France’s ugly finish (with Batum punching Navarro in groin) costs them in loss to Spain

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After three quarters, this was shaping up to be a classic. And with less than seven minutes to go France led 57-54.

Then the wheels came off for France. Actually, that’s too kind. France crashed and burned. They scored 6 points total in the fourth quarter and went scoreless for more than seven minutes. And then it got worse. France’s poor play degenerated into personal ugliness and a Nicolas Batum punch that probably had David Stern calling to suspend guys until he realized he couldn’t.

In the end, Spain wins 66-59 and advances to a rematch with Russia in the semifinals, the winner of that advancing to the gold medal game. France goes home.

France shot 0-for-11 to end the game (ignoring the meaningless bucket they made as time expired). Spain was down three in the fourth but went on a 12-0 to seal the game, a run in part sparked by a Pau Gasol defensive blocked shot that turned into a fast break and bucket for Sergio Lull that gave Spain a lead they would never relinquish.

Spain picked up their defensive intensity, but France could not create or hit shots they made earlier. They grew frustrated. They could feel the game slowly slipping away (slowly because Spain wasn’t scoring that fast either).

Then the frustration boiled over as France needed to start fouling to extend the game and have a chance.

First was a hard intentional hip check foul by Ronny Turiaf on Rudy Fernandez. That earned Spain free throws that they used to ice the game.

Then came the ugly moment — Portland’s Nicolas Batum came to intentionally foul Juan Carlos Navarro and flat out punched him in the groin. Wound up and punched him. This was way worse than what happened to Carmelo Anthony, this was a six game suspension if he tried it in the NBA. It led to Marc Gasol and other Spanish players coming to defend Navarro and a fight almost broke out.

Adrain Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and the NBC Sports Network asked him about it (via twitter):

I asked Nicolas Batum why he hit Juan-Carlos Navarro in the groin. “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop,” Batum said.

David Stern read that and tried to tack on two more games.

Batum went on after the game to accuse Spain of intentionally losing to Brazil in the final game of group play to get France in the first round (and out of the American’s side of the bracket). A few hours later, Batum apologized on twitter:

I want to apologize for my stupid act at the end, I showed a bad image of France and myself, Congrats to team Spain.

Batum shouldn’t be blaming Spain — France could have won this game and they blew it all by themselves. He can blame himself for shooting 3-for-12 on the night. Overall France shot 33.9 percent for the game and missed a lot of makable looks. France did a good job defensively — they doubled Pau Gasol as soon as he touched the ball and made other guys beat them — but as has been their historic problem France couldn’t score enough.

Marc Gasol had 14 to lead Spain, while his brother Pau had 10 points and 11 boards. Boris Diaw and Tony Parker each had 15 for France, but Parker was so frustrated he shattered his goggles after the game. He really doesn’t like those things.

France had their chances. In the end, they resorted to ugly play. Spain acted like the team that has been there before, so they get a chance to keep playing for a medal.

Carmelo Anthony has 18, but Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double leads Bucks to win

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had his second triple-double of the season and the Milwaukee Bucks beat Carmelo Anthony and the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 137-129 on Thursday night.

Antetokounmpo had 24 points, 19 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists to lead the Bucks to their sixth straight victory. Antetokounmpo, who also had a triple-double in the season opener, has 16 career triple-doubles. Milwaukee is 14-2 in those games.

Eric Bledsoe added 30 points and six assists in the Bucks’ highest-scoring game of the season.

After scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting in 24 minutes in his season debut Tuesday night against the Pelicans, Anthony had 10 points in the first half Thursday. The 10-time All-Star finished with 18 points (6-of-15 shooting) and seven rebounds for the Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside (hip), Damian Lillard (back), Zach Collins (shoulder) and Jusuf Nurkic (leg).

CJ McCollum scored a game-high 37 points and Skal Labissiere added 22 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks off the bench for Portland. The Trail Blazers lost their third straight game and seventh of the last nine against the Bucks, including sixth straight in Milwaukee.

The Bucks made their first seven shots, including three 3s, and led 17-6. Milwaukee never trailed.

The Bucks also had their highest first-half total, leading 72-58.

Report: Knicks not looking to make early-season coaching change with David Fizdale

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It didn’t take a Kremlinologist to read into what Knicks president Steve Mills said at his forced by the owner impromptu press conference 10 games into the NBA season:

Coach David Fizdale was in trouble. Big trouble.

It may not just be immediate, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.

Mills wanted to see “consistent effort” and he’s gotten it. Indications are the coach’s hot seat is cooler halfway through this 10-game trial. Their record is 2-3 since the James Dolan-inspired conference, but could easily be 4-1 (they blew big leads to Charlotte, losing on a last-second 3-pointer, and, of course, had Philly dead in the water)…

The Knicks had to really sink south for a coaching change to be made by Game 20. Indications are it was far-fetched for a change to be made this early anyway. Was owner James Dolan, who has given Fizdale private reassurances, really going to let president Mills hire a new coach from the outside on a long-term deal with Fizdale still having at least one season fully guaranteed on his pact for 2020-21? Sources indicated the major deterrent to making a change at Thanksgiving was the sketchy alternative of promoting one of the assistants – Jud Buechler, Keith Smart or Kaleb Canales.

Good luck finding anyone who thinks Fizdale is safe long term in New York (and for the record, Smart has been an NBA head coach before, there are worse choices).

However, making a mid-season coaching change should really only happen for a couple of reasons. One is that the situation is so bad, so toxic, that it could poison the team into future seasons. The other is that there is a coach available on the sidelines that the team sees as “the man” going forward and they want to snap him up before someone else does (the Kings hiring George Karl comes to mind, although he turned out not to be “the man” they needed).

Not sure either of those situations applies to the Knicks and Fizdale. A move is more likely in the offseason.

However, predict James Dolan’s moods at your own risk.

Cavaliers’ new jerseys feature a big ol’ feather

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The Cavaliers rank near the top of the NBA by taking 19% of their total shots outside the restricted area while still in the paint. But Cleveland has converted just a middling 41% of attempts in that floater/runner range.

Maybe these uniforms will help the Cavs find a more feathery touch.

Though not in so many words, the Cavaliers actually stuck a feather on their jerseys and called it macaroni.

Jarrett Allen denies Kyrie Irving rumors, “He acts like a normal teammate”

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It hasn’t taken long for the “Kyrie Irving isn’t a good leader in Brooklyn” rumor mill to start up. The Nets 6-8 start combined with a desire in some corners of the NBA (and NBA Twitter) to pile on Irving has started the talk. Whether those rumors are just smoke or there’s some fire there depends on who you ask.

It was ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith who brought the topic to the forefront again on First Take.

Just as a refresher, anything Smith says should be taken with a full box of Morton’s Kosher salt. His job is to stir things up. That doesn’t mean he has no connections.

Nets center Jarrett Allen did an AMA on Bleacher Report and shot down the idea Irving is a bad influence in the locker room.

He acts like a normal teammate. People say that he has mood swings, but that’s a complete lie. He wants to see us succeed and do well if anything.

Allen added this when asked to compare playing with Irving vs. D'Angelo Russell.

They’re kind of different. Kyrie can score from anywhere, even without me setting up the pick-and-roll. DLo…we worked well; if he didn’t score, he’d kick it to me to score.

The Nets are a franchise inhabiting a strange space this season. First, this ultimately is Kevin Durant‘s team, but he doesn’t really get the keys until he can play, which almost certainly means next season. That makes Irving an interim Alpha on that team, but that’s an unusual dynamic.

Second, this is a Nets team that has rebounded from as low as it can get in the NBA to being a place Irving and KD wanted to play by establishing a culture, an identity. This is a lunch pail group of players who were selfless and bought into the team’s ideas and concepts. Nobody was a superstar, it was team first. Except, in come two superstars who bring their own ways of doing things — and the Nets can’t mess with that. There are compromises that need to go on for both sides, with Irving/KD bending to the Nets some, but the Nets giving them superstar treatment.

All of that creates friction that is going to rub some people the wrong way. Plus, Irving is a unique personality who is going to do things his way, and that will bother others. Some of those people will talk to the media, but that doesn’t mean everyone — or even a majority — feel the same way. It’s usually people who feel aggrieved who want to vent.

How all this plays out in Brooklyn is going to be something to watch. But the ultimate test is next season, not this one.