Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder. This is what an aggressive Russell Westbrook gets you. I don’t just mean the triple-double — 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. I mean his play from the start took the star of Game 1, Chris Paul, and knocked him back on his heels. On the first play of the game Westbrook jumped a passing lane and set the tone with his defense. Westbrook attacked CP3, got a couple early fouls on him and largely took Paul out of the game. This wasn’t a simple matter of “good” or “bad” Westbrook because they are part of the same package — the aggressive Westbrook that dominated Paul can be the same one that goes out of control for a stretch. There is just far more good than bad with him and we saw it in Game 2.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. That is your MVP, ladies and gentlemen. He’s on an emotional high, he knows his team needs a win and he comes out and splashes a three 40 seconds in the game. In the first quarter he drops 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He goes on to score 32 points and be one assist shy of also having a triple-double. It was vintage KD — just like his acceptance speech.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers. Hey Roy, good to see you again. We missed you. Hope you enjoyed you’re mental walkabout for the last couple months, are you back to stay for a while? First and foremost he was back as the defensive anchor in the paint that the Pacers need — they are always going to win starting on that end of the court. Then he also dropped 28 points. Here’s the big thing — he’s had some other good games during his slump, only to revert to his bad form. Do that in this series and the Pacers go home (they played much better and this game was still close). He has to be consistent. That said, every journey starts with one step.
Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs
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
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
This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.
After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverleyin 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.