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.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.