Tuesday night NBA grades: Durant gets more points, Hayward will take the win

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wakeboarding in a flooded garage….

source:  Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. No Russell Westbrook. No Serge Ibaka. Nights like this Kevin Durant has to go supernova for the Thunder to have a chance and he did — 48 points overall, 11 in the fourth quarter as he tried to drag the Thunder back into the game against the Jazz. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids! What kids? Well, just keep reading…

source:  Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz. Early in this game it felt like Utah couldn’t miss — they shot 71 percent in the first quarter, took comfortable lead and in the third quarter the Jazz led by 24. Still, you knew the Thunder run would come, and behind Durant did in the fourth quarter — and Hayward held it off pretty much singlehandedly. Hawyard scored 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to ensure the win. Hayward, wearing Durant’s signature shoe, finished with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists. He exploded and the Jazz got their best win of the season.

source:   C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers. Mark Price never did it. World B. Free never did it. Daniel “Boobie” Gibson never did it. LeBron James never did it (not that you really feared his three when he was in Cleveland). No Cavalier shooter had ever knocked down 10 threes in a game like Miles did against the Sixers Tuesday. He took just 14 threes and finished the game with 34 points. Yes the Sixers defense on him was pathetic (they kept losing him on the arc) but he got open and hit the shots.

source:  Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Much like Durant above, he had a big game (41 points) trying to lead his team almost singlehandedly to a comeback win — he had 26 points in the fourth quarter. He also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. It wasn’t enough, but you have to admire the valiant effort.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins/Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings. The Kings are maddeningly inconsistent, but on nights like this you can see how the entire thing could come together and make a pretty good team. Specifically the Rudy Gay/DeMarcus Cousins combo. Cousins scored 35 points and had 13 rebounds, while Gay continues to be efficient since the trade and had 32 points on 16 shots, leading the Kings over the Trail Blazers. Assuming Gay doesn’t opt out this summer (he shouldn’t, his pay cut from the $19.3 million would be brutal) this is what the Kings hope to see a lot of next season.

source:   Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks. He gets this grade in part because the man can score — 34 points on 24 shots, 6-of-7 from three where he was fearless on the catch-and-shoot. But we know ‘Melo can score, that’s what he does. Instead ‘Melo gets the “A” because that may be the best defense we’ve seen him play this year, with four steals and a number of other deflections and plays. That you don’t see every day.

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.