NBA Playoffs: Boston got one, but can they beat a better Heat?

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Boston looked good in getting the Game 3 — they were defending again, they had the inspiration of Rajon Rondo’s rreturn, they got big games from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce…

Which is to say just about everything except Rondo’s elbow went right for Boston. Don’t expect that to be the case a second game in a row. This time things will be closer, and Boston is going to have to fight and defend harder to get the win.

The Heat are going to make starting lineup changes, and the smart money says they will start Mario Chalmers at the point and his job will be to attach himself to Rondo’s right him and play him hard. Force him to go left. Do not back off all the time and do what he wants, he’s not going to shoot a jumper. If Rondo can handle that pressure the Celtics will be one up.

The other big advantage in Game 3 was that Kevin Garnett dominated his matchup with Chris Bosh, who did his Pau Gasol impression for a game. Boston needs to win this battle again, if Miami and Bosh can force it to a stalemate (as it was the first two games) they win.

Boston once again has to keep LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh in check — that is where the majority of the scoring has to come from for the Heat. There is no balance. The three combined for 44 points in Game, while Pierce and Garnett had 55. Boston needs that kind of win, again.

The Celtics stand a better chance of getting one big game out of their role players — Delonte West is the most likely. While Miami will not get a lot of points out of their subs (unless the Celtics leave James Jones open a lot again) the bench battle is one the Celtics must win big.

The Celtics need things to go right, but they have been here before. They are used to the pressure and the intensity. They know how to make things go right.

Does Miami? That may be the biggest question. This is the first real big test of the playoffs, the first real question asked of this Heat team. How do they answer? With renewed defensive intensity, or do they still look like a deer in the headlights?

Either way, you can bet this game will be a lot closer than Game 3, likely going right down to the wire.

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.