While everyone talked Seattle, Dallas and Sacramento played a good game (that the Mavs won)

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As people filed into the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, it felt like the game was secondary. All everyone was talking about was the reports that the Kings could be sold to the Chris Hansen/Steve Ballmer group out of Seattle and moved.

But despite the best efforts of the Maloof family to seemingly follow the “Major League” model to drive attendance down, Kings fans are loyal. They showed up.

And what they got was a very entertaining game. One that was ultimately frustrating for them because the Kings blew a 17-point third quarter lead to lose 117-112 to the Mavericks in overtime.

As it has been all season, the arena was not full for the Kings game (as is true around most arenas during the season). Our own Aaron Bruski was there and said that the crowd fills in nearly three quarters of the seats, which is actually up from most recent games. There seemed to be a push to be there, to show support.

“With everything that has gone on with out team this year the fans have come out and shown really great energy in our building, have booed us when we need to be booed, but cheered us when we played exciting basketball,” Kings coach Keith smart said before the game.

Sacramento fans love the Kings. It’s the owners that they loath.

Of course, the Maloofs weren’t there for the game. They haven’t been at a game for a while.

But the fans were there and as they have been since 1985. And early on they liked what they saw. DeMarcus Cousins had 12 first quarter points while the Mavericks started 1-10 from floor. But the Kings really didn’t take control until the second quarter when they went on a 13-0 run sparked by Tyreke Evans (who finished with 20 points).

By the middle of the third that lead was at 17 points. Then Dallas started to come back, helped in part by the Kings going with a small lineup when they had owned the paint in the first half. It was gradual comeback until a 16-4 fourth-quarter run gave the Mavericks the lead. At the end of that run it was O.J. Mayo in transition and some old-school Vince Carter isolation in the half court that helped the Mavs stretch out to a six point lead with less than a minute to go.

But John Salmons nailed a pull-up three pointer from two feet beyond the arc to cut the lead in half (Salmons was 3-of-12 before that shot). Of course, Salmons also had the offensive foul driving the lane with 16.7 left with the Kings down 100-98 that seemed to doom them. The Kings were forced to foul Mayo and he made one of two, it was 101-98.

That’s when it happened. With 10 seconds left Cousins had the ball, kicked it out to Isaiah Thomas, who missed a three so bad he banked it in. He might even have been fouled. Tie game, 101-101. And after a Dallas miss we were headed to overtime.

It was close there too, 109-109, with minute to go, when Cousins picks up goaltend on Shaun Marion layup. Then next possession with 41 seconds left Cousins was stripped when triple-teamed in the paint, then frustrated pushed Carter in the face knocking him to the ground. Cousins was assessed a flagrant two foul for it and he was ejected, the Mavs got two free throws and the ball. Carter hit both. (My feeling is it was a flagrant one, but we will see what the league office thinks. Either way was exactly the kind of reactionary emotional play Cousins needs to stop making.)

Still the Kings got another chance. After a Vince Carter missed free throw it was 115-112 Mavericks with 15 seconds left in OT, once again a three could tie it. Thomas tried again and missed badly again, but this one short and right and fell out. And that was pretty much the ballgame.

Now everyone can go back to discussions about the move. Well, that and Cousins.

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.