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.

Warriors break record by paying $3.5 million for draft rights to Jordan Bell

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The Thunder paid the Hawks $3 million for the draft rights to No. 31 pick Tibor Pleiss in 2010. Last year, the Nets paid $3 million just to move up 13 spots in the second round to get Isaiah Whitehead.

The Warriors surpassed that amount, previously the record for spending on a draft pick, to buy the No. 38 pick from the Bulls and get Jordan Bell last night.

Marcus Thompson of The Mercury News:

Golden State also bought the No. 38 pick last year to get a player I rated as first-round caliber, Patrick McCaw, whose rights cost “just” $2.4 million. McCaw had a promising rookie year and even contributed in the NBA Finals.

Bell – whose draft rights drew the maximum-allowable $3.5 million – could achieve similar success. I rated him No. 31 but in the same tier as other first-round-caliber prospects. He’s a versatile defender, capable of protecting the rim and switching onto guards. He’s obviously not nearly the same level, but Bell is in the Draymond Green mold defensively. Bell’s offense doesn’t come close to Green’s, though. Bell could fill a role sooner than later when Golden State needs a defensive-minded sub.

The Warriors have generated massive revenue during their dominant run the last few years. Now, they’re putting some of that money back into the on-court product. Success breeds success – especially when the owners don’t just pocket the profits.

Markelle Fultz was ‘"Excited to head to (City) and join the (team name)’

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The 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall, placing a ton of attention on the point guard.

He parlayed that attention into a sponsored Instagram post, but he – or whomever posted on his behalf – never changed the stock text the company sent.

Rodger Sherman of The Ringer:

Fultz deleted and reposted, but this was probably a blessing in disguise. If it weren’t for the funny initial oversight, the advertisement never would have gotten so much traction.

Danny Ainge: Josh Jackson canceled Celtics workout while Brad Stevens and I flew there

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The Celtics were the first playoff team to win the lottery, which brought a complication: Some draft prospects and their agents wanted to avoid Boston, which has a deep roster and fewer avenues to immediate playing time.

Lonzo Ball wouldn’t work out for the Celtics, and neither would Josh Jackson. Ball was straightforward all along on his intent to work out for only the Lakers, who ultimately drafted him No. 2.

With Jackson – who was drafted No. 4 by the Suns after Boston traded down and took Jayson Tatum No. 3 – it was more convoluted.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, via CSN New England:

Never talked with Josh. No one in our organization did. I know someone wrote that that was difference, but that’s not the case.

They cancelled a workout on us when we flew out to Sacramento, and they just decided to cancel it as we flew – just Brad and I and Mike Zarren flew cross-country.

So there was something that he didn’t want to play for the Celtics. In spite of that, we’ve watched Josh for two years, and we’re fans. He’s a terrific kid and a good player. So we tried not to overreact to those kinds of things and make a big deal of it.

Agents and players have all sorts of motivations to get to certain places, as we’ve seen in the past. You remember last year, Kris Dunn didn’t want to come here. We didn’t hold it against him. We felt like we were just taking the player that we wanted.

And I think the same thing this time. I don’t think we were trying to penalize Josh too much, but we didn’t get to see him or talk to him face-to-face.

I was mad. We flew cross-country. Are you kidding me? I had to get up at 4 o’clock and fly back home.

There’s nothing to do in Sacramento.

At first glance, this sounds sloppily rude by Jackson and/or his agent, B.J. Armstrong. And maybe it was.

But perhaps there’s more to it? The best professional athletes enter the workforce in conditions unlike anyone else in this country, forced to join whichever single company in their chosen field picks them – the worst companies receiving priority in selection. Players should feel no obligation to help companies in this cartel gather information. Rather, players’ priority should be getting to the company they find most desirable.

Jackson canceling a workout as the Celtics flew to California almost certainly turned them off more than never scheduling the workout in the first place would have. This might have been smart in the long run by Jackson if he didn’t want to go to Boston.

It stinks Ainge, Zarren and Brad Stevens had to deal with it. But it also stinks Jackson has no realistic choice but to participate in a system so unfair to labor.

Still, Ainge responded correctly – trying not to hold the sudden schedule change against Jackson. The Celtics will be better off with the better prospect, whether that’s Jackson or Tatum. If they drafted Jackson, he’d likely get over it. Evaluating Jackson only on what he’d bring to the team is easier said than done, and I’m not sure how well Ainge actually did that. But at least trying to keep that mindset was the right approach.

Jimmy Butler’s trainer calls Bulls GM Gar Forman a liar, less moral than drug dealers

Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune via AP
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The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves last night, reuniting the star wing with Tom Thibodeau.

Butler apparently took it well. Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

Butler’s agent showed perspective. Bernard Lee:

Butler’s trainer, on the other hand, took a completely different tone. Travelle Gaines‏:

I don’t like the implication that drug dealers are immoral.

Otherwise, is Gaines right about Bulls general manager Gar Forman? I don’t know what Forman told Butler.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I do know Forman probably shouldn’t have allowed himself to be drug into public a back-and-forth with Gaines, especially coming across as scolding the trainer. There’s little to be gained there – much like the trade itself.