Throwback performance from Tim Duncan leads Spurs to win over Mavericks

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It wasn’t necessarily a surprise that a Spurs team with the best record in the Western Conference would bounce back from an embarrassing, blowout loss to one of the league’s bottom-feeders that they suffered in Minnesota on Tuesday.

The performance from Tim Duncan that led them there, however, was definitely a bit unexpected.

Duncan was active, energetic, and even a bit emotional on the way to scoring 28 points and grabbing 19 rebounds to save the day against the Mavericks, as San Antonio held off Dallas to come away with the 92-91 victory.

Tony Parker, by far the Spurs’ best and most important player this season, missed his fifth straight game due to an ankle injury that’s expected to keep him out for a few more weeks. In his absence, the Spurs have been uncharacteristically blown out a couple of times, losing by 24 to the Timberwolves on Tuesday, and by 30 at home to the Blazers the Friday before that.

In between, of course, was a 12-point home win over the Thunder, so the Spurs are capable of putting it together at any time. Thursday night against the Mavs, they just needed an all-out assault from Duncan to make sure the win was theirs.

And even that almost wasn’t enough.

San Antonio had statistical advantages in most of the major categories throughout this game, but some timely Dallas runs had this one in jeopardy for the Spurs at various points all night, including during the game’s final possession.

With the Spurs leading by one and the Mavericks holding possession with five seconds remaining, the ball found Vince Carter at the top of the three-point arc, and he fired a three-pointer with a second remaining that rimmed out, and the victory for the Spurs was secured once the final buzzer sounded.

It shouldn’t have come to that, of course, considering San Antonio’s eight-point lead with about two and a half minutes remaining.  But the Mavericks have been better of late, winning four straight coming into Thursday’s contest, and sitting just two and a half games out of the eighth playoff spot in the West.

A 6-16 night from Dirk Nowitzki on the same night O.J. Mayo goes 4-11 usually isn’t going to be enough for Dallas, however, and when Duncan has it going like he did, the Spurs are going to be tough to stop.

It was only the second game all season where Duncan hauled down at least 19 rebounds, and only the fourth game in which he put up at least 28 points. It was the first time this year he reached both thresholds in the same game.

Dallas will continue to scramble towards a playoff spot as the season comes to a close, but it’s going to be tough to get there given the early-season hole the team fell into with Nowitzki sidelined. The Spurs will be just fine, of course, proving for the second time in three games that they can win without Tony Parker against a more -than-solid team.

Meanwhile, it appears that Tim Duncan will simply keep doing what he does, for as long as he can.

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.

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.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

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Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.