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.

Justise Winslow stepped on Joel Embiid’s mask (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid started for the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday night. The Game 3 matchup between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia was an important one with the teams tied, 1-1.

Embiid had previously vented his frustration on social media about the perceived slowness of his return to the floor from an orbital fracture.

Now, the Cameroonian big man is back for the Sixers and playing with a huge mask and goggles.

But the mask didn’t come without its problems for Embiid. It clearly affected his shooting and ability to handle the ball, as evidenced by a missed alley-oop in the second quarter, among other things.

There’s also the matter of how other players are treating Embiid and his mask. At one point, Embiid’s googles ended up on the floor and Heat forward Justise Winslow purposely stepped on them.

Via Twitter:

That’s harsh.

Embiid will have to adjust to using the mask since it’s unlikely he will be cleared to play without it soon. Hopefully he has some backups just in case the first couple sets get broken.

Tractors worth $50,000 stolen from Scottie Pippen’s farm

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HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.

Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bucks’ Jabari Parker “frustrated,” wants more playing time

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In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.

Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:

While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.

Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.