It’s Groundhog Day for Portland as Spurs dominate again, lead series 3-0

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Bill Murray had an infinite number of days in the movie Groundhog Day to repeat the same experiences, learn his lessons and win over Andie MacDowell.

The Trail Blazers are running out of time to learn their lessons — one more game and their season ends.

This series feels like Groundhog Day for Trail Blazers fans. Just like in Games 1 and 2, the San Antonio Spurs took an early lead, exploited the fact nobody on Portland can guard Tony Parker (29 points and 6 assists), had Tiago Splitter stifle LaMarcus Aldridge (9-of-23 shooting for 21 points), blew the game open in the second quarter and coasted in to a 118-103 win.

San Antonio now leads the series 3-0. The only question left is if the series ends Monday night in Portland or next Wednesday night back in San Antonio.

You can really just pick any area and the Spurs dominated Game 3 (and the series):

• Bench scoring. Through three games this series the San Antonio bench has outscored Portland’s 140-43. That gives Gregg Popovich matchup options Portland and Terry Stotts just does not have.

• Tony Parker. He continues to just carve up the Trail Blazers defense, getting into the paint and with that breaking down all things Portland. Why are we all so slow to call him the best point guard in the game? (I’m guilty of it.)

• Portland’s defense. We knew it wasn’t all that great — they have some good individual defenders, but to beat the Spurs you have to play as a unit, you have to be a defense on a string. The Blazers are not. The Spurs are moving the ball to uncontested shots all too easily (60 percent of their shots were not contested in Game 3, according to the NBA’s Sports VU camera data).

• Tiago Splitter. He draws the Aldridge assignment and just corrals the Blazers’ All-Star. Which allows the other defenders to stay home on their men. Which leads to the next note…

• Limiting Damian Lillard from three. He was 0-of-6 in this game. For most of the series the Spurs have sat on all the Blazers shooters, but in Game 3 Nicolas Batum (4-of-7 from three, 20 points) and Wes Mathews (4-of-10 from three, 22 points) got loose a little. Still, the Blazers need Lillard to go off to really be effective.

We could go on, but I think the point is clear.

Tim Duncan had 19 points and helped slam the door when the Blazers tried to make a second half run. Kawhi Leonard seems to be everywhere. Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili, everyone is playing well for San Antonio.

This is simply a case where not only are the Spurs the better team they are terrible matchup for the Blazers. San Antonio was not sharp against Dallas in the first round (give the Mavs some credit there) but since Game 7 of that series they have been the best team in the playoffs.

Portland had a great season, made big leaps. Now they are seeing what the next level they need to reach is. They are learning some lessons the hard way.

The Spurs have taught a lot of teams those lessons during the past 15 years.

Paul George says he “Didn’t know I was gonna be traded”

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As I have pointed out before here on NBC Sports, I really do love watching NBA marketing unfold in front of me. Some of it — like Kobe Bryant’s weird post career legacy massaging — is downright impressive.

Other instances are not quite as sly.

Enter newest Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George and his latest sponsored Instagram post.

In a recent video posted to his page, George put up a training montage set to an Eminem song that was essentially an advertisement for the gym and trainer he had been working with over the summer. The gym’s own page also features several of these videos. So far, pretty common stuff.

That is, until you read the Instagram caption and see what George had to say about his training. Let’s see if you can spot the issue.

Screenshot via Instagram:

Of course, the issue here is that George essentially took away the leverage the Indiana Pacers would have had if his trade request hadn’t somehow been made public. Repeatedly.

George knew he was going to get traded because Indiana had no choice but to trade him. Saying otherwise is a hilarious and transparent attempt to reshape recent history.

This is perhaps my favorite result of the platitudes drilled into the heads of players by team PR guys and agent media training. That is, when you talk nonsense for so long and during each and every interview — we just dug deep, it’s a game of inches, you have to want it more — sometimes you just don’t know when to stop trying to spin the story in your direction. Especially because the mantra of media training is to be boring and try say nothing, which is hard if you have something to prove or an opinion to change.

Between this and Kevin Durant openly admitting to having a burner Twitter account (which no doubt sparked a flurry of emails and calls between agents and their clients) this is shaping up to be one of the best NBA seasons in recent memories and that’s just from a new media standpoint.

Gordon Hayward says Isaiah Thomas “ultimately helped win me over”

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Gordon Hayward is now a member of the Boston Celtics, and we are all excited to see how the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference last season checks out with a newly revamped roster.

Of course, Boston has been the subject of much media attention after signing Hayward and trading Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. I think there should be some skepticism about how quickly Boston will be able to put things together, but this is a team of former and current All-Stars so they will likely be at least a Top 4 team out East.

Meanwhile, Hayward has written a new blog post on his personal website about the summer, taking on such subjects as the move to Massachusetts, video games, and what to expect this season.

One of the more interesting things that Hayward wrote about was just how much of an influence Thomas had in his decision to come to Boston. Hayward addresses Thomas’ influence in a section dedicated to him finding out about the trade to Cleveland.

Via GordonHayward20.life:

He didn’t just help recruit me to Boston—he was a big piece of that recruitment. He had talked a lot about city and how it was different to be a Celtic. He talked about the intensity of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing at the Garden in the playoffs, and how much fun it was, and how much fun he had playing in Boston.

All of that ultimately helped win me over. And by the time of the trade, I had already started to build a little bit of a relationship with him.

The rest of Hayward’s post was about the subjects mentioned above, but it ended by saying that he understands the history of the organization and that he feels like he has not reached his full potential just yet.

Obviously, in signing him this season that’s exactly what the Celtics and Danny Ainge are hoping.

NBA implementing ‘Zaza Pachulia,’ ‘James Harden’ rules

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NEW YORK (AP) — NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season’s playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden‘s attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard’s in Game 1 of Golden State’s victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

“It’s 100 percent for the safety of the players,” NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. But the play got renewed attention during the playoffs because of Leonard’s injury, and also one in which Washington forward Markieff Morris landed on Al Horford‘s foot in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, knocking him out of a game the Celtics rallied to win.

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia’s foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots – often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up – officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

“We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let’s catch up to it,”‘ NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.

Report: Cavaliers signing Kendrick Perkins

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Kendrick Perkins spent fewer than four months with the Cavaliers, including the 2015 playoffs. But nearly a year later after Cleveland let Perkins walk in free agency, LeBron James was still bemoaning Perkins’ absence.

Are the Cavs righting a wrong?

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Kendrick Perkins joined the Cavaliers at LeBron James’ minicamp in Santa Barbara, Calif., and will come to training camp next week, sources told cleveland.com.

The Cavs now have 18 players with standard contracts, and 15 – the regular-season limit – have guaranteed salaries. I doubt Cleveland wants to waive the two without guaranteed salaries, Kay Felder and Edy Tavares, either.

In other words, Perkins is a longshot to stick into the regular season.

Perkins was washed up when with the Cavaliers two years ago. The 32-year-old who sat out last season hasn’t produced on the court in several years. He’s tough and well-liked in the locker room, which might give him a chance of sneaking onto the regular-season roster.

But the Cavs should focus on developing toughness and chemistry among their rotation players. Perkins is just a crutch, most likely one who’ll be yanked away by cut-down day a few weeks from now.