Associated Press

Without Joel Embiid, 76ers snap Miami’s 13-game winning streak

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington and Dario Saric each scored 19 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 117-109 victory Saturday night over Miami, snapping the Heat’s winning streak at 13 games.

Goran Dragic had 30 points for the Heat, whose winning streak was the longest in the NBA this season, the third-best in team history and tops in league history by a sub-.500 team. Miami, which fell 1 1/2 games back of idle Detroit for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, hadn’t lost since Jan. 13 at Milwaukee.

Philadelphia center Joel Embiid missed his ninth straight game and 12th in the last 13 due to a bone bruise on his left knee. Team president Bryan Colangelo also revealed before the game that Embiid has a slightly torn meniscus in the same knee.

But the 76ers, perhaps smarting after a 125-102 drubbing at Miami a week earlier, played inspired basketball with their Rookie of the Year candidate watching.

Philadelphia put seven players in double figures.

James Johnson‘s three-point play with 4:44 left cut it to 100-96 but Philadelphia scored 10 of the next 11 points, capped by T.J. McConnell‘s three-point play that made it 110-97 with 3:04 left.

Noel put an exclamation point on the Sixers’ second straight victory with an alley-oop dunk off a feed from McConnell with 27 seconds to play.

James Johnson matched his season high with 26, Tyler Johnson scored 17 and Hassan Whiteside had 12 points and 19 rebounds for Miami.

Behind 12 first-half points from Ersan Ilyasova, the 76ers led 54-48 at the break.

DANCING EMBIID

Embiid’s absence came one night after cellphone video captured him dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert in Philadelphia.

The video caused a mini firestorm in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters at Saturday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, the 22-year-old rookie said his dancing was all about having fun.

“Meek invited me to the stage,” Embiid said. “I had fun. That’s what I’m about, just enjoying life.”

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown deflected questions about Embiid in Saturday’s pregame meeting with reporters, saying he had a conversation with Embiid about it and that he wanted to keep that talk private.

But Colangelo later acknowledged that dancing on stage might not have been the best choice for Embiid to make given his injury.

“Being at the concert was not disappointing,” Colangelo said. “Probably being on stage and dancing was a little bit given the circumstances and given the potential reaction.”

Colangelo also revealed that in addition to a bone bruise on his left knee Embiid has a minor tear in his meniscus. Colangelo said the latter injury isn’t thought to be serious nor is it believed to be causing any symptoms.

After sitting out his first two seasons with a foot injury, Embiid injured his knee on Jan. 20 in a 93-92 home victory over Portland.

TIP-INS

Heat: Dion Waiters (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game. . The teams wrap up their four-game season series on March 1 in Miami. The host 76ers won 101-94 on Nov. 21, and the Heat routed Philadelphia 125-102 Feb. 4 in Miami.

76ers: Jahlil Okafor did not play. … Colangelo said it was unlikely that Embiid would play in either of the team’s two remaining games before the All-Star break, Monday at Charlotte and Wednesday at Boston. He added that it was “very unlikely” that Embiid, who was selected to participate in the Rising Stars game and Skills Challenge, would participate in All-Star festivities. . Richaun Holmes returned to the lineup after missing two consecutive games due to the flu. Holmes had six points and four rebounds.

 

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.