NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 3: Derek Fisher does what Derek Fisher does and the Celtics pay

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Fisher_Bryant.jpgHere is the basics of the scouting report every team gets on Derek Fisher: Don’t let him catch and shoot, particularly late in games. Make him shoot off the dribble, hit pull up jumpers, do that and he will miss.

So what did Fisher do in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the NBA finals, with the game (and maybe the series) on the line? Hit a little running floater in the lane. Hit a pull-up, 10-foot jumper on the wing. Hit a spin to the middle one-dribble 15 footer. He a floating bank over Big Baby.

Derek Fisher has serious limitations to his game. He’s not what he used to be. Except in the fourth quarter of big games.

He had 11 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 and he is the key reason Los Angeles up 2-1 in the NBA finals.

“He won the game for them,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Derek Fisher was the difference down the stretch.”

The Celtics continued to play good defense. Well, they did in the second half. Boston takes away your first and second options. They are getting up into Kobe’s body, and he is shooting under 40 percent for the finals. He had 29 points in Game 3, but needed 29 shots to do that. The Celtics will live with that. Boston also makes it hard for Pau Gasol to get good position, he had just 13 points on 11 shots.

But then there was Fisher in the fourth. The Lakers had success with Fisher coming off the Kobe Bryant pick out high — Fisher said afterwards it was because nobody leaves Kobe, giving him lanes to drive. Fisher did attack, and then before the defense got set he hit the shot. The ones he’s not supposed to be able to hit.

It’s a confidence thing — Fisher has a supreme belief in himself and his ability to make plays. It hurts him at times. There are bad-decision pull up jumpers in transition in February games that have Lakers fans screaming at their televisions. He gets criticized for it, for his age, for his defense.

And he never wavers. When he was in a shooting slump this season, he never admitted it and said he expected it to be different the next game. Every time. That confidence comes through on the biggest stages because he is still who he always is. He does not change, only the situation changes.

“(Fisher’s) been criticized quite a bit for his age,” Kobe Bryant said. “It’s a huge thrill for him and all of us to see him come through in these moments. He’s done it over and over and over again.”

These playoffs he is doing it on the road — Fisher is shooting 37 percent at Staples Center, almost 52 percent on the road in the post season. He is hitting 39.5 percent of threes on the road. It’s a confidence thing.

Fisher is a leader on this team, the positive ying to Kobe’s intense yang. He is a big part of the locker room. He also is the guy Kobe will listen to, the guy Kobe trusts.

“We’ve been thorough it,” Bryant said. “He can come to me and say, ‘Kob, you’re effing up.'”

This off-season, Fisher is a free agent and the Lakers have a decision to make. Lakers fans all season called for another starter at the point. But it is games like this that remind everyone why you want Fisher on your team when it matters most. Because the guy believes in himself. Because Fisher is nails.

Because he just wins.

Russell Westbrook triple-double keys OKC in 3OT thriller vs 76ers

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Russell Westbrook had 27 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists, and Oklahoma City and the Philadelphia 76ers went basket-for-basket in a three-overtime thriller before the Thunder pulled out a 119-117 victory on Friday night.

Andre Roberson scored the winner with 10 seconds left for the Thunder. But one of the early contenders for NBA game of the year belonged to Joel Embiid and Westbrook as they drove, blocked and rebounded their way toward one big play after another.

Embiid scored 34 points in 48 minutes with an achy back and rallied the Sixers from a 17-point hole.

Embiid, Philly’s franchise center and social media star, grabbed his lower back when he took a hard foul on a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter. Embiid grimaced during timeouts on the bench and trudged into position a few times.

Embiid sucked it up and carried the Sixers in the fourth and the first overtime. His feed to a charging Ben Simmons on the baseline for a two-handed dunk tied the score at 94-all with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The Sixers closed the fourth on an 11-0 run.

Embiid scored the first bucket of OT and the Sixers led for the first time in the game. The Sixers’ five-point lead with 1:20 left in overtime was wiped out on Paul George‘s 3-pointer and a Westbrook bucket that made it 102-all. The Sixers blew their final possession on an ill-conceived 3 for Dario Saric.

Round 2 was just as fun.

Westbrook and Robert Covington exchanged 3s and George tied it at 109 on a driving layup. Westbrook and Embiid swapped buckets that kept it even and the Sixers had one more chance to win it with 1.2 seconds to go in the second OT.

Embiid and Westbrook combined to score eight straight points in the third overtime, and Embiid even waved goodbye as the crowd went wild when Steve Adams fouled out of the game.

But Embiid seemed gassed at the end and there’s no telling how the heavy workload may affect his availability the rest of the week.

The Sixers were featured on ESPN on Friday as part of Philadelphia All Access, and Sixers’ related content was aired throughout the day on all platforms.

“I’m not a fan,” coach Brett Brown said. “I like living behind closed doors.”

But Brown understood the exposure would help build the brand and serve as a recruiting pitch of sorts to any free agents intrigued about becoming part of The Process. The Sixers put on a show in the fourth until Embiid gave them a scare.

Embiid’s health woes have dogged him since his college career at Kansas and every slip, ache or bump throws Sixers fans into a panic. Embiid has been banged-up lately but he calmly went to the line and made both free throws. He fell again when he tripped over Adams, who earned a foul, and sank two more free throws to make it 78-72.

 

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 won in triple overtime, 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.