Miami looked dominant on opening day. They came into the season trying to unbalance a defense with speed and aggressiveness, and it worked on Dallas — Miami had 100 possessions, nine more than they averaged last season.
But Boston is a better defensive squad and should prove an interesting preseason test. The two teams meet in Miami at 8 p.m. Tuesday, with the game broadcast on TNT. Which means we get to hear Shaq mumble his thoughts on the Heat.
Pace will be key. Boston is a deliberate team (22nd in the league in pace last year), but they are also a team prone to turnovers that could fuel the Heat’s running game. If Miami runs they will win this game — Boston is a good transition defense team but Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are two of the best open court finishers there are.
Another area to watch is the post. LeBron and Wade went there more often this year and looked good, again creating matchup problems for whomever they play, Sasha Pavlovic (starting for the injured Paul Pierce) would need help on LeBron in the post.
On the other end of the court, the Celtics have talked about getting Kevin Garnett and other Celtics more post touches as well. Against the Knicks on Christmas the Celtics barely went to the post (3.7 percent of possessions ESPNBoston.com reported, down from 12 percent last year). With no real defensive center on the Heat (unlike the Knicks with Tyson Chandler) the Celtics will probe there.
The next question for Boston is will they make the extra pass, can they create open looks against an aggressive and athletic Heat defense? You can’t dribble through the Heat defense forever, but crisp passing would get Celtics enough room to knock down good looks.
There are other questions. Can Chris Bosh bounce back with a good game against Garnett after a lackluster opener? Can Rajon Rondo tear up the Heat’s point guards? How much to the Celtics miss Pierce?
You don’t want to read too much into the second game of the season, but this will give us a view as to where these teams are now. And in a 66-game season every game counts.
Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs
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
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
This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.
After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverleyin 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.