USA shouldn’t have much trouble with Australia to open medal round

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The medal round. This is what we’ve been waiting for. When things get serious. Win and advance, lose and you go home. Three wins and you get a gold. The pressure is on now.

Except, for the USA the first game of the medal round should be their easiest game in a week.

The USA, undefeated winners of Group A, face Australia, the fourth place team in Group B. Let me explain the talent difference between these two sides this way: Not only would none of the Australian players make Team USA, none of them even would have been invited to the USA Select Team of young players who train with Team USA.

Australia is led by Patty Mills, who is tied with Pau Gasol as the leading scorer in the Olympics at 20.6 per game. You know him as former St. Mary’s star who played in China during the lockout then returned to join the Spurs last season. But Mills barely got off the bench in San Antonio when it mattered. And he’s the only name on the Australian team you would know.

But sometimes you can overcome wide talent disparity of the matchups favor you… nope, that’s not happening.

One of the reasons Mills doesn’t get off the bench in the NBA much is he can be pressured into turnovers and bad decisions (and his instinct is to shoot not pass anyway). The USA has taken a “cut the head off the snake” defensive approach to these games — pressure and deny the ball to the opponent’s best player. Take him out of the game.

Mills can expect Chris Paul and Deron Williams to hound him all night long. Then Russell Westbrook will take over the task. And if they get bored Andre Iguodala or Kobe Bryant will jump in. Mills is in for a long night, and that’s not good for his teammates.

On the other end of the court, expect Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to put up points. Expect LeBron James to be setting guys up. Expect some big dunks. Expect Anthony Davis to be able to enter the game early if he remembers to put on his jersey. Expect the USA to pretty much run away and hide in this one. If they don’t, it’s on them.

Come Friday the USA will have a tougher game, against Brazil or Argentina. This is the last one of the London Olympics where the USA should have an easy time of it. They need to enjoy it — and not pick up any bad habits along the way. Because this is still the medal round.

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?