a triple double. (Unless it involves turnovers, in which case it’s a cruel joke.)

Rondo’s postseason was summed up perfectly on a possession late where repeated Glen Davis misses resulted in another loose ball. Rondo snatched it out of the air for another huge offensive rebound and immediately went up for a putback. It was exemplary of Rondo’s approach tonight, which was playing the numbers game. He gambled that going to the rim was better than not going to the rim and if he kept going, good things would happen. What’s odd is that his arguable biggest shot was a pull-up jumper late that seemed to dagger the Lakers’ hearts.

So now the series is tied, and the Lakers are faced with an interesting double edged sword. Frustrated because they gave up homecourt advantage and wasted a huge effort from Bynum. Comforted because it took two phenomenal efforts from Rondo and Allen to put it away in a tight one.

The battle rages on.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.