Three Stars of the Night: Corey Brewer more exciting than NCAAs

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Only three games — and not the high-quality games we are used to on the Thursday night showcase stage due to the NCAA Tournament — so we’ve got one guy from each team that notched a victory.

Third Star: Tyreke Evans (21 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds)

The Kings won this game with a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter that gave them a lead the Timberwolves could not overcome. And Tyreke Evans was the key to the Sacramento fourth quarter with 11 of his 21 points, including seven in a row at one point. On the night Evans got those points on 8-of-11 shooting on the night, which was huge. By the way, the Kings are 6-5 in their last 11 and playing much better.

Second Star: LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 8 rebounds)

LaMarcus Aldridge had a huge first half in getting the Blazers a quality win on the road. He had 10 first quarter points, then when he returned in the second quarter the Blazers went on an 18-8 run that was when the Blazers ran away and hid in this game. But really the key was how he played — he wasn’t stationary but moving against the Bulls defense. He flashed, cut and when he got the rock he shot quickly. It worked for Aldridge and it worked for the Blazers.

First Star: Corey Brewer (29 points, 5 steals)

The Nuggets win streak is 14 games and they can thank Corey Brewer. He won that game for them, finishing it off in a way fitting of the drama of the first day of the NCAA Tournament.

It wasn’t just that he scored the last six points — including drawing (and selling) a foul on a three with 2.1 seconds left, then sinking all three free throws to lock up the win. But it was more than that — the Nuggets were flat early, he came in and scored 13 points in the second quarter to stabilize things. Normally Brewer comes in to stabilize the defense, but he can have hot offensive nights and the Nuggets have won 14 in a row because they know to ride the hot hand. Thursday that was Brewer.

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.