Kevin Durant says Serge Ibaka’s shooting problems are ‘all in his mind’

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The Thunder are going to need to get Kevin Durant some help on the offensive end of the floor if they’re going to have any chance to win three of the next four games against the Grizzlies to advance to the Conference finals.

Serge Ibaka isn’t traditionally known as one of OKC’s main options offensively, but in the past he’s at least been able to convert the open looks he did get inside at a relatively high percentage.

In this series against the Grizzlies, however, Ibaka has struggled mightily. And it isn’t necessarily the Memphis defense that’s been the reason for his troubles.

Ibaka finished 6-of-17 from the field in Game 3, which is actually somewhat respectable considering how his afternoon started. He missed his first four shots, two of which were wide open dunks that he bounced off the back of the rim. He also missed an easy put-back layup, and some other open looks around the rim that he usually gets to go.

Both head coach Scott Brooks and Kevin Durant acknowledged Ibaka’s issues afterward, but each said they’d continue to stick with him throughout his current slump. Durant in particular seems to feel that whatever is going on with Ibaka, the adjustment needs to be mental rather than physical.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:

“We have to get him confidence,” Durant said of Ibaka. “We have to get him some shots and get him going. We can’t let him put too much pressure on himself. It’s all in his mind. If he thinks he’s going to make those shots, he’s going to make them.

“He missed a few blocks, a few layups and a few open jump shots. I have to pick him up, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Ibaka isn’t necessarily the offensive key to the Thunder’s success, and defensively, he’s been doing a fine job of helping to limit the effectiveness of Zach Randolph on the low block.

But if he’s going to be open for 17 shot attempts as he was in Game 3 — the same amount taken by Kevin Martin, and just two fewer than were taken by Durant, who played 46 of the game’s 48 minutes — then his shot chart needs to look a lot prettier than this if the Thunder are going to have a chance.

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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.