Mark Jackson says Warriors can’t afford to rest players to finish the regular season

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PHOENIX — With only seven games remaining in the regular season, and in light of recent injuries to the likes of Tony Parker and Danilo Gallinari which could materially affect the results of the Western Conference playoffs, it might be tempting for teams to be cautious with their key players, and even consider resting them down the stretch.

The Warriors, however, will not be one of those teams.

While Golden State won’t finish any higher than the sixth seed in terms of playoff positioning, the team is only a game ahead of the Rockets for seventh. Barring something catastrophic taking place, the Warriors are locked into one of those two spots.

But that isn’t the reason they won’t rest players. It’s because Mark Jackson is still building his young team, even as the playoffs approach.

“We can’t afford to rest,” Jackson said, before the Warriors faced the Suns on Friday. “We’re chasing, you know, finishing this thing up the right way. With those teams that you mentioned, they have an organization, they have coaches, they have players that have been there and done that. This is fresh for us, and we’re going to enjoy this ride and finish it the right way.”

Jackson won just 23 games a season ago with the Warriors, and the turnaround has come perhaps more quickly than expected. He credits the success to following the process from day one, which is likely the reason he’s not willing to mess with it at this late stage of the season.

“People look at us now and say we’re a playoff team, or we’ve enjoyed a great season,” Jackson said. “Well, they could have folded the tent last year. What you have to understand is, if you stay true to your process, it’s going to play itself out. The foundation was laid, even though we won 23 games last year, with our approach, with our mentality, with our habits. And if you stay true to it, you’re rewarded.”

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?