Dirk Nowitzki says he doesn’t think Mavs are a playoff team after losing to Clippers

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Chris Paul left midway through the third quarter of the Clippers’ contest in Dallas on Friday, and didn’t return after suffering a shoulder injury that’s expected to sideline him for three-five weeks.

That didn’t prevent his team from winning, however, as L.A. erased a seven-point deficit with 4:06 to play by finishing the game on a 16-2 run to send the Mavericks to another devastating loss.

Dallas has had a habit of blowing big leads this season, and it’s beginning to wear on Dirk Nowizki, who said afterward he doubts his team’s chances of making the playoffs the way they keep letting these wins escape.

From Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

“It’s a game we can’t lose,” Nowitzki said. “Can’t afford to lose that one.”

Nowitzki has had similar takes after a few other losses this season. The Mavs have blown leads of 17 to the Atlanta Hawks, 18 to the Golden State Warriors and 19 to the Toronto Raptors in losses. With the exception of the Atlanta loss, all of those happened at the American Airlines Center.  …

“The way we let those games slip away, I don’t think we’re a playoff team,” Nowitzki said. “We’ve got to win those games. We’ve got to find a way to get those stops and protect the home court.”

Dallas is currently in the playoff picture, the West’s eighth and final team that would make the postseason based on today’s standings.

The Mavericks figure to be challenged by the Timberwolves and possibly the Pelicans for that playoff spot before the season is through, however, and Nowitzki’s assessment of things is likely correct if the Mavericks can’t begin to find ways to close games out.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

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 Celtics 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. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s 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.