Game 2 — where we see how fast the Clippers can learn

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Game 1 was a dominant Spurs performance that evoked memories of the championship teams in San Antonio — this version is more offense than defense, but the unselfish ball movement and team concepts were the same.

The Clippers looked like a team still learning to play at that level. Thursday night in Game 2 we’ll see how fast they learn.

In Game 1 San Antonio overloaded on Chris Paul, used Tony Parker well and basically blew up the Clippers pick-and-roll game that is the core of their offense. The overloaded pressure on him forced Paul into a 3-13 shooting night (he still had 10 assists). The problem was outside of Paul (and Eric Bledsoe who had 23 points off the bench) nobody stepped up, nobody made the Spurs pay. Blake Griffin was effectively single covered by Boris Diaw, which cannot happen for Los Angeles.

In Game 2, the Clippers need to get Paul more room to create, which in party could mean upping the tempo and getting transition buckets and setting drag screens (pick-and-roll before the defense gets set) to give him room. They need to get Griffin (bum knee and all, although he will play) and DeAndre Jordan out in transition to make the Spurs bigs run.

The Clippers effectively did to San Antonio what the Spurs did to them — they took the point guard out of the game, Tony Parker shot just 1-9. But unlike the Clippers, when you take away the first action of the Spurs offense they get to the next, and the next, then the next. They are an efficient machine.

The Clippers big men have to get out and chase guys like Kawhi Leonard and Matt Bonner off the three-point line on rotations. They have to be more physical. They have to disrupt the Spurs spacing.

The Clippers are a team learning how to win. They will be better in Game 2. They are learning how to make the kind of adjustments needed in the playoffs. We’ll see how fast they can do it.

Problem is, the Spurs already know how to do it. This game will be closer but you can expect the Spurs to still finish a step ahead.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

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.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

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 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

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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.