Kobe has day only Kobe could have, caps it with game winner

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Saturday was vintage Kobe… or at least vintage 2012 Kobe.

He looked tired — as he has a lot lately, which is why we have all watched his shooting percentages drop — and started the game 0-for-15 shooting with zero points through three quarters. Yes, you read that right. Zero points on 15 missed shots.

Then he went 3-6 in the fourth quarter, scored 11 points and did this in the Lakers’ 88-85 victory:

For Lakers fans that is a vintage “don’t shoot that Kobe, no, no no no no…. YES!” moment.

He is no longer the Kobe Bryant from 2003. The athleticism has taken a step back but because he is smart and so fundamentally sound he can still get to his spots on the court and hit his shots. He is still a force.

Well, when he feels right. Right now Mike Brown is running him into the ground — only Dwight Howard has played more minutes than 33-year-old Kobe. He’s played more than Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and everybody else with younger legs.

He won’t admit it, but the minutes are clearly wearing Kobe down. You see it in his shooting percentages.

But Kobe’s unwavering self-confidence is still there — miss 15 shots and he is sure the next one will fall. He is sure there is nobody better suited on the planet to take the hero ball last shot. And that confidence, that belief that there is nobody better in the big moments, has upsides like that video above.

He can shoot you out of a game, or he can win it for you. But he always believes it will be the latter. Which is at the heart of what makes Kobe “Kobe.”

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.