Houston Rockets v Portland Trailblazers - Game Four

Portland’s come-from-behind win leaves it one victory from second round

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As a fan of entertaining basketball (if not defense), I don’t want this series to end — Portland and Houston are evenly matched and an interesting contrast in styles that leads to thrilling games. Rockets GM Daryl Morey on twitter called this game four games in this series “coin flips.”

Yet it all could end Wednesday.

For three quarters Sunday Houston was an offensive force — they shot 52.6 percent overall and hit 9-of-19 from three, they put up 84 points, and everything Chandler Parsons threw up went in (11-of-15 shooting in the first three). The Rockets led the way pretty much in the entire way as Portland just did . They seemed in control.

But in the third the LaMarcus Aldridge got it going with 13 points — despite Omer Asik and a parade of longer defenders on him h. Then Damian Lillard ended the quarter with a three. Suddenly it was just a five-point game going into the fourth and the fans in Portland were into it and loud.

In the fourth quarter the Blazers got stops — Portland shot 36.8 percent, Dwight Howard and James Harden combined to shot 5-of-12. Portland wasn’t an offensive juggernaut but thanks to 8 points from Nicolas Batum (who was “guarded” by Harden) it was a tied game and we had overtime. Again.

There Batum kept scoring (5 points) and Portland hit four of the five shots they took. Houston made some shots too, but the Blazers were hitting their shots and their free throws.

When the final buzzer eventually sounded it was 123-120 Portland.

The Trail Blazers have a 3-1 lead and a can put the series away with a win Wednesday in Houston.

Portland did it with balance — LaMarcus Aldridge’s 29 points led the way (he was 6-of-11 from the midrange, killing the Rockets from there) but four Blazers had 20 or more: Damian Lillard had 23 points and 8 assists, Wesley Matthews scored 21 points, and Nicolas Batum added 25.

The Rockets had 28 points from James Harden (his most efficient outing of the playoffs taking just 21 shots), 26 from Chandler Parsons and 23 from Dwight Howard (who also had 14 rebounds). Those three made plays late in the fourth quarter, when Portland had taken the lead — Houston got stops on three straight possessions thanks to a couple blocks from Howard. They just couldn’t get stops consistently all night.

Their big story again was Troy Daniels, the rookie out o VCU who spent most of the season in the D-League — he had 17 points and was 4-of-5 from deep. He is playing well enough that he’s gotten under Mo Williams’ skin.

But it wasn’t enough to save the Rockets.

Now Houston has its backs against the wall as they keep learning the hard lessons of the playoffs — about working together as a team, about doing the little things — that if they don’t master by Wednesday could be the end of their season.

Report: Celtics, Cavaliers talking Kevin Love trade; could include Knicks, ‘Melo

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love holds the ball away from Boston Celtics' Amir Johnson during the second quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Associated Press
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The Celtics are looking for an elite player to improve their deep cast of role players. The Cavaliers are looking for depth. And Carmelo Anthony may just be looking to win.

All of that has talks between the Cavaliers and Celtics on a potential Love deal progressing, with the possibility of the Knicks as a third team also in the mix, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions about expanding the deal to include the Knicks and Anthony, who would have to waive his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

This is a longshot, but the report has some legs.

It’s not clear how far along these talks are. The trade deadline is Feb. 18 (next Thursday) and conversations tend to move past the theoretical/value judging phase and get real come All-Star Weekend, when many GMs and decision makers are in one place (and nobody can go outside because it is too cold in Toronto). This trade works for the Cavaliers if they get a quality stretch four in return — Kelly Olynyk? — plus some depth and a quality pick. The question for the Cavs is simply how much can they get back — this is a win-now team and Love helps that, so how does a trade make them better?

Would Danny Ainge move the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick to get Love? Jae Crowder? How much would Boston surrender to get an elite star, especially one under a reasonable, long contract?

Carmelo Anthony wants a ring, if he could end up playing with LeBron and be much closer to it than he is now, he would waive his no-trade clause.

That said, this trade sounds like a longshot. At least at the deadline. Next Summer… who knows?

Watch Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

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Kevin Hart has a movie to promote decided to come out of retirement to play in the NBA All-Star Friday Night Celebrity Game.

And, he did what Kevin Hart does.

Well, except win MVP of the game, that went to Win Butler (the Canadian lead singer of Arcade Fire). Butler led Canada to a 74-63 win over Hart and the USA.

Drake to introduce players for All-Star Game Sunday

Drake stands in front of Canada's bench before the Celebrity Game, part of NBA basketball's All-Star weekend, in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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You knew Canadian hip-hop star Drake was going to be involved directly in the All-Star Game in a way more than just having his back-and-gold OVO owl gear sold at the Air Canada Centre. Now we know how.

Drake will introduce the NBA All-Star players Sunday.

Drake has experience with this, he has introduced the Raptors — for whom he is a “global ambassador” — before.

This works for me. However, just to be clear, Drake is going to be introducing the players and Sting will headline the halftime show Sunday. Because nothing says NBA and millennials like “Fields of Gold.”

LeBron James says he’s undecided on 2016 Rio Olympics

US forward LeBron James celebrates after
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TORONTO — LeBron James has played in three Olympics, won two gold medals (and a bronze), and has done his duty representing his country internationally.

But it’s why he might skip this summer’s Rio Olympics that turned heads in the last couple days — he is reportedly pissed that Kobe Bryant will not be making his farewell with another gold on the international stage.

As you might expect, LeBron was asked about that during All-Star media day Friday in Toronto. Also, as you might expect, he dodged the question, saying he doesn’t know what he’s going to do this summer.

“Well, for me, I haven’t quite decided if I’m on the fence of going or not,” LeBron said. “But I’ve always loved representing my country. I’ve been playing in the Olympic games since 2004. So, no, I haven’t made a decision yet.”

My guess is LeBron’s body would love him to take the summer off — he’s played in five straight Finals with an Olympics in that mix — but his brand managers (and Nike) would love to see him play.

With him, the USA will win a gold medal. Without him, the USA will win the gold medal. The Americans are clear and away the best team in the world and only they can beat themselves. LeBron’s leadership can help make sure that happens, but it’s not required.

In the end, LeBron needs to do what’s required to bring a championship “to the ‘Land.” The playoffs, and how he feels after them, will likely determine where LeBron is in early August more than anything else.