Popovich says hero-ball is ‘boring,’ which explains difference between Spurs and Lakers last-second shots

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The Spurs beat the Lakers on Tuesday thanks to a three-pointer from Danny Green that put San Antonio up by two with 9.3 seconds left.

We broke down the beauty of the play that Gregg Popovich called — multiple screens, all players in motion, freeing up a shooter for a good look at the final shot.

The majority of teams, for some strange reason, choose isolation with their best player holding the ball and trying to score one-on-one with the game on the line. It’s counterintuitive, in that if during the entire course of the game you’d prefer set plays to free someone for an open look, instead of having guys try to create on their own to force tough shots over one or more defenders, why change the philosophy on a game’s most important possession?

There’s a reason Popovich is one of the game’s best minds– it’s because he does what makes sense. Though it would also seem his reasons are a bit selfish. (via Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop)

“I hate that,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s so boring.”

What Popovich hates, of course, is the hero-ball isolation nonsense that I just described.

Whether it truly is due to boredom (doubtful, given Popovich’s famously-dry sense of humor) or whether it’s just the smarter decision, the Spurs choose to run plays on a final possession rather than trust one guy to do it all on his own.

Now, contrast that with the look that the Lakers got on their final possession.

The Bernie Bickerstaff era in Los Angeles will be neither historic nor looked back upon fondly, especially when considering the way L.A. failed to execute with the game in the balance.

With 9.3 seconds left, there’s a virtual eternity to get into something better than this.

Pau Gasol cuts to the corner, and receives the inbound pass behind the three-point line. He’s alone, save for Tim Duncan right there closely contesting whatever move Gasol would choose to make.

He had Kobe Bryant cutting to the basket, and even if he was late with the pass, Bryant would have had the ball on the low block with more than five seconds left, and with no help available from Duncan given his position defending Gasol. If Tiago Splitter decided to come over to contest, Bryant could have bounced it to Dwight Howard, who would have gotten fouled at the very least.

That would have been a decent choice, and Bryant may very well have been able to tie the game in that position. But it’s still not a good plan, and it looks even worse when Gasol launches a three over Duncan’s outstretched arms.

It’s one play, and the Lakers certainly are hopeful that with Mike D’Antoni firmly in place, their offensive options will look a lot more reasonable. But it’s a great example of what more teams should look to do on a game’s most critical possession, and it’s why Popovich has the Spurs consistently near the top of the league-wide standings.

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 Cavaliers 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. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his 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.

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.