NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at San Antonio Spurs

Tony Parker and the Spurs put on a clinic against the Trail Blazers


The San Antonio Spurs were so fundamentally sound Tuesday, when they weren’t, they got a technical foul .

Manu Ginobili, frustrated with a first-quarter travelling call, slammed down the ball. He tried to catch it on the bounce, but it slid through his hands, and a whistle blew. Had the ball not risen so high, Ginobili probably would have avoided the technical.

Otherwise, the Spurs were meticulously thorough in a 116-92 dismantling of the Portland Trail Blazers. Tony Parker led San Antonio with 33 points and nine assists, and he was one of six Spurs to score double digits in Game 1 of their second-round series.

This one was never in doubt. San Antonio steadily built an 8-0 lead and never looked back. The Spurs led by 20 the entire second half.

After posting a solid B+ in Intro to Playoffs, the Trail Blazers weren’t ready for the advanced course. They can try cramming before Game 2, but two days doesn’t leave much time to catch the San Antonio’s years of studying.

Teams that have opened a best-of-seven with such large margin of victory have won 41 of 45 series.

All game, Gregg Popovich was a step ahead, making adjustments to problems that hadn’t yet manifested, even though his team led. The Spurs repeatedly created and exploited mismatches.

Aron Baynes, who barely played in the first round against the Mavericks, came off the bench to post 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds in 15 minutes. After struggling against Dallas, Marco Belinelli had a chance to get his confidence back, and he scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting. And despite often forgoing offensive rebounds to get back defensively during the regular season, the Spurs crashed the glass early before relenting as their lead swelled.

Only once San Antonio got up big did LaMarcus Aldridge (32 points on 12-of-25 shooting with 14 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (17 points on 6-of-15 shooting) get going. Those two must play better for Portland to have a chance. Tiago Splitter bothered Aldridge early, and Lillard lacked lift offensively after trying to defend Parker pick-and-rolls.

Not that the Trail Blazers’ stars had much help. Their teammates shot just 13-of-42 (31 percent).

No matter how many timeouts Terry Stotts called, he could never find a sustainable counter to San Antonio’s chess moves. The Portland coach kept trying, though, searching for anything to build on for Game 2.

Aldridge (41 minutes), Lillard (37 minutes) and Nicolas Batum (36 minutes) played more than any Spur.

Meanwhile, Tim Duncan played just 24 minutes and Manu Ginobili 18.

The Spurs are coming at the Trail Blazers in waves, and Portland can’t relax now. Advancing to the second round for the first time in 14 years is nice, but this isn’t just a day at the beach.

Class is in session.

Warriors, TNT to begin NBA season with tribute to Craig Sager

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13:  Honoree Craig Sager accepts the Jimmy V Award for Perserverance onstage during the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The Golden State Warriors and TNT will begin the season with a tribute to sideline reporter Craig Sager, who is battling leukemia.

TNT will unveil a T-shirt during its Tuesday night studio show that was inspired by the suit Sager wore while receiving the Jimmy Valvano Award at this year’s ESPY Awards. Proceeds from the sale of the shirt will benefit the SagerStrong Foundation .

The Warriors will then give their fans at their season opener against San Antonio a Sager Strong T-shirt. The team also will play a message in the arena supporting his fight.

The popular reporter, best known for his colorful suits, won’t be able to work the game as he continues treatment for the disease.

He also designed a special edition Nike sneaker, and 100 pairs will be available via online auction beginning Tuesday through Nov. 4. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the SagerStrong Foundation.

Before season starts, watch top 10 dunks of preseason

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Starting Tuesday night, the games matter. The dunks matter.

But before we move onto those dunks, let’s have some fun with the top 10 dunks of the meaningless preseason. They may not matter, but they certainly were fun.

Of course there are some expected highlights — can you have a dunk reel without Russell Westbrook? — but game-winning dunks always get the top slot.

Carmelo Anthony says rather than take knee during Anthem he wants action in communities

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks looks on against the Cleveland Cavaliers during their game at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2016 in New York City.  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 Al Bello/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick certainly fired up a discussion — not always the conversation he intended, but a discussion of the treatment of African-Americans in our society was part of that conversation.

No NBA player has taken that same step through the preseason, taking a knee during the national anthem (only anthem singers have done that). Some teams are locking arms during the anthem in a show of solidarity, but they stand in two orderly rows.

Carmelo Anthony explained in an interview with Bleacher Report that what he and many others want to see is the next step in Kaepernick’s protest — action in the community.

“I’m past the gestures,” New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony told B/R Mag. “I’m past that. It’s all about creating things now and putting things in motion. So, that’s what I’m on. I’m trying to get guys on board with that and help them understand that—enough of the gesturing and talking and all of that stuff—we need to start putting things in place….

“He’s done it,” Anthony said of Kaepernick. “He was courageous enough to do that. He created that. He created the kneeling and that protest. And people fell in line with that. Some people supported it. Some people didn’t. But at the end of the day, and I’m not taking nothing away from him…I just don’t think the gesturing is creating anything. I think it’s bringing awareness, but I think doing stuff and creating awareness in the communities [is more effective].”

What are those things? Players, the players’ union, the NBA itself, and it’s teams are all working to figure that out. This is not something where one blanket program fits all — what is needed in communities in New York is different from the needs in Milwaukee, is different from the needs in Sacramento. This needs to be local, with players involved.

There have already been some steps. The Bulls held a basketball tournament between police and a mentoring agency, which was followed by a panel discussion. Dwyane Wade biked with police through Miami. The Grizzlies have revived the Police Athletic League in Memphis. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there are teams from New Orleans to Los Angeles are working to bring youth and police together to talk.

It’s a start. A good start.

There is no one magic gesture, no one simple measure that can heal the deep divides in our nation right now. There are no easy answers, and as a nation we can be too dependent on easy answers. We need to listen. We need to talk to each other, not at each other. We need to practice empathy.

NBA players can help lead that effort, that conversation. It would be the next step after a protest — to act on those steps. Good on Anthony and the NBA for attempting to go down that road.


Rockets change from earlier reports, waive Pablo Prigioni, keep Tyler Ennis

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 17:  Pablo Prigioni #9 of the Houston Rockets celebrates in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers during Game Seven of the Western Conference Semifinals at the Toyota Center for the 2015 NBA Playoffs on May 17, 2015 in Houston, Texas. 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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The Rockets traded for Tyler Ennis., sending Michael Beasley away in the deal.

Which is why it was a bit of a surprise on Monday when early reports had the Rockets waiving Ennis, but either the report was off or the Rockets changed their minds.

With Patrick Beverley out injured, this leaves the Rockets thin at the traditional point guard spot. However, in practice James Harden, Eric Gordon and others will initiate Mike D’Antoni’s offense, so the bigger challenge will be defensively. Prigioni was not much help there at this point in his career.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a team snaps up Prigioni as insurance, or he certainly can make money overseas. Prigioni played last season as a backup point guard for the Clippers.