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Spurs-Rockets featured historically wild swings

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Game 1 against the Rockets:

What do I know? We just lost by 50. What are you asking me questions for anyway? Ask somebody that knows something, who can fix this.

After another blowout loss in Game 4, Popovich again addressed reviewing Game 1 film:

You would’ve traded all the players and fired me by the end of the game. It was that bad.

Good thing San Antonio stuck with this coaching staff and roster.

The Spurs opened their second-round series against Houston with a 27-point loss and ended it with a 39-point win. Between, San Antonio won by 25 and lost by 21.

The six-game series should go down as one of the wildest in NBA history – the Rockets’ seemingly pace-defining Game 1 win, the Spurs’ blowout Game 6 victory without Kawhi Leonard in Houston and the big back-and-forths between.

The only other series in NBA history where each team won by 20 twice was Pacers-Celtics in the 2005 first round. Indiana won by 27 and 23 and won the series while still allowing Orlando to win by 20 and 31.

But that series lasted seven games. San Antonio and Houston packed all its action into just six.

The 66-point difference between the Spurs’ best result (+39 in Game 6) and worst result (-27 in Game 1) was tied for the biggest swing ever in a series. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards by 30 and lost by 36 in the 2008 first round, and the Lakers beat the Nuggets by 44 and lost by 22 in the 1985 conference finals.

Here are the biggest swings between any games in a series, from the perspective of the series victor:

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Aside from each team’s lopsided victory, every other Cleveland-Washington game in 2008 was decided by single digits. Denver lost every game to the Lakers in 1985 beyond its Game 2 rout.

San Antonio and Houston kept trading haymakers, the Spurs winning Game 2 by 25 and the Rockets winning Game 4 by 21.

Here are the biggest differences between a team’s second-biggest win and second-biggest loss in a series, again from the perspective of the series victor:

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San Antonio-Houston had only one great game, the Spurs’ overtime win in Game 5. So, this probably wasn’t a great series or even a particularly memorable one (especially if San Antonio gets smashed by the Warriors in the next round).

But Spurs-Rockets sure was extreme, and it should be appreciated for that.

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.