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

45 Comments

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.

Report: Dante Cunningham re-signing with Pelicans

AP Photo/David Goldman
Leave a comment

An intriguing battle emerged late in free agency over Dante Cunningham.

The Pelicans and Timberwolves were desperate at small forward, and Cunningham rare contributor at the position still available. New Orleans even traded a second-rounder and cash to dump Quincy Pondexter and get far enough below the hard cap to take advantage of Cunningham’s Bird Rights.

That’ll pay off.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

It’s not the $3,106,500 Cunningham opted out of, but a $2.3 million salary beats his minimum ($2,106,470), which is all Minnesota could’ve offered.

That’s a great rate on someone who might be the Pelicans’ starting small forward, considering Solomon Hill‘s injury. Even if he plays behind Tony Allen on a team that starts small on the perimeter, Cunningham will reduce the time New Orleans must rely on also-rans.

Cunningham is probably better at power forward, but he can defend either position. He also has become a good enough 3-point shooter to credibly play small forward.

For the Pelicans, he’s a huge upgrade at a bargain price.

Kevin Durant cops to tweets, calls elements of them ‘childish’ and ‘idiotic’

AP Photo/Ben Margot
6 Comments

Kevin Durant – tweeting in the third person, suggesting he forget to switch to a secret Twitter account – said he left the Thunder because he didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan and that Oklahoma City’s surrounding cast around himself and Russell Westbrook was lacking. Durant also appeared to have a second Instagram account he has used to insult critics.

Durant at TechCrunch:

Durant:

I do have other another Instagram account, but that’s just for my friends and family. So, I wouldn’t say I was using that to clap back at anybody.

But I use Twitter to engage with the fans. I think it’s a great way to engage with basketball fans.

But I happened to take it a little too far, and that’s what happens sometimes when I get into these basketball debates. Or what I really love is just to play basketball. I went a little too far.

And I don’t regret clapping back at anybody or talking to my fans on Twitter. I do regret using my former coach’s name and the former organization that I played for. That was childish. That was idiotic. All those type of words. I regret doing that, and I apologize to him for doing that.

But I don’t think I’ll ever stop engaging with my fans. I think they really enjoy it, and I think it’s a good way to connect us all. But I will scale back a little bit right now and just focus on playing basketball. So, I want to move on from that. It was tough to deal with yesterday. I was really upset with myself. But definitely want to move on and keep playing basketball. But I still want to interact with my fans, as well.

Durant can defend himself all he wants on social media. Fans, even those who detest him, do enjoy the interaction.

But an anonymous-looking account defending Durant provides no joy to those fans. They don’t – or at least didn’t – know they were interacting with the famous basketball star. This is something else entirely.

And it sure looks like Durant used his secret Instagram account to clap back at fans. Via SB Nation:

Durant denying that really makes it hard to accept this as him coming clean.

Mostly, Durant just opened himself to numerous follow-up questions:

Did he really dislike the Thunder organization? Did he really dislike playing for Donovan? If yes to either question, why? If no to either question, why say that? How does lying serve the fans he’s claiming he wants to engage?

Dwight Howard changes story, blames Magic front office for bringing up firing Stan Van Gundy

2 Comments

While sipping from a can of Pepsi, Stan Van Gundy calmly explained to the assembled media that Magic management told him Dwight Howard wanted the coach fired. Then, an unsuspecting Howard walked up and put his arm around Van Gundy. Van Gundy slinked away, leaving Howard to answer questions.

That 2012 press conference was an all-time great NBA moment.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

To hear Howard tell it, he has been the victim of more subtle misunderstandings than Larry David. The excruciatingly awkward press conference, when Stan Van Gundy confirmed that Howard was lobbying the Magic front office to fire him, only for an unsuspecting Howard to join Van Gundy and deny what the coach claimed? “That previous summer, the front office asked me about Stan, and I told them I thought he was losing his voice with the team. But they were the ones who said they should start looking for other coaches.”

Howard already admitted in 2014 he told the Magic he thought Van Gundy should have been fired after the 2011 playoffs. Howard even griped that Orlando didn’t listen to him!

I get that Howard is (again) trying to rehabilitate his image, but he has to do a better job of keeping his story straight.

Bulls hire Doug Collins as senior advisor

Rob Carr/Getty Images
3 Comments

Doug Collins burns out. Burns out his players, burns out himself. That was his reputation through 11 seasons coaching the Bulls, Pistons, Wizards and 76ers.

When Collins left Philadelphia in 2013, he declared he was done coaching. There was just too much pressure, he said.

Perhaps, Collins has found a role that better suits him.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

In a surprise announcement, the Chicago Bulls have brought former coach Doug Collins back into the fold, naming him a senior advisor to Executive Vice President John Paxson.

Even among NBA personnel, Collins was a basketball expert in his time. Whether he has kept up in a rapidly evolving league is an open question.

It won’t hurt having his voice in the room. It might hurt if the Bulls lean too heavily on it.

Hopefully, everyone entered this arrangement for the right reasons. Paxson played for Collins in Chicago. Collins’ son – Chris Collins – coaches nearby Northwestern. An overreliance on comfort won’t yield positive results. The Bulls need forward-thinkers, not just familiar faces. Successful executives put in a lot of work and aren’t just hanging around to be close with family.

This hire probably won’t move the needle much, but there’s certainly a chance it could – in either direction.