Portland and Memphis to decide something Tuesday night

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There’s a lot on the line when Portland takes on Memphis Tuesday night.

But it’s kind of a Let’s Make a Deal problem — you don’t know what you’re getting once you pick the door. The new car or the goat.

This game may well decide sixth seed in the West — Portland gets it with a win; Memphis gets it with a win and knocking off the Clippers Wednesday. The problem is the other side of that door — the six seed plays the three seed, but we have no idea who that will be. Could be Dallas, could be Oklahoma City, could be the Lakers. The loser of this game could get any of those three as well.

So, big game with something on the line. You could win the new car, you could win the goat.

These teams have not met since December, a Memphis win. But that was during the “Brandon Roy is going to play through the knee pain” part of the season in Portland and he was 3-for-16 shooting. Portland also struggled in that game on its spot-up shooting (usually 20.3 percent of their offense, according to Synergy) and that hurt them. They will have to knock down jumpers on Tuesday night.

Things to watch in this game:

• How well does Portland defend the paint? Memphis has Zach Randolph, as good a low block scorer as there is in the league, and the versatile Marc Gasol. Portland cannot let them get easy buckets in the paint — if you can force Memphis to shoot jumpers you will be happy. Portland likes to double in the post (particularly with their small lineups) and they will need to be aggressive with that, forcing passes out to the aforementioned jump shooters.

• Who controls the tempo? Portland generally wants it slow (not as slow as the numbers suggest, but they are still seven seconds or more). Memphis, with their lack of jump shooters, wants to run and get transition points.

• Toney Allen on Wes Mathews. Best perimeter matchup in this game (Andrew Miller vs. Mike Conley is close) and if Allen can keep Mathews in check Portland has a harder time scoring.

• Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez against the Grizzlies bench. Portland has some guys who can take over games off the bench, can the Grizzlies contain them?

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 Cavaliers 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. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his 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.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.