Associated Press

Miami Heat extend win streak to 12, beat Bucks 106-88; Jabari Parker injured

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Miami Heat keep winning despite having to weather an injury to another key player.

The Milwaukee Bucks just can’t keep their young core together on the floor at the same time.

Miami extended its winning streak to 12 games with a 106-88 win on Wednesday night over the hard-luck Milwaukee Bucks, who lost young forward Jabari Parker in the third quarter to a sprained left knee.

“When we see anybody go down, we cringe,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We hope he’s OK. It definitely took away” from the Bucks’ ability to come back.

Parker will have an MRI on Thursday, general manager John Hammond said. Center John Henson said Parker was yelling to teammates that he had hyperextended the knee.

“We’ll know more tomorrow after we have the MRI,” Hammond said.

Hassan Whiteside had 23 points and 16 rebounds, while James Johnson added 20 points off the bench for the Heat. Guard Dion Waiters didn’t play with an ankle injury.

But Miami was in control from the start, building a 15-2 lead and holding the Bucks to 33 percent shooting in the first quarter. Whiteside amassed 17 points and 11 rebounds alone in a dominating first half, which ended with a 55-44 lead for Miami.

Goran Dragic had 13 of his 16 points in the first half, easily getting into the lane against Milwaukee’s soft interior defense.

“We had to get out to a great start,” Whiteside said. “They’ve got guys that are really long … so we had to come out here with a great start.”

All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ 6-foot-11 forward, had 22 points and eight rebounds, while the 6-8 Parker finished with 14 points.

A lackluster night for the Bucks got worse when Parker went down with 6:34 left in the third quarter. Parker hurt the same knee two seasons ago.

The injury appeared to deflate the rest of the Bucks and their fans. Leading by 11 at the time of Parker’s injury, Miami maintained a comfortable, double-digit lead the rest of the way.

THE STREAK

Spoelstra didn’t go there.

“I’m not going to talk about the streak,” Spoelstra said. “It’s more about a group of players coming together to form an identity as a team and embrace each other, embrace a culture, embrace defending with a purpose.”

BUCKS POSTGAME

Coach Jason Kidd did not address reporters after the game. Following a wait of roughly 45 minutes, Hammond spoke to the media.

“We were discussing a basketball decision. It had nothing to do with the injury,” Hammond said. “We were just talking basketball at that time. I know, it’s ironic timing but really, we were just having a basketball discussion.”

TIP-INS

Heat: Waiters missed the game after spraining his left ankle on Monday at Minnesota. Spoelstra said Waiters was improving, and that he was walking again without a boot to protect the foot. … Waiters joined Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Josh McRoberts on the Miami injury report. The team plans to sign Marcus Georges-Hunt, a 6-foot-6 forward playing with Maine in the NBA Developmental League. “I think it’s necessary right now,” Spoelstra said. “We need some insurance, just in case.” A rookie out of Georgia Tech, Georges-Hunt averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists with Maine.

Bucks: Parker got hurt on the same night that G Khris Middleton returned after missing the first 50 games this season with a torn hamstring. Middleton looked spry in limited action, scoring five points in 15 minutes as Kidd eases his top guard back into the rotation. Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Parker form the team’s young core. … Parker hurt his left knee initially in December 2014, an injury that ended his rookie season after 25 games. He was averaging a career-high 20.2 points this season.

 

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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.

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.