Nets clinch home court advantage in first round of playoffs with win over Pacers

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The Nets made it more difficult on themselves than it needed to be, but when it was all over in Indiana on Friday, Brooklyn came away with a 117-109 win over the Pacers that clinched home court advantage for them in the first round of the playoffs.

Brooklyn led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter, before seeing it disappear completely after a three-pointer from Lance Stephenson put the Pacers up two with five minutes remaining in the game. The Nets regained their composure, however, and closed the game on an 18-8 run to seal it.

Deron Williams continued his strong play of late, and finished with 33 points and 14 assists. Afterward, he held out hope that his team might be able to climb up a position in the standings before the season is through.

“We could still get the 3 seed,” Williams said, via the Associated Press. “We have to hope for Indiana to lose some games, but it’s still possible. I think we have a good thing going right now.”

The win ensured that the Nets will finish no worse than fourth in the East, which will get them a first round date against either the Hawks or the Bulls. Atlanta currently leads Chicago for the fifth seed by a half game after Friday night’s action.

As for Brooklyn overtaking Indiana for that three seed, it’s a bit of a tall order considering that there are only three games remaining in the regular season, and the Pacers do hold a two-game lead over the Nets for that spot.

The schedule is likely what is giving Brooklyn its glimmer of hope. The Pacers are on the road against the Knicks and the Celtics before finishing at home against the Sixers, while the Nets play at Toronto before hosting the Wizards and then the Pistons to close out the regular season.

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.