EuroBasket: Spain, France earn Olympic berths with victories

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Spain, the silver medal team in Beijing who gave the United States all it could handle in the gold medal game, will be back for the London Olympics. They will be joined by a French team led by Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.

Friday Spain and France won their games to advance to the finals of EuroBasket. Both teams want the European championship, but they have gotten the two automatic bids from the continent to the Olympics.

Here are some breakdowns:

Spain 92, Macedonia 80: Macedonia’s team reminded me a little bit of the 2000 Philadelphia 76ers — they played fantastic defense and counted on one small, quick guard to create a lot of their offense. Then eventually they ran into just too talented a team.

Macedonia led by one at the half, 45-44, and it felt like an upset. Bo McCalebb had carried the Macedonian offense to the semifinals and he had 25 in this game.

But he was not the best guard on the floor, that was Juan Carlos Navarro. He took over in the second half scoring 19 third quarter points and finishing with 35. Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.

Macedonia still had a fantastic tournament and will be in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer, a second chance to surprise some teams and sneak into the games.

France 79, Russia 71: Russia’s strategy was to give Tony Parker jump shots, not let him penetrate. It was pretty successful, but Parker still hit 9-of-20 shots on his way to 23 points, and nobody accounted for Nicolas Batum, who had 19 points on 8 shots.

France plays good defense, if they get enough offense they are hard to beat. If Parker’s jumper is falling at a decent rate they are hard to beat. Both those things happened, Russia could not maintain floor balance with their defense and the result is France going on to the Olympics.

Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points and Timofey Mozgov had 12 for a Russian team headed to the pre-qualifying tournament next summer (where they should be a favorite to get one of the last-chance Olympic spots).

The Spain against France final should be interesting. Spain has a long front line — Marc and Pau Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka — but their help rotations have been spotty this year. If Parker can get into the lane he can cause trouble for them. Spain is the favorite, they crushed France in a friendly this summer. (You can throw out Spain beating France at EuroBasket, Parker and other key French players sat that one out.)

Karl-Anthony Towns misses free throw as Mavs fans chant ‘Jimmy Butler’

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Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, largely for reasons that are beyond the capacity of most rational NBA fans.

Butler continues to play with a team as they enter the beginning part of the season, although owner Glen Taylor and his front office are professing to still be looking for a suitable trade partner.

Meanwhile, the tension between Butler and teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns must be palpable. It certainly has affected Towns at least in one way, as the Timberwolves big man missed a free throw after Dallas Mavericks fans chanted Butler’s name during one of Towns’ trips to the line

Via Twitter:

It’s hard to say whether Towns missed that free throw simply because of the chance or because sometimes guys miss free throws. Towns is an 84 percent shooter from the charity stripe, so you’d expect him to miss one once in a while.

Things continue to be weird in Minnesota, and this odd homeostasis can’t last for long.

Video appears to show Rajon Rondo spitting at Chris Paul

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Did Rajon Rondo spit on Chris Paul?

That’s the question everyone’s asking after Saturday night’s big brouhaha between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets which led to several objections and coming suspensions from the league office.

Various angles have been analyzed at length on social media, and indeed it was always apparent the NBA viewing public-at-large would get to the bottom of things. Around 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, we came to our logical endpoint.

Thanks to this new video, it does appear that Rondo spit at Paul.

Via Twitter:

The NBA league office is still reviewing the tape, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski they appear to have the clip in question in hand.

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the coming suspensions. First, how much Brandon Ingram will be penalized for instigating the entire thing with his shove in the back of James Harden. Ingram also came in with a flying punch to Paul’s face that might be looked at a bit more severely.

Second, both Paul and Rondo landed punches, but if Rondo indeed did spit on his competitor that’s a level of disrespect — not to mention responsibility for making the first move against Paul — that might get him a tougher sentence.

We haven’t seen a real fight in the NBA in some time, where actual punches were landed and things got more serious than just guys running between tunnels underneath Staples Center. How the league punishes these guys this early in the season will dictate to us in the future how they feel about this kind of tension spilling over into violence.

Check out Nikola Jokick’s perfect shooting triple-double

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Phoenix star rookie Deandre Ayton, welcome to the NBA. Please try to guard Denver’s Nikola Jokic in your second game.

That didn’t go well. Jokic finished with a triple-double of 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. However, it’s how he got there that was impressive: 11-of-11 from the field shooting, 10-of-11 from the free throw line, zero turnovers, four steals, and he threw in a blocked shot for good measure.

Jokic was +29 on the night and the Nuggets won 119-91. Denver is 2-0 to start the season.

Report: Knicks’ Kevin Knox out 2-4 weeks with sprained ankle

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This is a blow — not just for the Knicks on the court, or the development of the team’s new young star, but for Knicks fans. With Kristaps Porzingis out for the foreseeable future, promising rookie Kevin Knox was the reason for hope, the reason to tune in and watch every night.

Now he’s going to be out for a couple of weeks, and maybe a month.

Knox went down after Boston’s Terry Rozier tried to cut Knox off in transition and fouled him. Knox was in a lot of pain and had to be helped off the court.

That sprained ankle will take 2-4 weeks to heal, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Ugh. The good news is this is not more serious and Knox will fully recover. But it’s a setback both for him and the watchability of the Knicks for a few weeks.