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Will Wizards turn around Celtics series at home?

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas‘ Boston Celtics and John Wall‘s Washington Wizards have built something of a rivalry this season, going back and forth, trading wins on the court and barbs off it, from the “Funeral Game” in January to the lost tooth and ejection of their current playoff series.

One thing every matchup had in common so far as Washington prepares to host Boston in Game 6 on Friday night? The home team wins.

Always.

9 for 9.

So the Celtics, leading their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal 3-2, might be feeling pretty good about where things stand at the moment. Because even if they can’t close things out Friday, they’ll get to host Game 7 on Monday, an advantage they earned by finishing with the No. 1 seed.

Hey, Bradley Beal, why does the host come out on top every time?

“I wish I knew,” was the shooting guard’s reply.

A similar question was put to Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Thursday, when his team opted to skip a full practice and instead have a light shootaround.

“That’s been analyzed and studied since the game was invented. (With) the home court, you always have a comfort level,” Brooks said. “It just happens. I don’t really know the real reason. I’ve been thinking about it for many, many years.”

Even though his team is averaging about 30 more points in Boston than in Washington during this series, Celtics coach Brad Stevens insisted that the venue isn’t the most important factor in a game’s outcome.

“It’s more about how you play,” he said.

Brooks, though, said that playing at home is different.

“Even as a player, I always felt better. Just comfortable. Your crowd’s great. They’re backing you up. You’ve played in front of the crowd. You’ve played into the baskets 41 times during the regular season, so the rims, the court, everything’s familiar,” he said. “That being said, we’ve still got to play well. We’ve got to play with great effort. We’ve got to be locked in, focused.”

Brooks acknowledged that was not the case in Boston’s 123-101 victory in Game 5 on Wednesday, especially at the defensive end.

In the first quarter, the Celtics led the Wizards 15-0 in transition points, a surprising statistic given just how good Wall is at orchestrating that part of the game.

“If you miss a shot, you miss a shot,” Brooks said. “You’ve got to get back and not compound that miss with a defensive lapse.”

Still, he chose to accentuate the positive.

“We did not lose the series,” Brooks noted. “We lost the game.”

Celtics at Wizards, Celtics lead series 3-2. Game 6, 8 p.m., ESPN.

NEED TO KNOW: This series has been filled with one big run after another. Four of the five games featured a stretch of 16-0 or greater, including a 26-point burst by Washington in Game 4, and a 16-point stretch for the Celtics in Game 5. Joked Brooks on Thursday: “I’ll take a 25-point run. That’d be nice.”

KEEP AN EYE ON: Beal, Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards 3-point shooting has been a problem in the playoffs, with the team down at 32 percent through 11 playoff games after hitting 37 percent during the regular season. Beal (from 40 percent in the regular season to 28 in the playoffs) and Porter (from 43 to 31), in particular, have been off, and they’re supposed to be Washington’s most productive from beyond the arc. “When you’re as good as Brad,” Brooks said, “there’s going to be extra attention on you. You’ve got to give the defense some credit.”

INJURY UPDATE: Celtics G Avery Bradley, who’s been dealing with hip issues during the series, sure seemed OK while scoring 29 points in Game 5 , including 25 in the first half on 10-of-13 shooting. “All indications are that he felt good after yesterday’s game,” Stevens said.

PRESSURE IS ON: The Wizards, of course. Not only are they facing elimination, but even if they win Game 6, they know that they are 0-5 in Boston, the site of Game 7 if there is one, since the start of this season.

 

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.