Ricky Rubio to sit out Tuesday vs. Heat due to back-to-back

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The Miami Heat keep catching breaks at home (and their home fans keep losing out). There was the much publicized — and expensive — time Gregg Popovich sat out Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in Miami. But that was just the tip of the iceberg —Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis all have sat vs. Miami.

Now you can add Ricky Rubio to that list, or at least you can after Tuesday.

Rubio just returned from knee surgery — and looked good — but is not playing back-to-backs so will sit out the Miami game Tuesday, reports Jerry Zgoda at the Star Tribune.

Ricky Rubio says he will play tonight in Orlando, but not Tuesday in Miami against LeBron James and the Heat on the NBA as part of the team’s plan not to play him on the second game of back-to-back situations here as he returns from knee surgery.

When asked if he’s disappointed he won’t play against the defending champs in an arena he didn’t play in last year, Rubio said, “Yes, of course, but I have to follow the rules.”

If you are asking “why don’t they sit him against Orlando and play him in Miami, it’s because they want wins. With Rubio in the lineup they likely beat Orlando (although the Magic have played good defense of late). Sit him and that game is a lot closer. However, with or without Rubio in the lineup the Timberwolves likely have a hard time with the Heat (even as up and down as Miami has been this season).

That is especially true with the Timberwolves other games this week being against the Thunder and Knicks. They want the closest thing to the sure win.

Bulls’ Kris Dunn shoves Russell Westbrook, scuffle breaks out (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook has a way of getting under an opponent’s skin.

Monday night it was the Bulls’ Kris Dunn‘s turn.

While moving over in position on the strong side, Westbrook and Dunn made contact, and after the whistle blew for a foul (with the ball handler), Westbrook made a grand gesture of pushing Dunn off him. Dunn responded with an outsized shove. And then it was on.

There’s more stuff to break down here than the Zapruder film.

• Jeremi Grant of the Thunder came in and tried to go at Dunn a little, in front of Westbrook (protect the star).

Bobby Portis tried to slide Grant out of the way, but…

Robin Lopez came in and went at Grant getting in his face, so Grant basically throws Lopez into the first row.

• Which just made Lopez even madder, leading to a meme-worthy angry face.

• Bulls’ coach Jim Boylen gets Grant in a headlock and pulls him out of the situation.

Steven Adams calmly makes sure Portis is out of the picture, then walks back over to Lopez and then Adams and Lopez get separated.

• In the end, the officials handed out for technicals: Westbrook, Dunn, Grant, and Lopez.

A few minutes later, Lopez blocked a Grant shot, decided to taunt him, and that got Lopez a second technical and he was tossed (Lopez is a veteran, he has to know the officials are going to call everything tight at that point). Watch Adams pat Lopez on the back as the Bulls’ big man makes the walk to the locker room.

James Harden scores 47, including sinking dagger into Jazz (VIDEO)

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Utah and Houston met in a battle of the disappointing early season Western teams — predicted by most to finish 2/3 in the West, they came into the night 10th and 13th — and in the tight West these kinds of games matter.

So James Harden turned it up a notch.

The reigning MVP looked every bit that guys scoring 47 points and adding six rebounds, five assists, and five steals in what was a Houston win, 102-97. It was Harden that sank the dagger into Utah.

That’s four wins in a row for Houston as they try to climb out of the hole they dug themselves early this season.

Taj Gibson helps defend drive with one shoe on, one shoe in his hand (VIDEO)

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In the first quarter Monday night, Timberwolves veteran Taj Gibson was working in the post on the Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica, Gibson got the bucket but lost his shoe.

He picked it up, ran to the other end with one shoe in hand, and then defended a Bjelica drive well enough that Karl-Anthony Towns would come over and get the block on the play.

Somehow, Tom Thibodeau is going to get credit for this new defensive style.

Thunder reportedly pick up final option year on coach Billy Donovan’s contract

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At 18-10 to start the season, the Thunder went into Monday night’s action in third place in the tight Western Conference, pulled there by the best defense in the NBA and enough offense from Russell Westbrook and Paul Gorge to get by.

That the team is doing this with a thin roster, and by putting some role players in strong positions to succeed, and by playing so cohesively has guaranteed coach Billy Donovan one more year as coach, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Donovan has done well to help the Thunder find a new, winning identity after Kevin Durant left a few years back.

Next season (2019-20) will be the final one on Donovan’s contract. Teams often extend a coach before that, feeling that a “lame duck” coach may have trouble getting some players to fall in line (or the team will struggle recruit free agents, because a good player with options doesn’t want to walk into uncertainty). It will be interesting to see how the Thunder handle that.