Grant Hill is a defensive stopper. I repeat, Grant Hill is a defensive stopper.

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As Matt Moore mentioned in our recap of Suns-Blazers Part Deux, the most compelling part of the Suns’ adjustments to topple the Blazers was Alvin Gentry’s decision to drape Grant Hill on Andre Miller. Jason Richardson had primary Miller duties for most of Game 1, but obviously wasn’t too successful: ‘Dre dropped 31 points and eight assists.

Hill doesn’t have too many athletic advantages over Richardson: J-Rich is about eight years younger, was once the proud owner of moon boots, and has occasionally been regarded as a decent defender. So naturally, when Richardson failed in defending Miller, Hill was a no-brainer. From Bob Young of the Arizona Republic:

He dogged Miller on the defensive end, limiting him to 12 points on
4-of-11 shooting. And just for good measure, Hill hit his first 10
shots to finish with 20 points and eight rebounds as the Suns evened
the series with a dominating 119-90 victory at US Airways Center.

“I wasn’t even thinking about offense,” Hill said. “I was really
just focusing on defense and trying to be effective on that end. I came
out and (assistant coach) Dan (Majerle) told me I was 10 for 11. I
didn’t even know that.”

Asked to recall the last time he’d had a game like that in the playoffs, Hill laughed.

“That was a whole other lifetime – back when I could jump a little bit,” he said.

Hill’s own offense is something likely to get lost in the praise of his defense, but his 20-point night can’t be disregarded. Nor should one discount Jason Richardson’s 29 points on 11-of-16 shooting, as Alvin Gentry noted Richardson’s offense as a factor in the decision to move him off of the Andre Miller assignment. It’s hard to say if that’s just a polite explanation by a coach looking to defend his player’s ego or a legitimate explanation for his decision-making, but the numbers tell the story in this case. Richardson was highly effective and Miller was not, and plenty of credit goes to Gentry for switching things up.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.