NBA finals pre-Game 5 notes: Harden’s hand and some coach speak

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MIAMI — Some notes from inside the AmericanAirlines Arena before Game 5 between the Thunder and Heat:

• Thunder coach Scott Brooks said James Harden and his bruised left hand were “fine.”

“He bruised his left hand, but he’s not affected,” Brooks said. “That kid is as tough as anybody on our team. He understands that you play through everything. Everybody is banged up.”

Watching Harden on the court in warm-ups, his hand didn’t seem to be bothering him.

• When asked about LeBron James — who had to sit out the end of Game 4 with leg crams — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra joked:

“The players will be hydrated.”

• If you are the Miami Heat, it’s tempting to think about what might be and lose track of the job at hand. That’s the kind of thing that keeps Spoelstra up at night.

“Hey, we have a game to play, okay, and what we have to focus on is trying to win this game,” Spoelstra said Thursday night before tip-off. “And that’s the perspective we have to have.”

• If you’re the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s dangerous to look at the massive task ahead (no team has ever come from 3-1 down to win an NBA finals) and find it overwhelming. That’s the kind of thing that keeps Brooks up at night.

“I just tell the guys we’re not trying to win three games tonight,” Brooks said. “All we’re trying to do is play better for 48 minutes than the Miami Heat, and that’s very possible, and that’s all we’re focusing on.

• Tonight’s fan giveaway is a white towel with the Roman numerals XVI on them — that’s 16, the number of playoff wins it takes to get an NBA title. A number the Heat can reach Thursday.

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?