Every night from here on out games will dramatically impact the playoffs — who gets in, who is on the outside looking in, and of course seedings. Let’s take a look at what’s on the line tonight.
Pacers at 76ers: Indiana is quietly one of the hottest teams going (won nine of last 10) but they are basically locked in as the three seed in the East. Philly, on the other hand, needs to play with some desperation — they are two games up on the Bucks for the 8 seed in the East (those two play next week). The Sixers are tied with the Knicks for the 7/8 right now, but the Knicks are playing well. Having won just two of their last eight the 76ers just need a few wins to keep the Bucks at bay. It doesn’t really matter if they get the Bulls or Heat in the first round, they just need to fight to stay in the dance.
Grizzlies at Timberwolves: The Grizzlies appear headed for the five seed out West, but a win keeps some pressure on the two Los Angeles teams ahead of them and would push Denver two games back of them at the six seed.
Celtics at Knicks: New York is not going to catch Boston for the Atlantic division crown, nor are they going to catch Orlando for the six seed (4.5 games back with 6 to play). But a win for New York keeps the Bucks well behind them (currently 2 games) and might get them the seven seed (if you would prefer the Heat over the Bulls in the first round). For Boston (locked in at the four seed) it’s all about home court in the first round — they will face Atlanta or Orlando to open the playoffs and right now all three of them are tied at 36-25.
Spurs at Lakers: Who is going to play in this game? Kobe is out, and on the middle night of a back-to-back-to-back who knows what lineups Gregg Popovich will throw out there (none of his big three played more than 13 minutes last night). The Spurs are in a virtual dead heat with Oklahoma City for the top spot in the West and home court up to the finals. The Lakers are one game up on the Clippers (two really, the Lakers have the tiebreaker) for the Pacific Division crown. Why that really matters — whoever comes in second between the Lakers and Clippers gets the red-hot Grizzlies in the first round. Nobody wants that.
It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway
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.
One shoe Kevin Durant is officially the greatest rim protector of all time.
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
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