Spurs have all the answers in win over Jazz

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The San Antonio Spurs beat the Utah Jazz 106-91 Sunday in Game 1 of their first round series, behind 28 points and 8 assists from Tony Parker. The Spurs have taken a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.

For San Antonio, it was a way to wipe clean the memories of last year’s embarrassing first-round loss to the Grizzlies and get a win in the first game on their home floor. They lead throughout the game and while Utah hung in there, the Spurs busted it open in the third, and were able to close the game out when the Jazz had cut the lead to ten in the fourth.

For the Jazz, it could have been much worse. They showed that they can hang, but thy also have several talent issues which are likely to restrict them from being able to get past San Antonio and may keep it from being a competitive series. Jazz coach Ty Corbin made a serious error in starting Josh Howard over DeMarre Carroll, who had given the Jazz a serious lift over the past several weeks. Howard came out and badly missed his first two shots, and the stage was set.

The Jazz face an interesting dilemma against San Antonio. Their strength is in their frontcourt, but the Spurs are more than willing to bring double-teams. The Jazz kicked out to shooters but Gordon Hayward and Devin Harris missed open looks on the perimeter. As a result, the Jazz offense stalled. The bigger problem, though, may be that Tim Duncan was able to play Al Jefferson to a standstill, and Paul Millsap didn’t dominate in his matchups versus Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair. Millsap has 20 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks… and it still wasn’t enough. The Jazz honestly have to run all their offense through Millsap to get the pressure off Jefferson and spread the floor.

For San Antonio, just about what you would expect. Tony Parker dominated his matchup against Devin Harris, getting in the lane and hitting soft runners and jumpers, and Manu Ginobili owned Gordon Hayward, getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He made several great plays, dishing over his shoulder to Tim Duncan and getting out in transition for dunks (including one miss, but we won’t talk about that). The Spurs’ perimeter bench attack didn’t even get involved that much outside of Stephen Jackson’s 14.

Basically, the Spurs won in just about every phase of the game. Turns out they’re the better team, funnily enough. Utah showed some things to suggest they might be able to steal one if they can get hot, but the Spurs showed that there is no let up from them against a weaker opponent. It’s just Game 1. But every indication is that there will be no upset this year.

The Spurs are in the space they need to be.

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.