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.

PBT Extra: Kobe Bryant understands now is time to walk away

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It was expected Kobe Bryant would retire at the end of this season.

It was not expected Kobe would make that official on Nov. 29 — it’s caught the media at Staples Center Sunday (of which I was one) and the fans by surprise.

In this PBT Extra, I talk with Jenna Corrado about the mood inside Staples Center Sunday.

More importantly, I discuss the sense I got that Kobe understands it’s time to walk away, and he is at peace with that.

Luke Walton: Warriors concerned about health, not 72 wins

Andre Iguodala, Luke Walton
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Stephen Curry acknowledges the Warriors – who are 18-0 and won four straight to end last season – talk about the NBA record of 33 consecutive wins.

But what about another major record Golden State is chasing, 72 wins in a season?

Shooting guard Klay Thompson called it possible. General manager Bob Myers deemed it impossible.

Interim coach Luke Walton would prefer everyone just keep quiet.

Walton, via CSN Bay Area:

“The 72 thing is far, far away,” Walton said. “We shouldn’t be spending any time thinking about that.

“I’ve also said before that we’re not going to coach this season trying to chase that record,” Walton said

“We’re still going to give players nights off on back-to-backs,” he added. “And we’re going to do our best to limit minutes for some of our players. Our main concern is being healthy come playoff time.”

I don’t think Golden State will win 72 games, but prioritizing health won’t necessary stop the Warriors. They’re so deep.

They outscore opponents by 5.8 points per 100 possessions when Curry sits, 5.6 when Draymond Green sits. Those marks would rank seventh among all NBA teams.

Golden State has the luxury of resting players and continuing to win. That’s what makes the chase for 72 realistic. This team is less likely than most to wear down late in a season where it’s pushing to win every game.

Health entering the playoffs is important, but a 72-win season would raise these Warriors to legendary status. If they’re in range late in the season, I think they’ll go for it – even if the top seed is already secured.

But for now, Walton is probably taking the right approach. Plenty of teams start fast (though never this fast) then drift back toward the pack. No point risking Golden State’s health yet.

Kevin Durant to media: You treated Kobe Bryant ‘like s—‘

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant once told the media, “You guys really don’t know s—.”

The Thunder star expressed regret, but if he knew how we were going to treat Kobe Bryant, he might have stuck to his guns.

Durant, via Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:

I did idolize Kobe Bryant. I studied him, wanted to be like him. He was our Michael Jordan. I watched Michael towards the end of his career when he was with the Wizards, and I seen that’s what Kobe emerged as the guy for us.

I’ve been disappointed this year because you guys treated him like s—. He’s a legend, and all I hear is about how bad he’s playing, how bad he’s shooting. It’s time for him to hang it up. You guys treated one of our legends like s—, and I didn’t really like it. So hopefully, now you can start being nice to him now that he decided to retire after this year. It was sad the way he was getting treated, in my opinion.

But he had just an amazing career, a guy who changed the game for me as a player mentally and physically. Means so much to the game of basketball. Somebody I’m always going to look to for advice, for help, for anything. Just a brilliant, brilliant, intelligent man. And it’s sad to see him go.

Kobe is shooting 20% from the floor and 30% on 3-pointers for a 2-14 team. How else should we describe his season?

Why not bash the person most publicly critical of Kobe? Or the many people around the NBA who recognize how far Kobe has fallen? Or Byron Scott, who has repeatedly intensified discussion of Kobe’s demise?

Why is the media, which is not some monolithic entity anyway, the primary target?

There are writers who fawn over Kobe, writers who criticize him and many more who do both. We don’t all think alike.

If we did, Durant would be bound to treat Kobe like s—, too.

Hassan Whiteside thanks Hassan Whiteside in Kobe Bryant tribute


Like many players, Hassan Whiteside posted a tribute to Kobe Bryant upon the Laker star’s retirement announcement.

But Whiteside’s is a bit, um, different.

Whiteside salutes himself for making Kobe smile. (That’s not a smile.) The Heat center also tweeted a screenshot of the Instagram post with the hashtag “#koberetire,” which sounds pretty commanding.

Is Whiteside in on the joke or is he that self-centered? I’m honestly not entirely sure.