NBA Playoffs: Can the Clippers assert themselves in Game 3?

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It’s as simple as this: if the Clippers hadn’t pulled off a miracle comeback in Game 1, they would be on the wrong side of a 2-0 deficit coming into Game 3. The Clippers have been dominated for 87 of the 96 minutes played in this series so far, and they desperately need to make some changes if they want to win Game 3 on their home floor and take a 2-1 series lead.

The Grizzlies came into the playoffs as the best defensive team in the Western Conference, and they’ve been able to almost completely neutralize what the Clippers do on offense, which is pretty much all pick-and-rolls. The Grizzlies have also used their superior size up front to muscle the Clippers in the paint, and absolutely dominated the glass in Game 2, when they also won the turnover battle handily.

The Clippers need to get their offense going in Game 3, and that means people not named Chris Paul are going to have to step up. The Clippers will need to space the floor with shooting and give the Grizzlies’ defense multiple things to worry about. Past that, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Kenyon Martin, and Reggie Evans need to do a better job of making Marc Gasol, Mareese Speights, Zach Randolph and Co. uncomfortable in the paint and on the glass, and the Clippers need to do a better job of defending Rudy Gay.

There you have it — the Clippers were pretty soundly outplayed in the first two games of the series, but did manage to pull of that aforementioned miracle, and consequently the team is just two home wins away from a commanding 3-1 series lead. We’ll see if they can pull it off.

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.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?