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Nets pull away to take care of short-handed Spurs

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A Spurs team without many of its stars can still prove difficult for opponents to deal with, in large part because of the way San Antonio consistently stacks its team with players perfectly suited to perform in the highly-disciplined system engineered by tenured head coach Gregg Popovich.

That was true for a while in Thursday night’s contest against the Nets, but ultimately Brooklyn was able to exploit the matchups to come away with the 103-89 victory.

San Antonio was without Tony Parker due to a back issue, and Tim Duncan simply got the night off to rest after the team’s double-overtime win in Washington on Wednesday. Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard remained out due to injury, leaving a crew devoid of any star power or historically consistent level of production to tackle a Nets team playing at close to full strength.

Brooklyn was sluggish in the early going, falling behind by as many as 12 points in the first quarter. They began to pick things up late in the second, closing the half on a 10-2 run to take a one-point lead at the break.

The Nets kept rolling in the third, expanding their lead to 10 before the Spurs stabilized and battled back some. Alan Anderson then took control offensively, scoring nine points in the final 2:27 of the third, and then continuing his personal attack with 10 more in the final period to help his team pull away. Anderson finished with a game-high 22 points.

There aren’t many takeaways from this game on the Spurs side, other than guys like Nando de Colo and Corey Joseph essentially getting a D-League game’s worth of minutes, only against real competition under the tutelage of one of the game’s best coaches. San Antonio has this luxury, as the health of the team for the playoffs is more important than any singular regular season outing.

The Nets, meanwhile, need every win they can get after getting off to such a rough start. This one was far from perfect, and there will be plenty of teaching points for Jason Kidd to point to in the coming days if he so chooses. But the victory, no matter how it came and against whatever level of competition was in front of them, will be cherished nonetheless.

Blazers C Meyers Leonard dunks on Celtics’ Mickey twice in five minutes (VIDEO)

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Portland Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard is an athletic young guy who has made a name for himself as a fade man off the pick-and-roll. But against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, Leonard decided to roll to the hoop instead, and it sort of worked out.

Unless you’re Jordan Mickey, in which case it didn’t.

The first poster dunk came during the final minute of the first quarter in Boston, where the Blazers were running a sideline out of bounds play.

Via Twitter:

The second came at 9:51 in the second quarter, with Leonard again rolling to the rack on a play with Allen Crabbe. Mickey again wound up as the help man, and again found himself on the wrong end of a highlight reel.

We’ll just forgive that off arm for now.

Jabari Parker held out of Bucks lineup vs. Heat for breaking team rule

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MIAMI (AP) Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker is out of the starting lineup for the first time this season Saturday night at Miami after breaking a team rule.

Parker will play coming off the bench, coach Jason Kidd said.

Kidd declined to elaborate on the move, which came after the Bucks held a long players-only meeting following a loss Friday at Orlando. The meeting got heated at times, and Parker said he wasn’t well received when he expressed his point of view.

Parker has scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games. He was replaced in the lineup by rookie Thon Maker, making his first career start.

Gregg Popovich on Trump: “Can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth” (VIDEO)

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Today across the country many hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets as part of the Women’s March to protest Donald Trump, his misogyny as demonstrated in prior comments made about women, and policies he’s promised to put in place to weaken women’s health including defunding Planned Parenthood and gutting the Affordable Care Act. Gregg Popovich, no stranger to speaking his mind about Trump, was asked about the marches today and how he felt about the former reality TV star’s first hours in office.

Popovich responded for around four minutes, spanning a wide breadth of topics including Trump’s maturity level, respect for the presidential office, and Trump’s cabinet members waffling on implied meaning when he insulted a handicapped reporter in November of 2015.

Via Cleveland.com:

I wish that he was more — had the ability to be mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying ‘I’m going to include everybody.” He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it, but so far we’ve got a point where you really can’t believe anything that comes of his mouth.

Popovich also expressed his frustration with Trump’s insecurities, referencing his need to discuss the size of the inauguration crowd from Friday — reported widely by major news outlets in both text and video/photographic evidence — as far smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009.

“I’d just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity, psychological, and emotional level of somebody that was his age,” said Popovich, adding, “It’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist, and make fun of handicap people.”

It’s an interesting period in American history to be sure. Things are at such a fever pitch after Trump’s election that whether people like it or not — and no doubt many won’t like Popovich’s comments or this article about it — the lines between diversion and real life, including politics, has begun to blur.

It’s great to see that coaches and players in the NBA are able to speak their minds about topics openly like this, perhaps surprisingly so when you consider the amount of money involved for the league and teams.

If you’d like to read the full comments you can do so here:

Ricky Rubio will miss Nuggets game for personal reasons

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Ricky Rubio has left the Minnesota Timberwolves for personal reasons and will miss at least the next game on Sunday against Denver.

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau says he expects Rubio to get back into town late Sunday and rejoin the team for practice on Monday.

Rubio did not play in the second half against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night because of tightness in his left hip. Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones filled in admirably, helping the Wolves defeat the Clippers, 104-101.

Rubio has been the subject of trade rumors for much of the season, with the belief that Thibodeau would prefer a point guard who shoots better from the perimeter. In his previous five full games, Rubio was averaging 13.2 points and 14.0 assists.